The 45th Annual NeoCon trade fair was held at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart earlier this month, and Associate Principal Kay Wulf, ASID, IIDA—who, notably, designed the NeoCon Press Room for the fifth year in a row—took some time out of her post-event schedule to reflect and recap on this year’s event.
This year more than others, the focus seemed to lie more on the refinement of existing trends rather than new or emerging trends. The industry hot buttons from recent years—mobility, flexibility, adjustability, sustainability, interaction, collaboration, and technology integration—remain in the limelight and drive product development.
In an effort to create a better built environment, enhance space function, and increase productivity, multiple manufacturers are focusing on solutions that integrate architecture, furniture and technology with innovative construction processes. These methods were made practical in that they addressed mobility, flexibility, adjustability, technology integration and efficiencies to reduce real estate costs. Such solutions blend moveable walls, ceilings, access floors with underfloor HVAC, modular power and cabling, technology, furnishings and acoustic solutions into a complete package. These provide alternatives to traditional construction that are simpler to build, easier to change, more environmentally responsible, and more cost effective.
As our work, home, and leisure environments become more focused on both face-to-face and virtual interaction, emphasis is still given to opportunities for moments of privacy—evidenced by the number of high-back lounge seating products debuted to provide private conversation without fixed architectural surrounds. Taking the concept further, one can cocoon in over-scaled wing-back chairs that create a sense of seclusion and privacy in a multi-tasking, media-driven world. Some of these crossover products become self-contained workspaces, with options for integrated technologies including built-in speakers and input controls.
Trends in interior building materials and furnishings revolve heavily around color blocking, weathered materials, large scale graphics, felt, and foam forms—and lest we forget the Mad Men-bolstered return to all things retro.
Even the arguable oxymoron—“Luxury Vinyl Flooring”—makes appearances to simulate wood and metal alternatives while offering enhanced durability and a lower price point than the authentic counterparts.
Bold overprint graphics appearing on a variety of products including porcelain tile, wall coverings and upholstery strive to enhance creative expression by incorporating manufacturers’ standard and custom applications.
Felt is used in a variety of functions from flooring and acoustical wall treatments to upholstery and even draperies and light fixtures, and foam lounging products showcased dynamic emphasis of form. Weathered and aged materials, both real and simulated, were in abundance.
Most significant of the show, perhaps, was the mood: with an increase in attendance of nearly 65% over past years, designers, manufacturers, and end-users seem to agree that the interior design and architecture industries are active and heading in a positive direction. As the economic dust has cleared and those still in��“and new to—the industry (re)grow to fighting strength, the annual gathering took on an optimistic momentum; a feeling that we are no longer searching for an industry renaissance, but rather helping to shape it.