NeoCon 2018: Trends & Takeaways

Once again, another NeoCon has come and gone – with no shortage of new product releases and beautiful showrooms that displayed this year’s take on commercial office furniture. NeoCon celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show, hosted at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Ill.

As a first time attendant of NeoCon, the show did not fail to disappoint. Each showroom housed individual interpretations of what the office of the future will be for the upcoming year. Although common themes from the past few years remained – hospitality and residential-style furniture and accessories, dusty pinks and a variety of pastels, solutions for common issues in open office environments – it was the small adjustments made by each manufacturer that made a huge impact.

The following are a few highlights that were big & bold at NeoCon 2018 – with a few notes why you should utilize these trends into your office environment in 2019.

Hello, Yellow

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the introduction of pastels and the continuation of bold pops of color. This year, new color introductions made a splash – green & yellow.

From Andreu World to Vitra, the Mart was full of this new color combo. Bright greens and yellows were paired together alongside neutrals or in addition to the pinks and blues. With the focus on wellbeing and sustainability in the office environment, green is a welcomed introduction into the popular color palette – but yellow was quite a surprise to see as a dominant color in a space.

Although we still don’t see millennial pink being used heavily in the Midwest region, it is still on the forefront of designers’ minds. Haworth created a predominately pink showroom with the rest of the color wheel making an appearance in upholstery. I think it will only be a matter of time before we start to see this color more widely accepted in the Midwestern market.

Notes for 2019: Expanding the color palette for a space creates variety and less fear of pops of color being “too trendy.” Adding wood tones and warm neutrals as the base of the palette is a simple way to integrate colors together and achieve a cohesive look.

Plants on Plants

This year’s buzzword was “wellbeing”. WELL AP and Fitwel have given designers the platform to push for clients’ consideration of human-centered design. Adding plants and green into the office space gives visual cues of sustainability and wellness. Although green walls and succulents are not new to NeoCon or office trends over the last few years, office environments have continued to embrace greenery to add a connection to the outdoors and promote health. What struck me as unique was each showrooms’ thoughtfulness in incorporating greenery throughout the office vignettes and in material palettes. With the rise of wellbeing and the ongoing support of sustainability – the desire for a connection to nature is becoming less of a trend and more of a requirement.

Notes for 2019: Easy! Create space along windows for a few planters or encourage employees to have a small plant at their desk. This small addition can add health benefits to employees and transform a space at a small price.

Soft Shapes

Walking from showroom to showroom, I started to notice rounded corners – on everything. Tables and upholstered pieces showcased soft edges and organic lines. Even accessories, like mirrors and workstation panels, no longer had 90-degree edges. This small detail can make a big impact on how furniture is perceived and utilized.

As companies are finding themselves transitioning out of traditional office environments and modernizing their workspaces, often our team is met with the request for our client’s new space to support flexible and collaborative spaces. What I love about this trend was how the round edges and circular shapes feel more inviting and approachable. Something as simple as a meeting table being standing height looked as though it could host more people around it, making it a perfect space for collaboration.

Notes for 2019: In areas that have a need for collaboration or flexibility, add a circular meeting table or a few ottomans near a teaming area. This simple change in shape can allow groups to gather quickly in the space while maintaining flexibility for a group’s size or a meeting’s focus.

Quiet Corners

Manufactures are continually adjusting to the consumer’s need for more privacy in open office environments by providing new options for auditory and visual privacy. This year, these options and variations were seen throughout the office as an integrated piece in how office environments operate. Small nooks or private furniture groupings were created throughout showrooms to highlight focus spaces for workers to retreat. Visual barriers for private workspaces were created by pieces upholstered with textural fabrics with acoustical properties.

Notes for 2019: Focus spaces are more than just phone rooms. Presented this year were a variety of options for informal meeting spaces with acoustical properties, or lounge chairs with visual barriers for focused work. These private spaces no longer have to be confined to rooms, but can be integrated throughout the office.

About Emma:
Emma is an interior designer who focuses on office environment design.