Working Beautifully

The joint was really jumping. At NeoCon this past June, every square foot of exhibit space in the Merchandise Mart – that historic pile on the Chicago River – was sold out and packed tight with exhibitors and visitors from all over the world.

The fact that space was at a premium felt apt, as many of the furniture systems making their debut were designed to fit a smaller footprint. Case in point: Teknion’s District, a collection of cabinets, desks, walls and windows that creates compact yet comfy open-plan and private work environments; Izzydesign’s Audrey assortment of clean, modernist modular cabinets to mix and match on an anodized aluminum base; and Haworth’s Planes, a modular collection of tables, carts, credenzas and writeable boards, with crisp lines and a light scale.

Seating options were everywhere, of course. I especially like Nienkmper’s Yabacco guest chair, designed by Ryann Aoukar and Damien Robache. Simplity itself – a bar stock steel frame and an upholstered shell – this chair looks good from every angle. As for task chairs, you’ll find the most notable NeoCon introductions (from Allseating, Keilhauer, Knoll, Krug, Steelcase and Teknion) on pages 36 to 43.

In the one-of-a-kind category, KnollStudio, Versteel and Brayton International each delivered a knockout.

Known for his organically inspired products shaped in innovative materials, Ross Lovegrove has created a sculptural yet practical collection of table desks, tri-oval low tables and credenzas for KnollStudio. The London-based designer drew upon a model first established by Florence Knoll in the 1940s, when she designed the first modern private offices. Taking this paradigm into the 21st century, his collection strikes a balance between traditional bent-steel tubing and modern finishes for work surfaces – including a translucent honeycomb material called Panelite, in glorious colours, plus painted glass, marble and bamboo.

For Versteel, Michael R. Shields has designed the curvaceous Rulo Tilt/Nest Table and Chair, which provides work surfaces and seating on demand. The table has a seamless surface of wood or laminate, with a top surface that rolls over the edge to form a continuous modesty panel; casters on the powdercoated steel frame ensure ease in mobility. The seamless, formed wood chair can be upholstered for additional comfort. When not in use, both the table and chair – store easily in a nested position.

Last but not least is Pool, a modular bench line designed by European design team bius for Brayton International. Meant to provide a comfortable and informal meeting space, Pool consists of short and long benches (a combo of molded and fabricated foam covered with virtually any kind of fabric) that can be partnered, in the middle, with a connecting table (solid hard maple or powdercoated MDF) to create a “pocket or pool for conversation.” There’s also another table that can be ganged together with individual benches to create more linear applications. A whimsical stool serves as a pull-up companion. Handcrafted details include double-needle stitching and solid maple legs; a power and data module on the connecting table’s base plate is optional. Crafty, comfy and very cool, Pool gets my vote as best in show.