Living it up

“Living Office helps people customize their methods, tools, and places of work to express and enable shared character and purpose. It is based on what is fundamental to all humans and evolves continuously in response to change. It is a more natural and desirable workplace that fosters greater connection, creativity, productivity, and ultimately, greater prosperity for all.”

Such is Herman Miller’s outline of the Living Office, the revered company’s multidimensional response to the “new landscape of work” – which is “inherently global and seamlessly digital,” where the roles of individuals and organizations are blurred; and where the lifecycle of ideas, products and even entire businesses has accelerated “from minutes to milliseconds.” In other words: hold onto your hats, welcome to the future, and let Herman Miller take you there. With a comprehensive set of offerings in its handsome, hectic showroom – -including new systems by Yves Behar and Studio 7.5, not to mention a reinvention of the classic Eames side chair – Herman Miller stole NeoCon 2013.

The runner-up?  That would be Teknion, with an expanded, completely redesigned showroom, and Really Big News to share: a design partnership with industrial designers Jeffrey Bennett and Nicholas Dodziuk of CDS (Consultants for Design Strategy) studio; an exclusive North American distribution, licensing and manufacturing agreement with B&B Italia for its Project Collection; and an alliance with textile designer Suzanne Tick.

Elsewhere in Chicago’s marvelous Merchandise Mart, innovative products abounded – too darn many to fit in these pages, making the winnowing process this year particularly painful. Companies that made the cut include Allsteel, Coalesse, Haworth, Keilhauer and Steelcase. 

If the numbers hadn’t changed from last year (40,00 visitors; 700+ showrooms and exhibitors, spread over one million square feet), the mood had: this was as upbeat a NeoCon as any I can recall in my 10 years of covering the show. 

NeoCon 2014 is slated to run at the Merchandise Mart June 9-11.


1—Charles & Ray would approve

For the first time, the iconic Eames Side Chair is being produced in molded wood, in a range of veneer and base options. It was originally mass produced in molded plastic, then revisited in wire. Only now, with the latest advances in 3-D veneer technology, has wood veneer attained the extra flexibility it needs to be molded into the complex curves of a single shell. Available in santos palisander, white ash and walnut woods, with wire dowel leg and four-leg base options.

 2—Public good

Designed by Yves Behar/fuseproject, Public Office Landscape is a system of components that provides surfaces, storage and seating to enable a multitude of work settings. The building block of the system is the Public Social Chair, delivering scale and design language on which all the modules are based.

 3—Locale locale locale

Designed by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, Locale
is a system that encourages the free shift from individual work to collaborative activities.
It offers a centralized structure, cantilevered surfaces and height adjustability. Mobile tables, screens and easels can be utilized as the need arises.

4—Form & function

Metalform Portfolio, designed by Studio 7.5, offers a collection of modular blocks to delineate space and create a range of settings; an array of accessories furthers the blocks’ utility. Metalform’s lightweight and intuitive pieces, made of expanded polypropylene, can be easily configured and reconfigured – in the moment – by the people who use them.


1—Work & play

Coalesse introduced Lagunitas, a highly customizable lounge and table collection designed by Milan-based Toan Nguyen. Providing full power solutions, it offers an articulating back cushion, allowing for both lean-back postures to relax and socialize and lean-forward postures for concentrated work.

2—Never too rich or too thin

Davis’s Span, a super-slim conference and working table, is able to support lengths of up to 144 inches on just four legs. Although it appears to be constructed from one long, solid piece of wood, it is actually a combination of aluminum, steel and sheet metal that has been laminated together and clad in a wood veneer.

3—Poetry in motion

HBF debuted Asa, a collection of lounge chairs and occasional tables designed by Todd Bracher. Light in weight and scale, Asa was inspired by the “S” shape found in the natural curvature of the human spine. Poised on a slender, polished-stainless-steel base, the chair and tables share a light, floating presence.


EOOS’s latest collection for Keilhauer is Juxta, a collection of chairs, stools and tables designed to address the ways people behave and interact while meeting, in large groups or small, in public or private spaces. Four different chair bodies (high back or low back, with or without arms) are available with seat heights suitable for lounging or working; a side chair is included.

5—At the ready

The Harbor Work Lounge from Haworth is a contemporary, height-adjustable task and lounge chair hybrid. The chair’s integrated work surface includes a sliding plywood tablet and suede seat wing, which securely keeps work tools comfortably at hand. A matching ottoman is complete with a visitor cup holder or veneered side table.


