NeoCon is back in a big way. The 2022 show was packed with design professionals eager to dive headfirst into the NeoCon experience and check out products from trending to timeless. We spotted these five trends in the halls of theMART.
1. Ensuring Equity for Remote Employees
Companies are investing in their office spaces in hopes to draw people back to the physical office, but not everyone will return. Some workers will remain remote no matter what, while others may stop by the office a few times a week and will work remotely the rest of the time. Giving remote workers an equitable experience is crucial.
Steelcase showed off solutions for remote workers, such as the Hybrid Collaboration Table, a conference table that positions all in-office workers in a row facing a camera so that people attending the meeting on Zoom can see all the in-office attendees equally well. The table was tested to support video meetings, and it accommodates the right camera angle and incorporates a large screen.
“Not everybody is in the office at the same time. That was to some degree the reality before COVID,” said Michael Held, Steelcase’s vice president of global design. “We’ve been on this trajectory for a long time. The world is changing, work is changing and the office is changing. It’s important to still enable our customers and their teams to come together no matter where they are.”
2. Neighborhoods and Space Variety
One key driver behind people returning to the office is the availability of experiences they can’t have at home. Some of these are intrinsic to the office, like collaborating face-to-face with coworkers. Others are enabled by smart design.
Think about ways you can create “neighborhoods” for your office clients. Giving workers a variety of space types gives them different places to go during the day. Scandinavian Spaces exhibited examples of these space types, including the Speakeasy, a lounge space perfect for relaxed collaboration or simply adopting a different posture.
“We saw during the pandemic that there were a lot of changes being made to how people work—a flexible work schedule, a flexible work environment,” explained Lela Aberg, sales manager in Central Texas for Scandinavian Spaces. “We saw a lot of end users wanting to make the space more interesting and comfortable for their employees to come back to the office.”
Modular seating is key in creating these spaces, Aberg said, as well as drawing inspiration from hospitality design. “It makes the workday more interesting when you have different places to go for different types of work,” she added.
3. Acoustic Innovations
Noise in commercial and institutional spaces is a persistent problem. Hard surfaces like tile complicate the issue by creating more surfaces for sound to bounce off.
Momentum offered acoustic wallcoverings made of 100% recycled polyester that can help mitigate noise pollution in office and other commercial spaces. The launch includes six printed patterns in six colorways and is sourced from plastic water bottles.
For healthcare applications, Construction Specialties exhibited the HUSH Curtain, a line of acoustic curtains for exam spaces that contain acoustic panels to cut down on noise transmission. The panels can be removed when it’s time to replace the curtain, and the vinyl construction can be cleaned in place to reduce laundering costs.
4. Telling Sustainability Stories
Simply embracing sustainability as a brand is no longer enough for designers, who increasingly want to know exactly what brands are doing to reduce their environmental impact.
Shaw Contract highlighted several ultra-sustainable flooring solutions, including Innate (a bio-based resilient tile that incorporates canola, castor and rapeseed oils) and BottleFloor, which is constructed with post-consumer recycled bottles.
“Most of the materials we use are coming from the planet, and we only have one planet,” said Jeff West, vice president of marketing for Shaw Contract. “How do we make sure we’re doing that in a very sustainable way that’s not hurting the planet?”
Formica announced its new sustainability goals last July, including a goal to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030. The company publishes its progress toward these goals annually. Formica also showcased two exciting new collections—SurfaceSet 2022 and DecoMetal.
Mantra Inspired Furniture, a first-time NeoCon exhibitor, showcased its investment-grade wood furnishings. The company chose to invest in the Declare label, a transparency platform and ingredients list for products, to demonstrate the sustainable sourcing of its hardwood and other materials.
AVA by Novalis introduced its Digital Passport, a product passport that empowers end users, recyclers and specifiers with information about the contents and attributes of the company’s flooring products. The company will put a QR code on the back of its products that links to a website with up-to-date information about product materials and how to dispose of the product when it’s removed from a space. By making it easy to look up disposal information, the company will make it easier to reuse and recycle older flooring and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.
5. Permanent Outdoor Installations
The COVID-19 pandemic drove many people to embrace the outdoors as an escape. Two years later, the outdoor installations that some companies hastily constructed are being replaced with more permanent furnishings in hopes of creating outdoor amenities to help bring people back to the office.
emu, an Italian manufacturer of outdoor furniture, showed off some of its collection of sophisticated outdoor furnishings, including practical chairs and tables that are easy to stack and fold.
“People want something that’s durable and lasts,” said Dan Cordova, marketing manager for emu. “During COVID, a lot of people bought furniture online, sight unseen, for whatever project they’re working on. A year and a half later, it’s failing. Now they have to rebuy stuff that’s going to last them five to 10 years.”
Trend Futures and Celebrating Diversity, Education
In addition to the innovative and inspiring product launches at theMART, attendees also caught a glimpse the emerging design trends that will shape commercial interiors in 2022 and beyond at the i+s showroom on the 10th floor.
The exploratory Trend Futures exhibit, curated by trend forecaster and design entrepreneur Stacy Garcia, gave specifiers a firsthand look at the colors, patterns, textures and technology that are setting the bar for design now and in the years ahead, featuring products that fell into key trends forecasted by the Stacy Garcia studio. Attendees also got a firsthand look into how these design trends can be expressed through digital artwork in the form of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) featured throughout the space.
This year, the i+s showroom was home to the very first Pride Party at NeoCon, celebrating diversity in the design industry. Special guest DJ Royce Epstein, A&D design director for Mohawk, had the crowd in the packed showroom dancing into the evening as drag queens mingled with partygoers who stayed well past show closing hours.
Always looking to make an impact on the design community, i+s took the opportunity to support design education once again by helping to raise funds for IIDA’s Design Your World pipeline education program for high school students in underserved communities. For every badge scanned at NeoCon, i+s donated $1 to the program, which is expanding this year from Chicago to Miami as well.
By all measures, NeoCon lived up to expectations and even its own motto this year: “Design makes a statement.”