NeoCon 2019 Themes: Community, Casual Comfort and Wellness

06/13/2019 By Robert Nieminen

As is typically the case, NeoCon leaves you breathless — if not from the sheer breadth of new products and showrooms to visit, then surely from all the walking. (I averaged about 16,000 steps daily.)

But as the show passes into rearview, it’s interesting to see the bigger picture that emerges after visiting so many showrooms and taking in the sights along the way. The major themes I saw playing out were about community, casual comfort and wellness (including both privacy and acoustics).

National Office: I started the show with a trip across the street from theMART to National Office’s showroom on Wells Street. The showroom promoted adaptability, wellness and casual comfort in the workplace. But you would hardly know you were stepping into a workplace by the looks of it.

National Office

All the warmth and soft touches of home abound. I felt like I was in a designer’s living room rather than a showroom.

Herman Miller: The feeling returned when I toured the Herman Miller showroom, my first stop on Tuesday. The iconic manufacturer’s theme, “All Together Now,” focused on the breadth of products across its brands, which blended together seamlessly and beautifully.

Herman Miller communicated this communal theme across eight unique vignettes. The vignettes evoked different moods while showcasing the company’s ability to adapt to the demands of contemporary office environments. It also showcased Herman Miller’s ability to preserve its legacy of creating enduring, classic designs that leave you wanting to see and experience more.

KI: Continuing the theme of community, KI’s focus was on nurturing connections between people under the tagline “Together By Design,” offering products that allowed for reconfigurability to make collaboration easy.

Arcadia: Likewise, Arcadia introduced a new lounge series, Scenery, that provided the perfect backdrop for people to gather and talk in comfort.

Lounge Series by Arcadia

Steelcase: NeoCon wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Steelcase, and they didn’t disappoint. This year, Steelcase launched its Flex collection, which empowers teams to create dynamic team neighborhoods (community) that can be rearranged on demand to make collaboration more fluid. The launch was a result of research that delved into how people work and connect effectively, and the results were beautiful.

What struck me about Steelcase this year was the colorful, energetic contrast it represented compared to most other showrooms that were decidedly more muted and reserved.

Wellness Discussed Throughout NeoCon

SteelcaseFinally, the topic of wellness came up in nearly every meeting and even in casual conversations at events following the show. Companies are going all-in by investing in third-party certifications like Declare, Just or Petal certifications (e.g. Mohawk introduced announced a suite of Living Products this year).

Other wellness trends spotted include:

  • Exploring the concepts around biophilia
  • Adopting color palettes and softer materials that encourage a sense of calm
  • Adding more privacy options or acoustic solutions

All of these choices are making a positive impact on human health in one way or another. And it’s such an encouraging trend because it’s clear that interiors influence occupants in so many ways. Like the sustainability movement, it will soon become the norm rather than an option in the years ahead.

Taken all together, the big picture from NeoCon is a really beautiful one. It’s not perfect, but as designers and manufacturers continue to partner together to create environments that are comfortable, adaptable and healthy, the spaces they create become the places we feel at home.

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