For all their gargantuan scale, one of the amazing things about visiting design expos like the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, held in Manhattan on May 18-20, is that the designer is often on hand to chat. I found myself doing just that after wondering into the booth of Mabeo Furniture, struck by the lush photos of Botswana on display.

Patty Johnson, a Canadian designer, collaborated with Gaboronian Peter Mabeo to produce a line of contemporary furniture that is stunning in its simplicity.

Mabeo’s company has been supplying the South African market with custom made furniture for years and through his collaboration with Patty he has expanded his production. Now, the duo’s Maun Windsor chair is on sale at Design Within Reach in the US.

Patty, it turns out, is a master craftswoman who works with local craftspeople in developing countries to create financially and environmentally sustainable products through her North South Project.

Still in the Southern hemisphere, does anyone know if El Salvador is a hotbed of quirky, sun-infused design? The “Fresh From the Tropics” booth pulsated with splashy colour and unconventional materials (an effect that was heightened by location nextdoor a booth showing Danish furniture in sleek neutrals). There was insect-like outdoor furniture by Jose Roberto Paredes.

Compatriot Eugenio Menjivar made lamps using found objects and egg cartons.

And Harry Washington’s L’astiko lounge chair reuses rubber tubes from old tires for its surprisingly comfortable seat and backrest.

Actually, I did a lot of sitting at the ICFF. After walking the halls of the Javits Center, those chairs were very inviting. The most pleasing experience was Brion Experimental’s Placentero lounge chair.

It contains a counterbalance, so you can rock with minimal effort and it will never tip over. The design group use gestation and the uterus as conceptual departure points for a lot of what they do.

Molo’s softseating, made of flexible honeycomb paper, was surprisingly sturdy. They make curved walls, lighting, and other structures out of the material too, some of which is in the permanent collection of the MoMA.

I was a little afraid to sit in this large red chair, perhaps because it reminded me of the Popemobile or one of Francis Bacon’s paintings? But I thought it was super sophisticated. It is called Showtime, designed by Jaime Hayon of Barcelona Design.

That’s all for now. I’m off to see the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, which are devoted to a celebration of the ICFF’s 20th anniversary.