NeoCon 2019 Trends and Analysis
It was another fun June in Chicago! Neocon 2019 was my 20th, so I probably need to stop counting. No matter how many times I’ve been, I’m always inspired and I truly believe the show is still the best way to see all the latest products in one location while packing in as many customer meetings as possible. The attendance was abundant, which you can always judge by the length of the elevator lines.
Most of the OEM, Original Equipment Manufacturers, showrooms did not have any major redesigns, but each of them showcased their newest products.
Here are some of the highlights from Neocon 2019.
Remember the telephone chairs from the 1950’s? Being a fan of 50’s furniture, I encountered my first telephone chair in an antique shop just as cordless phones were becoming popular and you no longer needed to be tethered to a wall to have a conversation. I never thought there would be a need for a telephone chair, but they seem to be back in fashion for office environments. Traditionally, the side table was a great place to store phone books and your super clunky rotary phone, but now provides the ideal place to set down your “ear-budded” phone, drink your coffee, take some notes and even recharge your devices. My favorite was Arcadia’s chair with a black and white floral print back and striking yellow cushion. Just looking at it will make you want to smile, and stop for a minute to recharge.
Another big Neocon 2019 trend was natural materials. Though wool, leather, and wood grains had been growing in popularity over the last couple of years, this year introduced marble, cork, and wicker caning to the mix. No longer did I feel like I was walking around in a cold office, instead I felt as if I was in a highly designed residence. The use of these materials are blurring the lines between work and home. All of these beautiful materials help to soften environments with casual warm tones and earthy surfaces.
With all of these elegant natural and earth based materials comes the fun of mixing them with unique man made material. A Herman Miller chair mixed steel tubing, twine, and linen created a seat reminiscent of a deck or camping chair. Those chairs were then paired with a table suggestive of a ping pong table, making the entire ensemble playful and casual. At Nienkamper, metal sheets were combined with a wool-like fabric to create an interesting industrial looking chair with armrests suggestive of wings. The chair appears that it could take flight.
Finally, there is the classic combination of leather and wood, which never fails to make a sophisticated assemblage.
Texture and Dimension
Textures and dimension continued to dominate the textiles at Neocon. Interesting surfaces were achieved through a variety of techniques such as embossing, combining textured yarns such as boucle and chenille, as well as woven structures such as matelassé, a woven technique with a quilted appearance. With all the cold computer and phone screens that we deal with in our daily life and the hard surfaces surrounding us in the work environment, textiles are an excellent way to soften an environment, absorb sound and ground us with something tactile.
Unique furniture shapes were everywhere at Neocon. From super thin vs. clunky, to amorphic vs. hard angles, almost every shape seemed to be represented. Regardless of the formation, the overarching theme was of distinctively designed furniture that offers both individual and communal seating environments.
This year I noticed the expansion of yellow and the emergence of earthy and khaki greens. While red seemed scarce, Pantone’s color of the year inspired a lot of pinks, corals and reddish oranges.
The Scandinavian color palette remained on trend, highlighted by pinks and salmons, soft blues, and warm grays.
Individual Color Highlights:
Gray – Warmer tones
Teal – More teal than aqua (teals are blues with more green in them)
Aqua – Gray undertones
Purple – Plum and eggplant tones
Green – Bright grassy greens, yellow greens, khaki greens, army green
Pink – Coral pinks, lipstick, soft pinks
Orange – Burnt orange, gray orange, saturated orange, all leaning towards red
Of course, I can’t go to Neocon and not research the emergence of print and print on demand products in commercial interiors. Most of these products were found on the 7th floor, which happens to be my favorite Merchandise Mart floors. I love discovering all the cool new products and companies.
For example, this year I discovered a great company called Stikwood. They have the capabilities of digitally printing on reclaimed wood! Also, I learned that Garrett Leather now has the capabilities to digitally print on faux leather. Sileather returned to showcase their digitally printed silicone upholstery product and Furniture Lab, a recurring Neocon attendee, had new and beautiful digitally printed designs on their tabletops.
It was a super fun and full trip, yet I still feel as if there was so much I didn’t get to see! I would love to hear some of your Neocon 2019 observations. Please share them in the comment section below.