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Since 1969, The Mart in Chicago hosts an event by the name of “NeoCon.” NeoCon is a convention that offers inspiration and ideas that shape the Architecture and Design Community of today and the future. It includes furniture, flooring, fabrics, and architectural elements in individual showrooms or booths by manufacturers, and opportunities to take seminars to further your knowledge of the industry and trending concepts.
Every year vendors exhibit new products, refresh established products, and showcase products that are still in the making. The prototype products are monitored closely for feedback from all visitors. With the attendance of over 500 leading companies, 50,000+ design professionals and 100 seminars, you can see why this would be a tough event to miss out on. NeoCon is just one of several important conventions McWaters visits each year to ensure our company and its employees are on the cutting edge of what we do.
This year we sent Whitney McMakin and Jordyn Alford to NeoCon 50 and if you follow us on Instagram, you should know what a great time they had in Chicago. We believe NeoCon is an indispensable part of our designers’ growth and inspiration.
I love seeing the new products, but my favorite part is seeing how manufacturers blend the new with their established products. Its very inspirational and helps you think out of the box. - Whitney McMakin.
Our designers learned a lot during their time at Neocon. One of the many concepts that stood out to them was the Milliken showroom where they were educated on the WELL Building Standard.
I’ve always known about LEED certifications, but WELL is new to me. It’s about ‘monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and wellbeing. -Whitney McMakin.
Our team was really amazed by Milliken’s showroom and enjoyed learning about it. Milliken’s work became a Platinum WELL recipient and is the only WELL Certified™ space in the Mart and the first WELL Certified™ Platinum space in Chicago! Learn more about WELL™ here.
Another element they found interesting was how Steelcase used Answer panels to create private alcoves versus creating a workstation. This application is very useful for clients with surplus panel inventory.
Many new and continuing trends were observed at Neocon, as Whitney noted:
The blend of the contract industry with residential comforts are still trending, so many of the new lines from all manufacturers embraced this feel. There are so many exciting additions, it’s hard to list them all!
Our designers saw plenty of changes from some big names in the industry. For an example, OFS expanded their Rowen collection to embrace a more residential look. As well as Steelcase’s partnerships with many new familiar brands, West Elm in particular, which really broadened their portfolio offerings. Furthermore, Arcadia released a maker space line called Worksmith that gives off a quirky and fun vibe, and Buzzispace has a moss product called BuzziMood that brings biophilic acoustics to life.
We asked Whitney if what she saw at NeoCon would change her design process, here is what she had to say.
Some the most interesting showrooms really embraced concept of simplicity and comfort. It’s not about how much you can put in the space, but how efficient and effective the design is for the user. While I love seeing the big showrooms and the new products, it’s the spaces that were understated and allowed the user to find their way in the space and experience the furniture, that really resonated with me.
The show helped us identify key themes she saw that we can be working with our customers to incorporate- natural finishes (lighter wood tones, bare wood, reclaimed surfaces), Moss, and acoustics. Almost every showroom had an acoustical product ranging from sound absorbing felt, hanging screens, or phone booths! Adding a SnapCab pod to a space creates a private alcove in an open plan, while creating a visual interest with interchangeable skins. Adding a Buzzispace BuzziJet or BuzziHat to a Work Cafe adds ambient light and absorbs reverberation noise from surrounding areas. Even adding a redesigned wing back chair, like the Kielhauer Untucked, an create a private space using traditional furnishings.
Neocon is a place of innovation and inspiration. This convention is one that designers from all over look forward to each year. This year our designers gathered and gained more knowledge about the industry and what has yet to come. Neocon allows for a look into what the future entails and how the furniture industry is evolving and improving each year. Not only did our designers get to attend this years Neocon convention, but they did some sightseeing while they were there. They stopped by The Bean and Millennium Park and enjoyed Blues Fest. Then they ventured over to Willis Tower where they visited the SkyDeck. Our designers had such a great time visiting the monuments and taking in all the insight offered from their Neocon trip.