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So Long, NeoCon Day One!
Finding Your Happy Place
For NeoCon’s 50th anniversary (and my 15th year attending), I partly expected to see either really high-tech trends or pieces of nostalgia harkening back to the trade shows early roots. While there are plenty of innovative products on the show floor this year and some throwbacks, what I found most surprising is how fresh and vibrant the show feels even after five decades.
Having navigated the massive elevator lines (always a sure indicator of the health of the industry) early in the morning, a number of trends quickly began to emerge—not all of them new, but certainly updated and perfectly relevant for today’s climate. First, it’s evident that commercial furnishings have fully embraced the residential aesthetic and aren’t bashful about ensuring that the workplace feels anything other than comfortable.
At Studio TK, for example, the showroom featured rattan panels around casual seating areas that felt so homey, I wanted to take off my shoes and kick back with some sweet tea. With nature-inspired graphics encouraging people to “nest,” it truly felt like contract design is no longer straddling a fence between residential; it’s been knocked down completely.
After walking the Mart during Day 1, it was also clear that the industry is taking the wellness trend very seriously. From flooring companies that are offering alternatives to PVC to sit-to-stand conference tables from JSI (see below), it’s safe to say that wellness is the new sustainability. Expect to see a major shift continue toward healthier materials and transparency among manufacturers as they find ways to embrace both environmental and human health.
In the same breath, it was also evident that literally bringing nature indoors via living walls is also a big trend at the show this year. From BuzziSpace’s new BuzziMood wall (see our Twitter Live video), which requires virtually no maintenance, to other similar plant-based products integrated seamlessly into walls or even furniture, it’s clear that green space isn’t just relegated to the outdoors anymore.
Finally, the one thing everyone has been talking about above the clamor of the Mart is the need for greater acoustic comfort. Among the unintended consequences of the open office plan is the fact that people need greater privacy—not just visual, but acoustic as well. As a result, fabric-wrapped panels with acoustic backings have been prevalent around the Mart, as well as standalone spaces for privacy (see our related article online). To that end, standalone products like the Nook were scattered about the 7th floor of the Mart that invited users to take a break from the din of show and take a much-needed breather to either unplug or catch up on e-mail.
What the first day of NeoCon 50 ultimately seemed to boil down to—at least to this industry veteran—is that while we don’t have it all figured out yet, the industry continues to move in positive directions. While sustainability is now a given, health, privacy, and occupant comfort seem to be top of mind at NeoCon 50, and to find your happy place, one doesn’t have to look too far.