HELL'S KITCHEN — All it took was one visit to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair to kickstart Axel Yberg's furniture-making career.
The head designer and woodworker at Akke Functional Art said he got a huge career boost after showing off his collection at last year's fair — culminating in having his work displayed in three windows at Bloomingdale's in August.
It was the Huntington, Long Island-based designer's first time at a major festival, and major department stores quickly took notice of his unique wares — including pieces like the Pingtuated Equilibripong Table, a regulation-sized ping pong table fashioned from exotic woods that doubles as a dining room table.
"It was an incredible response. I was blown away," Yberg said. "I had just started the business, I wasn't really noticed by anyone, and then everything exploded."
The world of chic interior design is back in the spotlight this week, as the 24th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Center presents a host of innovative furniture, from the traditional to the quirky, in a convention that's open to more than 25,000 furniture industry insiders looking for their next big ideas as well as reps from the nation's largest retailers searching for new products to sell.
More than 500 vendors from all over the world have displayed their wares at the four-day fest, which kicked off over the weekend beginning with an industry insider-only exhibition. The festival opens to the public on Tuesday, giving aspiring decorators the chance to get ideas for a trendy room or inspired interior of their own.
Some of the newest vendors are local start-ups, including Loboloup, a Upper West Side-based boutique children's wallpaper company. The company was started six weeks ago by aunt-and-niece team Nancy and Elizabeth Wolff, after Elizabeth won a settlement from a bedbug lawsuit.
"We put it towards the company — we found a silk screener and now we make eco-friendly silk-screened wallpaper targeted towards children and families," Elizabeth Wolff said.
Loboloup's designs range from playful to offbeat — including mashed-up patterns of aliens and robots. According to Elizabeth Wolff, their presence at the festival attracted the attention of industry bigwigs as well.
"Three huge companies came by in five minutes," she said. "We've met scores of interior designers, distributors, retailers — there's really no better promotion for a small business with no big muscle behind it."
On Tuesday, the public can stop by Loboloup's booth to buy pillows and framed prints or can place an order for a roll, which costs between $165 and $175.
Sentient Furniture, a so-called "open source furniture" company will also make its debut at the convention. The Manhattan-based company boasts that it will crowd-source design ideas from contributors to the web. Sentient hopes to provide guidance and expertise to young designers who submit their furniture ideas, and eventually work with them to produce them.
For sustainable skater junkies, Hanover, Pa.-based Art of Board takes broken-up pieces of old skateboards and uses them to build anything from a kitchen back-splash to a shoe rack, all for a colorful, funky design.
The International Contemporary Furniture Fair opens to the public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Tickets are available for $60.