Smaller and less formal than previous Designex exhibitions, this year’s event made the most of its temporary home in Sydney, becoming an island excursion within city lights and container ships, the beautiful and the gritty. 

The show itself was friendly, blessed with good coffee and such a plethora of arrows determinedly pointing to this section and that, that I just followed my usual routine of meandering up and down aisles stopping at things that caught my eye.

The show was a wholesome melange of flat-pack, disposable, recyclable and salvageable products and materials. Even the white lampshades with colourful borders at Kezu’s best stand design were made from French parachute material, said Mary Todd from marketing. Using many of the store’s product lines the display well reflected Todd’s message, “if we’re going to do it, we want to do it properly”.

I, meanwhile, had cut it fine, squeezing in on the Friday afternoon but the end of week blur still left me with a feeling that the exhibition exuded goodwill. It was low-key, boutique, power-saving where possible, materials-driven for texture, shape, knarled, folded, serviceable, calming, natural and organic, with an uncluttered, lightness. Think blonde and light brown, such as the Moso bamboo Haiku fan, a much smaller, delicate aerofoil fan from Big Ass Fans, shaped and hand-finished by US furniture makers and with a Whoosh breeze-like setting.There was clever plywood shelving from Workshop in Queensland. Scandinavian Wallpaper Décor’s digital wallpapers showed a battered wall, striped timber, exposed brick work. Massey uses ply, soy resin, no glue, flat-pack furniture and buys back material. Tongue and Groove’s own favourite flooring (said director Richard Karsay) was their weathered and wash grey floorboard. The Other Yellow Goat (what happened to the first one?) is expanding from lighting to outdoor furniture in high pressure laminate with optical illusion stripes emerging from production methods.

The Nest choices included salvaged Oregon lampshades; accessories, lighting and furniture from Design By Them, in recycled plastic, FSC certified timber, robust, clean, geometric; and an against-trend, striking folded aluminium light in anodised gold from furniture and interior designer Arthur Koutoulas, who, as the program said, is “never one to be easily categorised”.

The buzz words were there in the program, passion, future generations, creative collaboration, connectivity of technology and communities (as in the future workplace, Workopolis), and there was a celebration of Australian and New Zealand design that had been to the Milan show and back. Let’s see how the rest of the year unfolds.

Deborah Singerman is a Sydney-based journalist and editor, specialising in architecture and design, including city, community, society, economy, sustainability and culture.