“Go East, Young Man”
To paraphrase Horace Greeley, November is the month when contract office exhibitors “Go East” — taking their exhibits on the road — to the Philadelphia Convention Center for the NeoCon East trade show.
It’s the fourteenth year for the NeoCon East event, and its second time in Philadelphia (having launched in Baltimore originally).
While not as massive as the main NeoCon event held each summer in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, NeoCon East offers a more intimate environment for architects, interior designers, space planners, office furniture dealers, and buyers to get hands-on demonstrations of products from more than 200 manufacturers and suppliers, including the newest lines of modular, industrial-styled furniture from Formaspace.
Formaspace Staff Picks: Our Favorite Products on Exhibit at NeoCon East
With the impressive range of furniture, floor coverings, audio-visual equipment, and more on display at NeoCon East, it’s hard to narrow the list to a few favorites, but here are some of the products and solutions that caught our eye:
|Interior Surfacing Products, Contract Textiles, and Wallcoverings
You can be excused if, at first glance, you thought Wolf-Gordon’s Office_Excavate was a deconstructionist art sculpture installation (marked “do-not-touch!”) on display in a fine art gallery or museum.
Quite the opposite! Despite its high-concept look, Office_Excavate is an inviting seating arrangement designed for impromptu meetings and gatherings in the office environment.
The design concept is a pure white, gridded wall surface that’s been “mined” to dig out colorful, three-dimensional “crystals” (each facet upholstered in a different Wolf-Gordon fabric color) that have landed haphazardly on the floor to form casual seating areas. The ‘excavated’ wall, opening in turn, forms a banquette for additional seating. Sensational!
“Wolf-Gordon killed it! They displayed their wallcoverings and upholstery in an incredibly unique way. I’d love to have this in my home or office.” — Jodi Gaines, Formaspace Creative & Brand Marketing Manager
|Contract Seating Solutions
Who can resist jumping up and down on a pogo stick at the office? Designed as a casual, spring-like ‘leaning’ chair, Sitmatic’s Pogo on display at NeoCon East was a sure-fire smile-maker shaking up the office seating market. We definitely tested it once or twice. Okay, maybe four times.
— Sitmatic (@Sitmatic) June 13, 2016
But we were also impressed by the serious side of offerings from seating manufacturer Sitmatic — especially their custom seating solutions for differently sized people, which range from custom-made, built-to-measure chairs for short-stature little people to seating for the tallest NBA basketball players.
To learn more, we spoke with Toby Ball, Sitmatic’s National Sales Manager to get a quick rundown on Sitmatic’s impressive range of seating, which spans the gamut from highly-ergonomic, executive, and technical seating for individuals, to seating applications for performing arts, education, and organizational gatherings, to specialized seating for military operations and head-of-state conferences.
Ball says that Sitmatic got its start back in 1985, during a time when other major furniture manufacturers were touting a passive “one-size-fits-all, no adjustments necessary” approach to ergonomics. Sitmatic saw things differently, and realized there was an opening in the marketplace to develop a comprehensive line of custom-fit, highly-adjustable, ergonomic seating designed to fit individual body types.
But we wanted to know — how did Sitmatic also get into the market for custom public seating for classrooms, auditoriums, and the like?
Bell explained that it was actually more straightforward than it sounds. Given that Sitmatic had already mastered the ability to make highly-customized furniture for each order, they were able to expand into the adjacent public seating market, which also requires made-to-measure manufacturing for each individual installation.
Manufacturer: Chief by Milestone AV Technologies
|Audio Visual Display Solutions
|Kontour K1 Series Monitor Arms / Mounts
Details matter — especially when you’re designing a clean, modern work environment.
Take the computer display screens at your desk, for example.
The Problem: Whether you have one or two computer display screens at your desk, you need to be able to easily adjust your monitors to maintain an optimal height and focal length distance. Now that touch-screens are becoming more common, you’ll also need to tilt these heavy display screens horizontally in order to touch them comfortably with your hands – or draw on them directly using a stylus.
This is not an easy engineering problem to solve.
That’s why we are attracted to the high-tech Kontour series monitor arms designed by Chief, a Milestone AV Technologies company.
Their Kontour K1 series monitor arms look like a part taken from a jet aircraft, which is not surprising since they are also made from forged metal, just like many high-strength aircraft parts.
You can move display screens mounted on K1 monitor arms to a new position with a simple touch, and they will stay in place automatically without having to lock them. (K1 monitor arms are counterbalanced with compressed gas cylinders hidden inside.)
The best news of all, the cables are integrated into the K1 monitor arm, which finally solves the issue of unsightly cable clutter cables — this really does make a noticeable aesthetic difference, especially in sleek, no-clutter contemporary office designs.
Manufacturer: Patcraft Flooring
|Mixed Materials Converge™ modular tile, Set in Concrete™ hard surface flooring
Given the vast number of flooring solutions on display at NeoCon East, it’s hard to pick just one vendor — but Dalton, Georgia-based Patcraft caught our attention with two of their new product lines.
