This week, I traveled to Baltimore to attend NeoCon East, the East Coast’s premier design expo and conference for commercial interiors. The show, which took place October 29 and 30 at the Baltimore Convention Center, showcases top trends and products for multiple sectors, including office, government, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and education.
From new products to caricatures to booth trick-or-treating, the 12th annual NeoCon East show provided insights and ideas for attendees and exhibitors.
There were many themes featured at the show, but there were some that stood out more than others. One of the biggest themes was the idea of creating commercial spaces that don’t feel like typical commercial spaces. For example, National Office Furniture is basing many of its products around the idea of changing workspaces.
“We have a motto called CLIF, which stands for Collaborate, Learn, Interact, and Focus,” National Office Furniture’s Segment & Sustainability Marketing Manager and NeoCon East Speaker Lisa Schmidt says. “We want to build spaces that create a cross-pollination of workers so that employees can talk to coworkers that they may not usually talk to.”
National Office Furniture’s booth featured its Fringe Collaborative Lounge Collection that offers a variety of design options, including a cozy meeting option where designers and staff can sit comfortably on a couch, chair, or barstool instead of sitting around one large conference table.
Attendees were drawn to the Ballo stool and ErgoErgo because the products are colorful and quirky, and they provide a fitness option for the workplace. Many of the attendees commented that the seating options were fun to try out and challenged them to stay balanced and upright, which is one of the fitness benefits of the active seating products.
Borgo Seating’s Flex Chair also stood out as a creative seating option, and the booth put on an interactive experience for attendees. Borgo exhibitors flipped the chair upside down so that the seating area was facing the ground and proceeded to step on the back of the chair to show its flexibility. The chair was designed to follow the natural movements of the body, allowing the backrest and seat to respond actively to the body as it sits and moves in the chair.
There were also a variety of products that stood out beyond some of the obvious trends. Mohawk Group’s New Vintage Collection, which is inspired by the antique look of handmade rugs, features natural colors and textures with over-dyed brights. This stood out to me because of its unique texture and color palette.
The FORM desk by AB&D Furniture also made its presence known at NeoCon East because it can act as many functions, including a bookcase, cabinet, workstation, or freestanding desk. I was drawn to this because it offers options for the workplace and a variety of employees, including remote and traveling designers.
The Miro workbench by Watson was introduced at the show and is designed with multiple work surfaces for work flexibility. The Miro Collection is specifically designed to encourage users to work at multiple levels, including seating and standing.
This year also marked the 10th annual IIDA/Contract magazine Booth Design Award Competition. Global won the Large Booth category for its vibrant display, including deep blue and yellow tones, while Bentley won the Small Booth category for its bohemian-themed booth. Both companies brought a new, innovative design concept that stood out to this year’s judges, John Rouse, Hon. IIDA, publisher of Contract magazine; Alison Rock, IIDA, senior director at RTKL; and Kristen Streeter, IIDA, senior associate at IA Interior Architects.
Global also designed reversible sketchbooks for attendees to go along with its booth theme. The INSPIRATIONS side of the sketchbook featured famous quotes by designers and lined paper for attendees to keep a record of their own inspirations. The IDEAS side featured graph paper for attendees to sketch out design ideas and concepts.
Bentley also incorporated small design details based on the idea of what you bring with you when you travel to make destinations feel like home. The company also worked with L.A. set designers to help them design the booth.
Although most of my time was spent exploring the booths at NeoCon East, I did find time to try Baltimore’s famous crab cakes, which definitely lived up to its reputation.