The new Formaspace Office commercial interiors division made its worldwide debut at the 2017 NeoCon contract furniture show held in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Attendees had a chance to test drive our new Weldmarx line of desks, benches, and conference tables for the commercial design market, including an industrial multi-functional Ping Pong conference table made from solid African Mahogany – which converts into two independently height-adjustable tables for breakout meetings.
What a show! We’ve just returned from the annual National Exposition of Contract Furnishing show — more commonly known as NeoCon. This year marks the 49th annual NeoCon event, which has been held every year at the venerable art deco Merchandise Mart in Chicago since 1969. This year’s impressive stats included over 1,000,000 sq. ft. of showrooms, 500 leading vendors, and an estimated 54,000 office interior design professionals in attendance.
If you were able to attend NeoCon 2017, we hope you had a chance to see our new Weldmarx collection of office furniture for the commercial design market in person. Weldmarx is a coordinated system of mix-and-match components, designed to work together to create a full range of workplace solutions — including individual private workstation areas, flexible and informal touch-down spaces, collaborative open desking and benching environments, employee break rooms and cafeterias, and executive conference rooms kitted out with our unique industrial conference tables.
If you didn’t get a chance to make it to NeoCon this year, we’d like to paint a picture of what you missed out on by identifying five key office design trends we observed at this year’s event.
Let’s get started!
Trend 1: Make the Office a Fun and Healthy Place to Work
Entrepreneur, author, and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington delivered the opening keynote address at NeoCon 2017 on the crucial role that office interior design professionals play in establishing a healthy life/work balance in the office.
“Those of you who are interior designers, you have such an opportunity to help people live their lives differently,” Huffington said.
She reminded us to avoid the trap of overextension and overwork in our professional lives and emphasized the need to keep moving throughout the day to maintain physical health. The right choice of furniture, such as height-adjustable desks, is an important part of the solution.
Throughout the showrooms at the Mart, there was renewed emphasis on maintaining an active lifestyle at work, making health and wellness the top category of the office design trends we saw at NeoCon.
#NETworking Ping Pong / Weldmarx Executive Tables by Formaspace
What could be healthier than a quick game of ping pong at the office? Neocon attendees got a chance to test drive our multi-functional ping pong conference table, made of an exotic African Mahogany. It’s part of Formaspace Office’s new Weldmarx line of unique commercial office furniture with an industrial look. When needed, the ping-pong table cleverly divides into two independently height-adjustable, stand-up meeting tables that rise up to 56 inches. After folding the perforated steel net beneath the surface to its’ attachment, the two pieces create a seamless standing height conference table. Powered by lithium batteries, the legs can be controlled with any Bluetooth-enabled device.
As most of us probably know by now, sitting for long periods of time at your desk isn’t healthy.* The new HOVR exercise device (which mounts underneath a desk or sits on the floor as a standalone device) allows you to get in those important extra steps throughout the workday – without the complications of installing a step machine or treadmill.
*For more information on the health risks of extended sitting, see our article “Is Sitting the New Smoking?”
If you want to keep track of the movements of your employees across your enterprise, Herman Miller offers a new Live OS system that integrates height-adjustable desks with smartphone apps. But be careful: subscription prices may not be healthy for your budget, the software for sit-to-stand desks can cost upwards of $60 for each desk, per year.
Genie Copper Mesh chair by Via Seating
It’s critical to avoid unwanted transfer of microbes and germs in healthcare settings, so we were intrigued by this chair by Via Seating which incorporates copper (known for its antimicrobial properties) into the material used for the mesh seat back.
Trend Two: The Year the Industrial Look and Mid-Century Modern Design Got Married
Many of the designers we spoke with at NeoCon were looking to pair the structural ‘bones’ of industrial-styled furniture (such as desking, benching and tables from Formaspace Office) with signature design elements inspired by the Mid-Century Modern designs (such as chairs and textiles) that were on display at the show.
Here are but a few of the many Mid-Century Modern inspired office interior design products we saw:
LilyPad in the Terry Crews Collection for Bernhardt Design
Kudos to the art director for the photos of the new LilyPad seating with built-in tables; it truly looks like the setting of the modernist Stahl House in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. LilyPad is also noteworthy as a design from none other than actor and former NFL player Terry Crews.
