It has been a busy summer thus far! In June, Kelsey had the opportunity to attend NeoCon 2015 and view the newest trends hitting the corporate interiors market. Here are her notes on what is new and what to watch out for:
There is so much to see at NeoCon (in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago) and the whole experience is sort of a whirlwind of seeing products and meeting product reps and then going to social hours. There is so much to see that it is almost impossible to remember everything! But there were some overall trends and some neat products that stood out.
STANDING IS THE NEW SITTING:
A new phrase being used in the corporate and commercial design industry for the last several months has been “sitting is the new smoking” and research has shown that sitting all day (at your job) can be a major health risk. Over the last few years, a ton of sit to stand desks and new chairs have entered the market to help get you moving in the middle of the day. At Neocon there were newer sit to stand tables with electronic height monitors (so you can easily adjust to the right height using a screen) and none of the models we saw were clunky or awkward like sit to stands used to be (good bye cranks, visible cords and slow adjustments!). Design has improved and the technology is built seamlessly into the table or desk designs. Other products that supported this theme were more options for standing or stool height meeting areas and new task chairs with built in technology that vibrates when it is time for you to get up and move around (about every half hour).
BLURRED LINES BETWEEN HOME AND WORK:
This year one of the more global trends I saw at NeoCon was blurring the division between home and work or “The Living Office.” This idea sounds like it could be a bit dangerous for workaholics (we all need a good work-life balance) but in this case, the trend was about bringing more of the home materials and design into the workplace to make workers more comfortable and happy. This was a trend seen in most showrooms and meant more wood, warmer/softer materials and increased comfort in corporate environments. Steelcase, Knoll, Haworth and Herman Miller all used this theme by creating inviting spaces, incorporating flexible storage opportunities and by bringing in new materials and furniture styles (or reintroducing revamped existing furniture lines) to their spaces. There was a distinct “retro” feel to many of the showrooms since more wood, fields of color and softer materials were common in 60s and 70s offices.
FLEXIBLE WORK ENVIRONMENTS:
Similar to being able to seamlessly move from sitting to standing, flexibility was a theme highlighted in many showrooms. The ability to convert an office that is used less into a meeting space when needed was showcased in several showrooms and Herman Miller has created a new line called Metaform Portfolio that lets the workers reimagine their environment in a few minutes using lightweight system of blocks and no tools.
For meeting or home spaces we saw several applications where longer, rectangular and angular tables were being used. In that group of long tables, Coalesse has introduced a beautiful new tabletop option made from FENIX NTM; a new product from Arpa that is similar to a solid surface, but is structurally stable on its own (doesn’t need plywood substrate). It is soft to the touch, has a matte finish, is incredible durable, and is scratch and finger print resistant. Because it is structurally stable for long spans, it allows tables to have a very light profile while stretching much further.
UNIQUE FABRICS & CARPETS:
HBF introduced several new textiles that were inspired by (or made from) natural materials. The stand outs were one made from cork (Cork Cloth) and a polyurethane made to look like horse hair (called Sable Island). These looked fabulous on poufs and ottomans!
Knoll also introduced a new line of textiles from designer David Adjaye – a collection that is a blend of Adjaye’s African roots as well as modern textile design. “Each product presents a unique take on geometric and organic systems through the process of weaving or printing. The end result is an extraordinary range of patterns and textures.” These were absolutely gorgeous textiles and the color palette was bright and energizing.
Carpet themes at NeoCon were about creating large fields with lots of movement and variation and many were inspired by natural environments. Interface (makes FLOR) introduced a new line that had the goal of bringing “nature indoors” using concepts of biophilia to inspire the texture and pattern.
Finally, my favorite new item was the Steelcase Brody Lounge: a really comfortable “pod” workspace. It blends the comfort of a sofa or lounge with the use of a task space to create an alternative work-furniture type. The higher panels allow noise to be softened before it comes into the pod interior and a swiveling desk top allows you to adjust your work space for comfort. There are several adjustments that can be quickly made to help transition the user between tasks. Sitting in this lounge was so comfortable!
There is a ton more worth mentioning and there were several notable re-launches of older models of chairs (often with new material options introduced), but we can only make this blog post so long! For more of what I saw, check out the “Best of NeoCon” (from Contract) here: www.contractdesign.com.