Highlights from NeoCon 2014

It’s a wrap: NeoCon 2014 took place last week at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, drawing thousands of attendees to check out the latest products for commercial interiors. Based on Contract editors’ takeaways and feedback overheard from others, it was a good year for the show (well, except for that little plumbing issue on Monday afternoon…). Below, we’ve rounded up some highlights.


Photo by Murrye Bernard.


Inspirations Awards
Contract presented the Inspirations Awards, which were announced on Sunday before NeoCon at a reception in the Tandus Centiva showroom in the Mart. The Inspirations Awards recognize a commitment to social responsibility in commercial interior architecture and design—implementing design to improve the quality of life for those in need. Winners (view the full list of winners) are recognized for work completed for clients that are a worthy cause. The clients, in turn, receive a generous grant from award sponsor Tandus Centiva.



Gensler Minneapolis was the Project Category Winner for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, which won a $5,000 grant award. Representing the firm at the event were Bill Lyons (center), ‎Principal and Managing Director, and Betsey Vohs, Senior Associate (left of Lyons). They posed with Terry Mowers, Vice President and Chief Creative Officer at Tandus Centiva, and Margo Jones, FIIDA, Professor and Internship Coordinator at Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as two of her interior design students (at each end). Photo by Chuck Janda.


Best of NeoCon Awards Breakfast
The Best of NeoCon competition winners were announced at the 25th annual awards breakfast hosted by Contract to kick off the show on Monday morning. Best of Competition went to Haworth for The Openest Collection by Studio Urquiola (view the full list of winners here).



(L–R): Kurt Vander Schuur, corporate brand director at Haworth; Jakub Zak of Studio Urquiola; John Czarnecki, editor in chief of Contract; Patricia Urquiola of Studio Urquiola; Alberto Zontone of Studio Urquiola; and colleagues of Studio Urquiola. Photo by Chuck Janda.


Common themes spotted in NeoCon showrooms and booths
Last year’s big color was fuchsia, but this year, deep purple was one of the most popular colors for furnishings, fabrics, and showroom decor. This bold hue reflects the strong influence of hospitality design on commercial interiors.



Allermuir’s newly remodeled showroom in the Mart. Photo by Murrye Bernard.


Other carry-over trends from last year include the use of felt for upholstery, and hexagons in patterns for carpets and textiles. But some designers took this concept a step further to create patterns that celebrate fractured geometries and can transform across the length of a space to lend a sense of scale and movement.



Milliken’s Dissemblage Collection


In furniture design, a notable shift continues from collaborative collections for completely open office layouts to those that carve out quiet spaces for more focused work.



Susan Caine Quiet Spaces by Steelcase, an Editors’ Choice award winner for Best of NeoCon


Also popular was the concept of the adjustable-height sit/stand desk, and other products that encourage activity and promote healthier habits in the workplace.



The Stir Kinetic Desk is a height-adjustable table featuring a built-in touchscreen that provides data on calories burned and time spent standing versus sitting.


How many steps does an editor take during NeoCon?
And speaking of movement: Out of curiosity, I installed a pedometer app on my phone to track my steps during the week of the show, which included several days of accompanying Best of NeoCon jurors on tours of showrooms and booths before attending NeoCon itself. I clocked more than 70,000 steps—that’s equivalent to 35 miles! So it is safe to assume that collectively, Contract’s three editors covered more than 100 miles while checking out new products and attending receptions and other events related to NeoCon.



So long, Chicago—at least until next week when Contract editors return for the AIA Convention! Photo by Murrye Bernard.

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