Oh, the humanity

What do we want? Privacy! When do we want it? Now! According to research presented by Steelcase, “Ninety per cent of today’s workers say they need quiet, private places in the workplace. Over 40 per cent say they don’t have them.” Steelcase also identifies our need, in the ubiquitous open-plan office, for comfort (“Thirty-one per cent of full-time employees do most of their work away from their employers’ location. Workers are looking to eliminate distraction, but also seek physical and emotional comfort and familiarity that is often found more at home than in the office”) and mobility (“Moving while working makes for healthier, more-engaged workers. A palette of postures and stretching of muscles supports creative thinking, problem solving and idea generation”).

The best new products introduced at NeoCon, held this past June in Chicago, satisfy all three needs. Steelcase’s Susan Cain Quiet Spaces supports five different options for workers to control their environment and free themselves from interruption. Haworth’s Openest -– awarded NeoCon’s Best of Competition – comprises lounge elements that create an environment of approachable comfort, adapting to people’s need for interaction or time alone. And Inscape’s Veil gives the worker control of his or her space in terms of acoustic and visual privacy. 

Speaking of Inscape, the company based in Holland Landing, Ont., stole the show, winning awards for all five products it entered in NeoCon’s product competition: Gold for Veil, Inscape Bench, Interval+ and Teri Tory, and Silver for Aria. Says Inscape CEO Jim Stelter, “Winning one Silver and four Gold awards was wonderful validation we are providing workspace solutions that meet the needs of the constantly changing workplace.”

Inscape couldn’t have picked a better NeoCon to steal. Attendance was up 20 per cent from last year, with close to 50,000 industry professionals gathering to see the latest product introductions, network with industry peers, and take in a stellar lineup of keynote and educational offerings.

NeoCon 2015 runs at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago June 15-17. 



1-Lifting the Veil

The well-named Veil is an accessories collection that allows workers in an open plan to adjust their level of acoustic and visual privacy to suit their work style. These accessories include Cloak (designed to “hug”) and Wave (refers to its shape) freestanding screens; the Cove mounted (and movable) privacy screen; Mask fabric panel; Pivot fabric partitions; and Ease structured lounge seating.

2-Zoning in

European-designed modular system Teri Tory allows workers to define their space with storage. Boxes stack for just the right amount of privacy: single level for touchdown seating; double stack for desk-height storage access; three-high stack for seated privacy; and four-high stack for standing-height area division. 

3-A song coming on

Designed by Italy’s Babini Office, Aria offers a choice of laminated and tempered glass, and connects vertically with polycarbonate or aluminum profiles that guarantee a perfect union with variable, three-way and 90-degree connection angles. Integrated storage walls are optional. Aria is durable and reconfigurable.

4-In between

Interval+ is a dynamic, comprehensive post-and-beam system that provides a skeletal framework for everything from collaboration zones to enclosed private offices. A wide range of options includes storage, privacy screens, writing surfaces, wall or panel sections, work surfaces and interactive technology.


Offering a broad range of options, Inscape Bench is a customizable system for open-plan environments. Options to personalize the spine include planters, frameless glass, various storage units, tackable screens and whiteboards. Work surfaces are both pneumatic and electric height-adjustable. 


1-Two for the show

A pretty pair from Keilhauer: Syz and Lo, both designed by longtime collaborator EOOS. Syz is series of table available in three heights: occasional (15 inches high) lounge meeting (26 inches) and conference (29 inches). Tabletops (round, square and rectangular) come in 21 sizes and in various finishes. Lo is a charming elevated floor cushion that allows the casual meeting to stay casual and comfortable.  keilhauer.com


Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola brings her magic touch to the Openest Collection by Haworth. Comprising sofas, pouf seating, tables and space-dividing screens, the playful yet practical collection can be configured in a range of applications that create visual privacy in collaborative areas. Curved lines and upholstery stitching invoke the craftsmanship of residential furniture.  haworth.com