1—To B&B, that is the solution

Teknion presented the B&B Italia Project Collection, a portfolio of seating, tables and wood casegoods designed for the contemporary office, restaurants and public settings. Among the goodies was an AC Executive Desk by Antonio Citterio; Tulip chairs by Jeffrey Bernett; Hollow sofa and chair by Patricia Urquiola; Posa chairs and low table by David Chipperfield; and (shown) the Cloud sofa by Naoto Fukasawa.  teknion,com

 2—Optus optimization

Optus Low Profile, a seamless glass architectural wall product, provides unparalleled access to daylight in interior spaces, while offering acoustic privacy and creating space division. Base and ceiling frame elements include patented incremental height adjustment.  teknion,com

3—Our interpretation

Teknion has enhanced its award-winning Interpret desking system, introduced last year. Refinements include expanded planning applications (Interpret is unique in that it can create a more open benching or desking environment while still offering the option to create a more privacy-focused, enclosed panel-like environment); new storage, accessory and screening options; and additional finish options.  teknion,com

4—Create a cluster

Comprised of a lounge chair, settee and ottoman/bench, the Fractals Seating Group – designed by Jeffrey Bernett and Nicholas Dodziuk of CDS – is designed to support new organic planning in contemporary settings. The seating elements work together to create collaborative zones in multiple cluster configurations; a higher-back option more clearly delineates space and creates privacy.  teknion,com

5—Making Teknion tick

Teknion Textiles is a new line of fabrics created for contemporary contract interiors in all market segments. The very first collection is Surface Tension, by Suzanne Tick, Teknion Textiles’ creative director.  teknion,com


1—Open & shut

If there were a NeoCon award category known as “I want to try!” then Coalesse’s Work Lounge with Canopy – designed by renowned French architect Jean-Marie Massaud – would have won Gold. We all lined up to sit on the comfy lounge chair with the LED-lit canopy – equipped to host mobile devices; complete with a Bluetooth appliance hosted behind the headrest; and with three positions (closed, semi-closed or open) signalling to others if the user is to be approached or left undisturbed. Every office could use at least one.

2—Making a Gesture

The best task chair introduced at the show is Steelcase’s Gesture, the first chair designed to support our interactions with today’s technologies, and inspired by the movement of the human body. Among its merits: the back and seat move as a synchronized system with each user to provide continuous support; arms and shoulders remain supported during texting, typing or swiping; users can adjust the chair as easily as adjusting their posture.

3—From here to infinity

Haworth’s Bluescape – an infinite, collaborative workspace that enables anyone to create, communicate, organize and strategize virtually anything, anywhere, anytime – took Best of Competition at NeoCon 2013. It offers cloud-based software and services (Saas) that can be accessed on multiple devices, including large-scale, high-def, multi-touch screens; iPads; laptops; and mobile devices.

4—Get creative

With its new Create, Allsteel makes the most  of a footprint and provides privacy in an open environment. An agile furniture system, Create includes surfaces, supports, screens and storage that can be configured to form a wide variety of work environments; it allows users to efficiently reconfigure their spaces on the spot or over time.

5—Intelligent beings

Also from Steelcase is V.I.A., which stands for Vertical Intelligent Architecture. V.I.A. creates intelligent rooms, designed to augment human interaction by providing true acoustical privacy and hosting technology; it provides a sense of permanence with the speed and design flexibility of a relocatable wall.


1—Modern art

Milliken’s new floor-covering collection, Art Media, is a library of patterns that reinterprets iconoclastic modern art techniques and media. It comprises three groupings: Charcoal/Chalk/Graphite; Action Painting and Drip Painting;
and Op Art. Shown: a) Drip Painting, in Beryl; and b) Op Art, in Grizalle.

2—Oh, Olivia

Joel Berman Glass Studios introduced Olivia, its latest three-dimensional texture. Kiln-cast and curvaceous, it features an intriguing and replicating design that reflects light in a subtle yet dramatic fashion.

3—Go big

Continuing their fruitful collaboration, Maharam and Paul Smith debuted Big Stripe, a lustrous worsted wool seating textile characterized by expanses of saturated colour in varied widths and combinations. Drawn from the mid-20th-century concept of colour-field painting, Big Stipe has a repeat of nearly eight feet.

4—Good form

Designed by Lievore Altherr Molina, the elegant Agora offers fully upholstered lounge seating punctuated with metal and solid wood bases.

5—Hot off the runway

Knoll Luxe has collaborated on a new collection with SUNO, the womenswear label founded in 2008 by Max Osterwis in collaboration with designer Erin Beatty. It consists of seven upholstery and two drapery textiles that have been translated from SUNO’s recent runaway collections.