Neocon ’09

“It marks style changes. It marks workplace evolution. And, for many, it marks time.” So says Christopher G. Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., which produces the “it” of which he speaks: the National Exposition of Contract Furnishings — better known as NeoCon — held each June at Chicago’s monumental Merchandise Mart. He’s right. The buzz about the upcoming show begins around the time winter turns to spring, just as reliably as the birds begin to sing.

Now entering its fifth decade, NeoCon is the largest trade show of its kind in North America. Encompassing 1.2 million square feet of exhibition space on 10 floors, it features more than 1,200 exhibitors showcasing thousands of product introductions. Following is a preview of four promising products debuting this year.

From Keilhauer comes Flit, a striking stacking/side chair. “Flit’s thin profile is a result of clever design that creates a surprisingly comfortable and generously proportioned chair,” says Mike Keilhauer, president of the company. “It offers the comfort and style of a fully upholstered chair, with the functionality of a high-density stacker.” A knit mesh forms the back, which flexes to the body’s contours, ensuring there is minimal contact with its tubular steel frame. Flit is available in three heights (chair, counter stool and bar stool), with or without arms; it can be equipped with glides or casters.

Stride, from Allsteel, is a furniture system composed of work surfaces, storage and panel components in multiple configurations. With an integrated kit of parts, it can create an open-plan or private office, traditional panel-based or light-scale desking. What’s more, this is the first Allsteel furniture solution that has been conceived and built from ground up to be Cradle to Cradle certified: Stride is made from relatively few materials (steel, 100 per cent lead-free aluminum, particle board, ABS plastic, nylon and polyester), with nearly all containing significant recycled content.

Coalesse’s Bindu, designed by Brian Kane, is a collection of modern seating combining the comfort and craft of an upholstered lounge chair with the durability and resilience of a task chair. Styles range from a high-back executive/conference chair to a low-back side/guest chair.

M2, from Humanscale, is an ingeniously simple monitor arm that offers a long life and a streamlined, ultra-thin profile. Made of 52 per cent recycled and 99 per cent recyclable materials (including significant use of 100 per cent recycled aluminum), it ships in 85 per cent recycled packaging and contributes to a number of valuable LEED credits.

NeoCon 2009 runs from June 15 to 17.