NeoCon 2022 – A Review

North America’s largest design exposition for interior design and contract furniture returned in full form back to its usual summer program. Here is a summary of our experience at NeoCon 2022.

Over 40,000 design enthusiasts from all over the world made their way to the Windy City to see what’s new, what’s trending, and what’s exciting. Chicago’s merchandise mart was filled to the brim with activity and buzz, after a roughly two-year lull. With 400 exhibiting companies participating in the 2022 edition of NeoCon, it was bound to be a great event.

There were clear themes and trends on display, most notably a focus on agility and movement. Nearly all major brands seemed to have developed a product with a focus on flexibility, mostly in the form of pods, new standing desk solutions, and collaboration spaces. Additionally, there’s an evident focus on the hotelification of the office, or resimmercial, as some would call it.

The warm humid weather didn’t stop visitors from taking to the streets, with a bit of the excitement being shared with Fulton Market, now home to several large and popular brands, such as Teknion and MillerKnoll. Interface also moved to a beautiful new space right opposite the Mart, with plenty of room to display all their fantastic products.

Andreu world was in full force, proudly presenting their award-winning new Calma Chair. We also got the chance to see the Oru chair that won a gold award in the seating category, as well as hear Alfredo Häberli and Patricia Urquiola talk about their new collections.

Andreu World brings Patricia Urquiola and Afredo Haberli to introduce their new products

Steelcase and Haworth dominated the 7th floor with their large and exceptionally well-designed showrooms, with almost the full force of their product portfolios on display.

At Haworth, we got a chance to see Lyda, a luxury sofa collection designed in collaboration with Lauren Rottet. We also experienced the new Pergola workspace – a freestanding architectural workspace where people can get away to focus, connect, or collaborate. The Zody LX and Compose Echo were also on display, showing us what team spaces need to look like.

The brand also excelled at their display of the new Work from Anywhere ecosystem, where people could choose any location to work from, yet maintain that the office would always remain the hub. The Haworth brand was visible throughout the Mart, starting from the space by the river outside and continuing on to inspiring installations in the atrium.

Haworth displayed an impressive exhibition of locations and styles to enable the new Work From Anywhere style

Steelcase, together with Orangebox, showed us what the future of the workspace will look like. We particularly liked the EVERWALL™ and Steelcase Flex collection, which offered a glimpse into what Steelcase has to offer in terms of new modes of working. Orangebox’s On The QT was displayed in a unique fashion too, complementing the rest of the collection in the showroom. Both brands went big on resimmercial trends, and aimed to inspire visitors with new social settings and configurations for the workspace – a response to the new paradigm of working in the post-pandemic era.

Steelcase and Orangebox showed off their latest launches, On The QT pod, the EVERWALL and the Flex collection

Biophilia, wellbeing, and sustainability as always are strong themes. Over at the new Interface showroom, we were given a personal demo of their new Beaumont Range™ Carpet Tile Collection and Fresco Valley™ LVT by Kari Pei, Vice President of Global Product Design. The interface showroom embodies everything the company stands for – sustainability, wellness, and biophilic design. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Interface’s new showroom at NeoCon 2022

Shaw Contract also showed off their impressive Innate (a bio-based resilient tile that incorporates canola, castor and rapeseed oils) and BottleFloor, which is constructed with post-consumer recycled bottles, a part of their ultra-sustainable flooring solutions.

Shaw Contract’s latest products were an ode to sustainability and preservation of the planet

And while on the topic of biophilia, one brand that will certainly catch your attention is Ethnicraft, a 25 year old Belgian manufacturer and designer of solid wood furniture. One piece that shouldn’t be missed is their Oak Stairs locker, certainly the highlight of the showroom!

Ethnicraft’s biophilic designed products

While booths and pods were a common trend you couldn’t miss, a booth definitely worth seeing was the Framery One, the world’s first connected, soundproof meeting pod. The Microoffice Realm from Silentlab and Silenspace Hybrid took the gold and innovation awards each.

Nook’s Huddle Pod for ad-hoc collaboration and its semi-private Solo Booth were on display on the 7th floor. These pods include acoustic upholstery, a power source with USB outlets, and mobile and locking wheels, which workplace leaders can use to move pods without the need to disassemble them. We also got to see this neurodivergent design in action!

Hushoffice solutions were showcased on the 7th floor as well. HushHybrid, the office pod from Hushoffice brand, wins the silver “Best of NeoCon” award at this year’s NeoCon in Chicago in the “Acoustics and Privacy” category. Hushoffice also presented a refreshed offering of acoustic cabins for the U.S. market and introduces new products.

HushWall was one of them, a mobile partition wall for offices. Hush The new generation of office pods complies with UL standards for the U.S., reduces assembly time, offers better accessibility or persons with disabilities and improves pods’ mobility, providing greater flexibility for open plan offices.

