As a Chicago area design firm, we have the added bonus of having the Merchandise Mart in our backyard that we can visit and take clients to whenever we want. Even though we are right here, we still enjoy going to NEOCON to check out the latest and greatest from our favorite manufacturers. Some wow us, some disappoint, and others surprise us. Each of us at Whitney spends a day hitting well over 10,000 steps on our FitBit or Apple Watch wandering through the Mart. We avoid the elevator lines and take the stairs only to regret that decision half way up to floor 11. Along the way, we found some things that we liked. Here are some of the trends and associated products we saw this year:
Pink and Gold Accents
This trend started last year, but was even more present this time. The Scandinavian influence is becoming more and more present in fashion as well as our interior product offerings and details. Manufacturers are now introducing other metals, not just your standard stainless or aluminum, and allowing designers to be a little more creative with those finishing touches. This means lighter wood options, more texture, softer edges, and warmer metal finishes like bronze, gold, and brass are all available. We’re loving it!
ways to personalize
We have been getting more requests over the last few years for throw pillows, task lights, area rugs, and planters. Clients want to make their offices feel ‘home like’ or more residential, and we have struggled to find a variety of items that aren’t custom. We are happy to report that now there are a few manufacturers that provide these as a part of their standard product line. Haworth can outfit your entire office not only with their workstations, Collection pieces, private office casegoods, seating, etc., but now with their beautiful Patricia Urquiola rugs (I want one for my apartment!), occasional tables & throw pillows that come in a plethora of colors. Both Steelcase and Teknion had a nice offering of desk accessories in fun colors to provide that pop. Allermuir also has a new great offering of varying sizes and patterns to choose from. Lastly, did you see J&J Invision’s installation of their new collection? We absolutely loved the colorway and the installation. Carpet tile looking like a beautiful rug? Yes please.
work lounge 2.0
The trend has been to lean away from private offices and increase the open office. In recent years, there have been many studies published that argue against the open office and its effectiveness for concentration and heads down work. The furniture industry has responded with solutions like Steelcase’s Brody Work Lounge and multiple other iterations in years past including OFS Qove, Allsteel’s Clubhouse, Teknion Zones, and the list goes on. We are continuing to see a need for privacy in the open office and a chance for people to retreat to a comfortable and quiet place to work away from their desk. This year saw new introductions from Steelcase Umami, West Elm Haus, OFS Heya and others.
innovations in technology
This is becoming a larger portion of project budgets as clients move to impress their own clients with their state of the art audio visual design. This year, there were a couple of products our office unanimously captured as a favorite. One was DesignTex’s Casper cloaking film. It allows you to keep your presentation content material private from outside the room while still allowing some light and visual connection to people in the room. They now offer a ton of patterns to combine with the cloaking material to add to your design. Another standout was at the DIRTT showroom. DIRTT continues to push the boundaries for design. They showcased an operable partition with an embedded TV. This allows for maximum flexibility in our multi-purpose rooms.
most unique installation
DIRTT really is a showstopper in every sense of the word at their showroom. From the ice cream, homemade sushi, really passionate and friendly people, and of course amazing design, they really hit the mark year after year. This year they installed an entire mezzanine and staircase out of timber frame construction. They included curves, spirals, angles, and any kind of detail you could imagine into this installation. You can literally dream it and they will build it. In case you missed the showroom, they played a looped video of the installation and it was incredible to watch the installers put this structure together. There is no visible hardware from any viewing point. It’s beautifully carved wood from Europe that has a wonderful texture and hand to it.
Written by our NeoCon guru: Kate Logan