The Hot List

Our New York editor checks out the must-have products this fall.

Wonderful to see you, kiss kiss, yes, business is amazing. During New York’s busy summer social season, I’m the one doing the Liz Smith routine with increasingly well-dressed designers and architects to get the latest on new projects, client gossip, and trends. And let me tell you, this year designers did a rip-roaring business. Though they might complain (unceasingly) about their (ignorant) clients who can’t understand why it takes nine months to get a beautiful faucet, the industry is upbeat and projects are plentiful.

And while the talk in years past has focused on shopping trips to Europe and Southeast Asia, new synthetic materials and innovative wall and door systems are the new intellectual currency. "Remind me to show you this speaker fabric I used as a ceiling treatment" or "come see these fun room dividers we put together." What the latest innovative building and design materials lack in obvious beauty, designers more than make up for in brains. So here are some of the ingenious new products on everyone’s hot lists.

Robin Reigi, Inc. is a unique resource for a wide range of architectural materials; from high-tech acoustical (i.e. sound proofing) systems to age-old traditional inlaid finishes. From their tech line comes Texaa, a high-performance acoustical system from France that allows you to control sound with a specially engineered, transparent speaker fabric. You can get it in a range of colors, and it’s available in rolls or as rigid modular panels.

 
3form’s Varia line (pictured above and at top) uses a combination of natural products and resin to make wonderful room dividers and even furniture.
Nature Squared is an amazing line of full-sized panels handmade in Vietnam from grilled, crushed duck egg shells mixed in a chestnut lacquer substrate. The mixture is then rubbed by hand under running water into a smooth polished finish (just this step in the process takes about 50 days to complete; hence the $100-per-square-foot price tag). Expect to wait 12 weeks. Available in six colors, Nature Squared represents a long history of a decorative inlay finishing technique, which is now threatened by mass produced inexpensive imitations.

Eco-friendly IceStone is a terrazzo-like material composed of recycled glass and Portland cement. With 24 colors (and a number of custom options), the 1 1/4-inch slabs can be shaped, cut, and vertically mounted, making it a versatile option for backsplashes, counters, floors, even shower stalls.

3form, a manufacturer of eco-friendly, resin-based wall and surface materials, is producing a resin system called Varia. Translucent, multifunctional panels are engineered by sandwiching textured, natural materials (bamboo, fossil leaves, capiz shells, even tribal beadwork) between layers of recycled resins. These panels range from 1/16 to 1 inch thick and bring soft, sensual texture and color when installed as room dividers, privacy screens or, best of all, shower walls. You’ll have 28 materials, 32 textures, and 43 colors to choose from.

If your project requires a room divider, or if you’re faced with the dilemma of reconfiguring a large space with a single source of natural light, check out Raydoor, a creator of interior space dividing systems. Raydoor manufacturers sliding doors by placing panels of acrylic into wood frames fitted with optional geometric lattice overlays. Wood laminate frames are available in 12 finishes and a choice of 1/4-inch clear or frosted acrylic and countless lattice overlays, all installed on ceiling-mounted tracks. In addition to their basic sliding systems, Raydoor’s offerings now include pivoting, folding, and fixed-panel door systems, as well as new insets of linen or beach grasses. These systems preserve a sense of openness between spaces and allow light to pass through easily, so that neither part of the room feels closed off. The overhead mounting allows decorative floor coverings to be left undisturbed.

 
Sparkfires latest designs are remote controlled. You can even adjust flame heat and size all at the push of a button.
If you’ve got your heart set on a contemporary kitchen but still pine for the warmth and romance of a fireplace, take time to look at Sparkfires. Spark, Inc’s co-founder Tom Healy introduced a new take on gas fireplaces for home and commercial. At 36 x 19 x 17 inches deep, the firebox echoes the modern shape of high-end electronics, and the surround options are limitless - copper, brass, stone, ceramic, cement, wallboard, marble, or brick. I love the flame, mesmerizing as it rises in ribbons directly out of a slit in the firebox floor, as opposed to emerging directly from a gas pipe. Sparkfires comes in two designs: the Fire Ribbon is pure and simple, housing only ribbons of flame; and the Beachcomber model comes with driftwood logs on stones , both of which are actually made of fire-safe composites. Both models ignite with a wall switch or remote (the remote also controls flame height). Even my husband can light this fire.