The Nook Huddle by Nook Pod; Framery’s One, the world’s first connected, soundproof meeting pod; Hushoffice’s HushHybrid pod

Back to the topic of resimercial design, Arper’s Project of Living was certainly worth checking out, while Boss Design’s Amelia chair, an equally impressive product, won the gold award for seating.

Arper interpreted ‘The Project of Living’ through soft, light, and colourful materials carefully chosen to create a fluid atmosphere. As they explained, ‘living’ means all the different things that we do in a day, with the boundaries between home and work blurring. So how do we want to live? The answer is more seamlessly, flexibly, sustainably, and infinitely more inspired.

Arper’s Project of Living at NeoCon 2022

Kvadrat presented Broken Twill Weave, the new recycled polyester upholstery collection by Jonathan Olivares displayed on his new Square furniture collection produced in collaboration with Moroso.

We also experienced the new textiles Helia and Vanir by Kvadrat/Raf Simons, Atrium Outdoor by Patricia Urquiola, as well as a new finished product by Kvadrat Really: table tops created from upcycled textile waste.

Also on show at the pop-up were Arda, Kvadrat’s new nature-inspired knitted upholstery textile by Front Design, and Sisu, a bold yet subtle checked fabric, woven with thick, voluminous woollen yarns, originally designed by the late Danish designer Nanna Ditzel and revived by artist Danh Vo.

OFS’s showroom showed us what the new workspace looks like – centered around the individual but built to support a team and collaboration. The collections on display included Lean On and Heya, with soft lines and bright, warm colours.

OFS’ Lean On and Heya collections

At Pedrali, we got to see the caementum occasional tables, the hera chair, and the beautiful ila chairs. One aspect of the ila chair worth looking into is the brushed flower profile, a subtle but luxurious touch that allows it to fit well into both residential and hospitality spaces.

Pedrali’s caementum occasional tables, the hera and the ila chairs.

The Skyfold experience was at the 7th floor. Flexible space is the future of architecture. Being able to offer a space that can be adaptive rather than static is simply a priority in today’s world.

Skyfold walls are so easy to operate—with the touch of a button you can quickly reconfigure any space in minutes. They are manufactured for long-term performance, durability and beauty. Though already a leader in the industry, we pride ourselves on constantly aiming to improve, and we enthusiastically embrace innovation.

As well as being easy to clean and sanitize, Skyfold products are also environmentally responsible with up to 97% recycled materials, furthering our mission of health, wellness, and green living.

The Fulton Market was another hub of excitement and buzz. Day one’s highlight was the grand opening of Teknion’s beautiful new showroom at nearly 22,000 square feet with a stunning view of the Chicago skyline. In addition to several amazing products on display, such as the new Cityline collection, we were also treated to a splendid talk with Suzanne Tick, Luke Pearson, and Tom Lloyd. It was worth seeing Studio TK, Teknion, and other collections in one space, to truly grasp and understand their entire portfolio and how it all comes together.

Teknion at the Fulton Market during NeoCon 2022

Over at Herman Miller, there was so much inspiration on display that we didn’t know where to look. If we had to pick a couple to talk about, we’d start with the new Zeph chair, a new task chair designed by Studio 7.5, the same creative force behind Cosm. The impressive chair is deceptively comfortable for something so minimal, and comes in an exciting array of colours. Another piece of inspiration was the Eames Pavilion, a display of the history of Herman Miller, featuring their design roots and iconic collections over the years.

Herman Miller at the Fulton Market during NeoCon 2022

Definitely worth mentioning is KI, who not only won an IIDA award for best showroom at NeoCon, but had several innovative products on display. Designed by David Allan Pesso, the Zoetry Collection was a prime focus with beautiful profiles that really stood out. Their education collection – Rickus Whiteboards, Activity, Tables, and the impressive Ruckus task chair – were certainly not one to be missed. With a simple, clean design, these tables, desks, and chairs deliver flexibility and mobility to enable diverse teaching and learning styles.

KI won the IIDA award for best showroom at NeoCon 2022

And of course, who can forget acoustics. We got to (intentionally) step over the new Buzzirugs from Buzzispace, that incorporate their signature characteristic sound absorption qualities. Buzzipleat, a large-scale, yet lightweight sculptural form, is sustainable, hand-crafted, and takes over two hours for each pleat to be made. Over at Spacestor, we experienced the highly customisable Verandas, where one can use panels and in-room amenities to configure their meeting spaces to meet specific collaboration needs.

Buzzispace’s display of acoustic products; Spacetor’s Verandas

Between The Mart and Fulton Market, it was excitement all around. Being the first full fledged NeoCon fair since the pandemic, it was interesting to see how brands have adapted to the new modes of working. Agility and flexibility were the clear winner, but wellness and biophilic design were still the dominating aesthetic themes for this year.

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