3-Quiet, please

In her bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain noted that companies fail to provide environments that bring out the best in workers who make up to one-half of the workforce. Cain and Steelcase got together, and voila, the result is Steelcase’s Susan Cain Quiet Spaces, offering five diverse spaces supporting specific postures, work modes and expectations for quiet and privacy supported by a carefully chosen range of architecture, furniture, materials and technology. Each space is designed with Steelcase’s V.I.A. (Vertical Intelligent Architecture) walls, providing superior acoustic performance.  steelcase.com


1-Fits like a glove

Bernhardt Design pitched Mitt, a fun, multi-functional lounge chair designed by Claudia + Harry Washington. Its hidden, weight-activated, locking casters and integrated handles make it easy to move around. Loop master stitching is worthy of a Rawlings Heart of the Hide baseball glove.  bernhardtdesign.com

2-Flex hours

The Flex Char from Andreu World was designed for extended use in public spaces. The new and generous Flex Corporate version features a fully upholstered shell with wide seating, a higher backrest and thicker foam.  andreuworld.com 

3-The right moves

Designed by Allsteel in partnership with Bruce Fifield of Milan-based StudioFifield, Mimeo promotes the individual movements of the user. Its IntelliForm back technology allows for optimal flexibility and responsive movement; a 3D knit layer distributes pressure across the back, adding a level softness and breathability. The weight-activated synchronized tilt control automatically responds to each user. allsteeloffice.com

4-Cool customer

Graphic, lightweight and fluid, Zinta is a modular sofa system whose hallmarks are smooth lines and warm materials. Designed by Lievore Altherr Molina for Arper, the collection features a wood shell lined in pads for contact or cushions for a more accommodating seat in a select group of fabrics. Zinta comes in diverse lengths.  arper.com

5-Building block

Davis’s Modo bench collection comprises benches, backless benches, and L-shaped pieces ranging from 48 to 96 inches. The welded tubular steel of the legs frames the space beneath the seat and is available in both chrome and powdercoated finishes.  davisfurniture.com


1-Screen star

Jeffrey Bernett and Nicholas Dodziuk designed the Lite Wall series of lightweight screens for the open office. Using magnets, the wall easily reconfigures without tools or any visible connections. Varying screen heights accommodate standing, seating and lounging.  teknion.com

2-With the grain

Plank, the latest kiln-glass collection from Vancouver-based Joel Berman Glass Studios, exhibits the characteristics of a natural wood-grain species with translucency. Says Joel Berman, “We wanted to play with the idea of a truly organic surface based on nature.”  jbermanglass.com

3-Creating a buzz

Designed by Belgian furniture designer Alain Gilles with the team at BuzziSpace,  the BuzziPicNic table and bench system provides a collaborate desk option for any office space. Electrical strips are hidden inside the rustic wooden structure, allowing for sleek connectivity and wire management.  buzzispace.com


1-Sheer delight

Carnegie’s first collection of acoustic sheers – made of Trevira CS polyester – encompasses three patterns: Alphacoustic, with a subtle ribbed texture; Betacoustic, with a more pronounced texture and dimension; and Gammacoustic, reminiscent of glass.   carnegiefabrics.com 

2-It’s only Human

Interface’s latest global carpet-tile collection – Human Nature – takes its cues from the visual, tactile textures found in the most elemental of floor coverings: forest floors, grassy fields and pebbled garden paths. Made with 100-per-cent recycled content nylon yard, it will be manufactured on four continents in six Interface factories.  interface.com

3-The unexpected 

Dissemblage, designed by Cresta Bledsoe for Milliken, features tailored woven ribs that veil precise geometries and bold super graphics. The pattern is revealed as people move around the woven metallic design, which reads as a solid ground except in the area in which you stand.  milliken.com

4-Test patterns

The Designtex + Wallace Sewell collection features the characteristic bold geometric patterns and sophisticated colour work of U.K.-based textile designers and expert weavers Emma Sewell and Harriet Wallace-Jones. The four luxurious upholsteries (stripes and plaids) are made of 100-per-cent lambswool.  designtex.com

5-Modern geometry

KnollTextiles presented the lower-cost Spirit Collection of upholstery, wallcovering, privacy/drapery curtains and panel fabrics. Included is Tower Grid, (shown) a multi-colour cut velvet combining geometric elements to create a modern stripe.  knolltextiles.com