The entire Contract editorial staff took the train to Baltimore last Wednesday for NeoCon East, the East Coast’s design expo and conference for commercial interiors, featuring the largest concentration of products and services under the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Multiple Awards Schedules Program.
This year’s show marked my first visit to NeoCon East, which takes place within the Baltimore Convention Center. The show is quite a bit smaller and therefore more manageable to navigate than NeoCon in Chicago, though many of the products that I saw on display were repeats from that show in June. And since NeoCon East is geared toward a government audience, there was decidedly less fuchsia and felt and, in general, a more subdued selection. But there were still enough pops of color and texture to keep things interesting. And, of course, the show provided many good opportunities to meet manufacturers and network with designers.
Unlike the defined showrooms within The Merchandise Mart, the exhibition floor of NeoCon East is open and populated by booths, but manufacturers customized their spaces with the aim to stand out.
I especially liked the design of Bentley’s booth. They went all out with Brooklyn-approved Edison bulbs and cow skulls, echoing the theme of their new Western Edge collection. I wasn’t the only fan of this booth: the jurors of IIDA’s 2013 NeoCon East Booth Design Award Competition selected it as the winner in the large booth category.
Global also had an eye-catching display, and the candy machines certainly upped its appeal.
Also capturing a casual-cool vibe was Mohawk Group’s Denim Collection—flooring that takes cues from fashion.
The Design Leadership Council presented a panel discussion, titled “State of the Design Professional,” moderated by Contract Editor in Chief John Czarnecki. The panel included professionals from all points within their careers. John’s questions sparked lively discussions, including how practices’ focuses have shifted over the decades. While young designers in the 1980s mostly took on new construction for their first projects, today’s emerging professionals often work primarily on renovation projects, panel members said.
Textile designer Suzanne Tick, who presented a keynote speech as part of NeoCon East, also gave an intimate talk on her Surface Tension collection for Teknion Textiles. Just as the name connotes, the fabrics offer contrasting textures, many incorporating metallics, and have catchy names like New Wave and Hot Spot.
While much of our visit to Baltimore was spent walking the isles of NeoCon East, I did manage to fit in a walk along Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor just before catching the train back to New York. It was not only my first time to NeoCon East, but also to Baltimore itself, and I was impressed by the revitalization efforts along the waterfront. See you next year, Baltimore!