The first is called Mixed Materials Converge™. It’s a modular, tile carpet system that extends Patcraft’s existing Mixed Materials platform. It’s not only looks beautiful, but it has a soft, built-in ‘comfort core’ to reduce fatigue.
With the Mixed Materials Converge system, designers can create attention-grabbing super graphics on the floor using a wide variety of flooring element shapes, colors, and materials. The sample design layouts shown by Patcraft are very eye-catching and have us really curious about what designers will do with this system in the future.
You can also forget about the traditional straight-line transition strip used to separate carpeted areas from resilient floor panels. Patcraft eliminated it – which means you can create irregular, organic transitions from carpeted areas to resilient floor panels.
The second solution from Patcraft that caught our eye was their Set in Concrete™ hard surface flooring system. On the West Coast, where the industrial-look is very popular, there has been a trend toward polished, high-gloss, natural or white concrete floors in office design. (This floor trend may have started when Elon Musk painted the floors of the SpaceX rocket factory in LA with brilliant high-gloss white epoxy paint.)
The Set in Concrete flooring system gives designers the option to create this look, even in places where it’s not possible to pour a concrete floor, such as in upper floors of existing buildings or where the existing concrete floor is in poor condition. Very slick!
Manufacturer: Formica Corporation
As you probably know by now, Formaspace is active in supplying furniture for multiple industries — ranging from office installations, research laboratories, and manufacturing facilities — so we’re really intrigued with complimentary products that also span these different markets.
That’s one reason that Formica Corporation’s new laminate product — Formica Infiniti™ — caught our attention.
The new Formica Infiniti line combines several characteristics together into one surfacing product. First, it’s resistant to bacterial growth. Second, it’s resistant to fingerprints. Third, the finish is very matte (without that tell-tale laminate ‘shine’). Fourth, it’s extremely soft to the touch. So soft, you’ll find yourself petting it.
It’s exciting to see all these features combined into one product – and one that’s available in all the Formica colors as well!
We’re very intrigued by the prospect of incorporating Formica Infiniti surfacing in our furniture projects.
Formica Infiniti’s combination of bacteria and fingerprint resistance, along with its aesthetic qualities, could make it an ideal solution for many of our Formaspace office, laboratory, and educational furniture products — so we’re eager to make some prototypes in our Austin factory to test it out!
Spotting Major Trends at NeoCon East 2016
Along with pointing out their favorite product lines, we also asked Formaspace staff attending NeoCon East to give their impression of the major trends on view at the show. Here are some of their responses.
Sleek and Integrated Modernism was a Dominant Design Aesthetic at NeoCon East
It was clear to me that the names you know in systems furniture have stuck to a modern design aesthetic through the course of 2016.
For example, lighting and fabric designs are being incorporated into work cells with a very sleek modern appearance.
We see the same type of trend in adjacent industries as well, such automobile and aircraft cabin design. For example, first and business class seating pods have sleek modern designs that hide the inherent complexity of on-board entertainment systems, personal lighting and other creature comforts by integrating them into the design or hiding them behind hidden doors and panels.
This same level of design integration is happening in office systems on display at NeoCon East.
Is the Industrial Design Trend Moving East?
The industrial office aesthetic has hit the West Coast hard — raw materials and exposed natural surfaces are de rigueur at Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Pinterest.
At the NeoCon East show, many of the furniture companies, including Formaspace, featured designs with this ‘industrial-look’ that’s characterized by the use of raw, natural materials, such as solid maple work surfaces and metal frames and legs.
We also saw how live edge wood surfaces are moving into smaller cuts — now found on individual desks for example — and not just limited to the large, signature conference tables or lounge tables.
My impression was that A&D individuals were really excited to see something new like this at the show, so, based on the level of interest expressed by Interior Designers at NeoCon East, it looks like this industrial-look trend will continue to extend across the country — from the west coast to the east coast.
Flexibility and Functionality More Important Than Ever
Aside from pure design aesthetics, it was apparent at NeoCon East that flexibility and functionality are critical to end users. This trend includes everything from height-adjustability (e.g. sit-to-stand desks, tables and workstation), to easily maneuvered and modified monitor arms, to the way that more and more wall systems are mobile and easily re-configurable in the field.
Appearance no longer wins the deal, your product must also out-perform based on function.
But buyers need to be careful with the details. For example, while sit-to-stand was EVERYWHERE at NeoCon East, most of the sit-to-stand furniture on display had VERY low weight capacity, 200-300 lbs., which is pretty unacceptable in our world where we build our sit-to-stand furniture to carry a minimum of 1,000 pounds each.
A Big Thank You to the Show Team at NeoCon East.
I just wanted to express my thanks and give a shout out to the great people at NeoCon East, both the show staff and the attendees. Thanks for a great show. You really helped make this a very successful event for us here at Formaspace.
Now that we’re back home here at our factory HQ in Austin, we’re already busy getting ready for the big 50th anniversary NeoCon 2017 in Chicago. We can’t say much about it now, but we’re planning a new major product reveal.