Looking Back at NeoCon® 2010: The Highlights & Trends

Yet another fast-paced NeoCon® that has come and gone. But before the Contract magazine staff gets underway with our regular routine, we wanted to recap the highlights from this year's event, as well as point out a few of the overarching design trends now taking the spotlight. (And be sure to read the NeoCon® recap at ContractDesign.com)

Product Trends

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Seating, as always, was a big focus of NeoCon®. This year, however, seating designers and manufacturers looked to innovate for flexibility and collaboration. Seating solutions reflected new introductions in lounge and group seating that simultaneously provide users with a semi-secluded space to meet and collaborate in an informal setting–a direct reflection of the increasing trend toward more open corporate office layouts. Examples include a new seating concept by izzy+ (above left) and Panorama by Arcadia (above right).

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Additionally, single chair designs are taking into account a wider variety of users by expanding the seat size and the overall product durability. Examples include Flores by Segis USA (above left) and Keilhauer's Cahoots line (above right). This way younger generations, who tend to flop into chair and sit cross-legged or with their feet up, can get a full range of comfortable use.

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Flexible and open workspaces were also featured this year. All the major manufacturers showcased either new furniture systems or made enhancements to existing products, adding data compartments to hide wires and cables, movable storage, and the option to remove dividing panels or replace them with clear panels. Allsteel’s Stride Bench (above left) and the Planna Bench by Inscape (above right) both now feature flexible elements and storage to their product lines in a sleek and clean design.

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Carpet and textiles products, as well as wallcoverings, also saw some new trend inclusions. All manufacturers experimented with light effects, incorporating metallic sheens and new uses of texture to capture the eye and add a sense of depth to design (See Carnegie's Surface IQ wallcovering, above left, and Patcraft's Overtones carpet collection, above right). Additionally, a move toward bold prints and selections of natural colors create an interesting dichotomy, as seen in Luna Textiles’ Kinetic Collection of fabric (below left) and InterfaceFlor’s Memphis Collection of carpet tiles (below right).

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Fun and Entertainment

What type of NeoCon® would it be if design was all work and no play? Our editors spent their time after-hours rubbing shoulders with architects and designers at several manufacturers' booths at various cocktail parties: 

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At the newly redesigned


showroom, which features an eye-catching architectural installation and suave-styled lounge theme (above left), Contract magazine publisher John Rouse catches up with Haworth's Mabel Casey and Julie Smith. The two were kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of Haworth's models sold overseas that will hopefully be coming to the U.S. soon (very "hush hush") 

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Brentano stole the scene in the central, first-floor hallway at the Merchandise Mart (above). As Contract previously reported, the Chicago-based textile manufacturer and the Chicago History museum teamed up to offer a design contest, in which designers were challenged to recreate and modernize a historical wedding dress from the museum's costume collection. Furniture manufacturers Allermuir, Leland, and Andreu World America paired the dresses with like lounge chair designs, upholstered in coordinating colors and patterns.

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Our Best of NeoCon® Breakfast was sold out this year! (We had standing-room only, which is pretty impressive for 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning.) Eighty-one awards were presented in 39 categories, with Wilkhahn (above right) capturing the 2010 Best of Competition award for its ergonomic On® chair. View all the winners at ContractDesign.com.

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Teknion hosted an amazing A&D event the opening night of NeoCon at Chicago's River East Arts Center. String Theory (above right), an innovative entertainment group, took harp strings and wrapped them around the building's structures to turn the facility into a giant harp, on which they played new age-like music. John Peterson spoke at the event for several minutes about the efforts of the non-profit Public Architecture.

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Contract magazine was at the Mannington showroom on Tuesday, June 15 when the flooring manufacturer announced the winners of its 2010 tx:style design contest, which offered two young designers the chance to have a carpet line produced from their concepts by an online popular vote. Athena Abrol of WWCOT (right) and Laurel Harrison of AECOM (left) were surprised and overjoyed at winning the competition.

Harrison comments, "I think it's great that Mannington has given young designers a chance to show their talent to the industry. A lot of people tend to just say, 'oh, they're young,' and are quick to write us off."

–Stacy Straczynski


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