NeoCon 2021: Windy City Breathes Again

Attendance was low but spirits were high during the first week of October as close to 20,000 professionals in the commercial interior design industry descended upon theMART in Chicago for the return of an in-person NeoCon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a “future of work” theme figured prominently as showrooms and exhibitors rolled out new product offerings including workplace privacy solutions like tents and pergolas, flooring that incorporates biophilic patterns, plug-and-play smart technology, and dynamic furniture systems ideal for the flexible new office.

Honey | Darran Furniture

The return of NeoCon also meant the return of the Best of NeoCon Awards, with the top honour of Best of Competition 2021 going to Darran Furniture for a stylish yet highly adaptable workplace system. Designed by Mark Müller and Christopher Wright, system addresses individual users’ needs, varied work styles, privacy, and well-being. The jury noted, “Suitable for both fixed and mobile (untethered) applications, Honey’s hexagonal shape is not only eye-catching, it contributes to space efficiency. Its 120° planning grid creates a flowing geometry that meanders through a room and offers numerous configuration possibilities.”

Pergola | Haworth

A freestanding architectural workspace designed by Patricia Urquiola as an adaptable range of space and room solutions that are scalable in performance and application, Pergola creates spaces where people can get away to collaborate, connect, create, and innovate in a new ecosystem. It supports people’s need to focus or restore—alone or together—in high-performance workspaces.

Data Tide | Mohawk Group

Available in eight colorways, this modular carpet collection features gradations that flow from light to dark to reflect transitioning waters. The design team used data sets from environmental studies of greenhouse gases to create biophilic patterns that weave a distinct, visual narrative about the immense role bodies of water play in our world. The thoughtful collection contributes to an aesthetically soothing workplace that connects workers to the peaceful, natural world.

Space Family | Mute

A new collection of four pod sizes intended for flexible office configurations, the ventilation systems in smaller capacity units exchange the air every 1.5 minutes or around 45 times an hour, while the larger pods exchange air from 24 times per hour to 35 times per hour. Soundproof construction allows everyone to take calls and listen to music without disturbing others, a crucial function in the modern office.

Exchange | Armstrong Flooring

The new collection includes two distinct, yet compatible designs: System Gradient features a subtle ombre effect in a soft colour palette, mimicking the flow of light through space; and Static offers consistent saturation of colour in a variety of neutrals and bright pops of colour that can stand alone or be used as a collaborative accent.

Abélio | Fermob USA

Well-suited for use in areas with café style seating such as office cafeterias and other open-space gathering areas, this unobtrusive, stylish transparent plexiglass separation panel boasts an asymmetrical shape, symbolizing a tree that brings a decorative touch to any space.

2Q Huddle | Framery

Recently redesigned to comfortably accommodate four to six people around a table with a display screen on the other end for video conferencing, this revamp allows users to enter and exit the pod individually without disturbing others. It reduces visual distraction by placing the screen against a wall rather than glass.

Oak Stairs Lockers | Ethnicraft

An angular composition, designed by Alain van Havre, forms the heart of a design that aims to distance itself from traditional static and immobile surfaces. Inspired by the Modernism architectural movement, the unique shapes the embossed doors help make the handles discreet.

Elle Collection | HAT Collective

Designed and manufactured in Denmark, there are two variations in this collection of Parsons-style worktables: the Elle and the Ellehaven. Both lines are available in a variety of different surface-mounting options for a tailored design and fit, including options for enshrined and top-mounted surfaces as well as a sliding split surface. Both utilize electric lifts that can be powered by either cable or battery, creating built-in flexibility that makes reconfiguration easy.

Urban Shores | Mohawk Group

Drawing on our eternal relationships with rivers, this Best of NeoCon Gold-winning product collection features two running line styles: Drifting Current, a contemporary organic pattern with soft linear undertones that create a sense of flow; and Floating Forms (shown), which presents refined layers of gridding and linearity, as colour and pattern gently emerge and submerge across a calm surface.

Nico | Bernhardt Design

The company’s new Nico collection by Luca Nichetto offers a unique swivel lounge chair that can transform dynamically by selecting fabrics that are more subdued, or conversely, more expressive and colourful, making it a focal point or a supporting player.

Buddyhub | Pedrali

The Italian brand’s Buddyhub seat offers an isolated alcove that encourages concentration and ensures acoustic and visual privacy. Designed by Busetti Garuti Redaelli, the rounded shapes and volumes of the seat and backrest are supported by the slender lightweight frame that raises Buddyhub off the ground, lightens its overall appearance, promoting functionality that makes cleaning and maintenance operations easier.