Katachi High Back Lounge Chair by JANUS et Cie
We also liked the Katachi High Back Lounge Chair from JANUS et Cie. The delicately tapered legs suggest mid-century modern, but the woven fabric choices and aggressive cut of the silhouette delivers a fresh take on the traditional wingback chair.
Capri Lounge by Andreu World
The Capri Lounge chair by designer Piergiorgio Cazzaniga for Andreu World is a relaxed take on a timeless shape. But wait… don’t swivel chairs bases require five legs by regulation to avoid tipping accidents?
Aficionados of textiles from the 1950s will welcome the new Focus In collection for its adventurous use of geometric designs made with eye-catching, non-traditional woven materials.
Trend Three: Searching for Quiet in the Workplace
Finding a quiet place to work is the third item in our list of office design trends we observed at NeoCon 2017.
Concerned about office noise? Why not install a game show style isolation booth, such as the SnapCab Pod? It offers instant acoustic privacy.
3form presented an interesting solution to the problem of high levels of noise in the office. Their line of Seeyond acoustic tiles not only control noise but can be installed quickly and moved around as needed. As a bonus, they create an attractive visual design element in the office environment.
Ah ha! You may be wondering how the Jabbrrbox One differs from the SnapCab Pod listed above. The answer: Jabbrrbox One has a unique business model! It’s designed for public environments, such as airports, building lobbies, and trade shows. Access to this private space can be purchased on an hourly basis via an online app.
Trend Four: New Ways to Work Smarter with Collaborative Furniture
Our fourth trend from NeoCon 2017 is the rise of modular and multi-function furniture – all designed to help people work together more collaboratively.
Formaspace Executive Conference Table
A big crowd pleaser in this category was Formaspace’s own custom, height-adjustable trapezoidal conference table from the new Weldmarx collection. It’s made of solid walnut, tricked out with a hidden console under the surface that rises to reveal an LED illuminated control panel with built-in Bluetooth controls, HDMI video connections, USB ports and power supply connections.
Clarus Glass Boards
These intriguing glass whiteboards from Clarus combine the practicality of a whiteboard solution with a room divider. The translucent glass provides privacy without making you feel claustrophobic in a small space.
Prospect by Herman Miller
The curved walls of the Prospect system from Herman Miller provide a cozy collaborative workspace within a larger open office environment.
Trend Five: Make the Outdoors Feel at Home in Your Office
Our fifth and final commercial design trend from neocon 2017 is the influence of natural design elements on fabric selections and the rise of indoor/outdoor seating solutions.
Biophilia Collection by Designtex
The Biophilia Collection has a smart modern feel, which incorporates lively geometric design elements inspired by natural living organisms.
The Lichen Collection from the Mohawk Group takes inspiration from the natural world to the next level. The choice of colors and patterns mimic natural lichen that you might see growing on a fallen log in the forest.
Emergence modular carpet by Shaw Contract
Not to be outdone, Shaw Contract presented their take on modern modular carpet tile design, featuring nature-inspired super graphics.
Matisse Modular Collection by JANUS et Cie
It wasn’t just about natural design elements moving inside the office. Many manufacturers exhibited furniture designed for outdoor public spaces that have an interior office design look and feel, such as the very attractive Matisse modular collection from JANUS et Cie, which is upholstered in a durable mesh.
Comments from the Floor: Were the Big Contract Furniture Manufacturers Holding Back This Year?
Not everyone was completely satisfied.
One marketing manager from the Big 4 was very concerned about the lack of innovation at this year’s NeoCon.
Speaking on background, he expressed his concern this way:
“This was the worst NeoCon in 10 years in terms of product innovation… All the finishes in the Mart looked the same and everyone is now addressing technology is some way, shape, or form.”
Other longtime attendees at NeoCon also expressed their concern that the new products exhibited by the “Big 4” manufacturers were somehow more evolutionary than revolutionary.
That’s a pretty tough assessment.
What is your take? Do you think we’ve entered an era of design conformity? What would it take to bring about a new direction for product inspiration?
Get in touch with a Formaspace Design Consultant and let us know. Just fill out the quick contact form below.