NeoCon 2015—the 47th edition of the show—was held at the Chicago Merchandise Mart June 15 to 17 to showcase the commercial interior industry’s most innovative design solutions. Over seven hundred companies exhibited, and thousands of new products were introduced.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of ground to cover, but at the end of the day, the K&A team identified three industry trends reflected in this year’s show—recycled materials, innovative walls, and creative office spaces.
TerraMai of White City, Oregon works with top architects, designers and manufacturers to provide one-of-a-kind reclaimed wood products for premier commercial and residential projects. They more than live up to their slogan, “Reclaimed woods from around the world,” as they harvest oak from the Southeast United States, teak from Southeast Asia and redwood from the Pacific Northwest. They have just started to offer paneling and flooring made from Panamanian tropical hardwoods such as rock walnut, zebrawood and mora, coveted for their beauty, strength and durability.
The ability to harvest and process reclaimed wood reduces the amount of wood cut from the diminishing tropical forests that are home to indigenous peoples and rare and endangered plants and animals. In addition to paneling and flooring, the company manufactures custom furniture from larger pieces of reclaimed wood, including a 4’ x 20’ conference table from a live-edge slab made from trees that had been submerged for over 40 years in a river in Central America.
TerraMai was honored with a HiP Award and Gold Award for its Lost Coast Weathered Paneling product. Other companies making an effort to reclaim and treat woods to produce flooring, veneers and paneling include EchoWood and CS Woods.
Two companies took approaches at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sherwin-Williams previewed four new paint collections as part of Colormix 2016, but the product generating the most buzz was its clear-gloss Dry Erase Coating, a product that when applied, transforms any wall into a dry erase board without sacrificing the wall’s original color. It can be wiped clean with a dry erase eraser or soft cloth, leaving no ghosts or shadows of what was written on the wall. It can be easily painted over with regular paint when a change of color is desired. It’s an incredibly easy way to add functionality to any painted surface.
Contrast this with the customizable mosaic walls created by Mosaico Digitale—a merging of old-world mosaic techniques with new-world digital technologies. Using a unique process to decompose visuals digitally, the company formats image files to print on fabrics in resin film in sizes as small as 2 x 2 cm. Each of these digital “tiles” is then numbered so installers can install them properly. The flexible cards can be produced in any size, and applied to flat or curved surfaces. The result is a unique and truly personalized space.
Here’s yet another innovative wall solution at NeoCon 2015: Muratto introduced their new Organic Blocks collection of cork-based wall coverings. Since the raw, granulated cork material is blended with special pigments and resins, the coloring appears throughout the wall covering, not just on the surface. This allows the user to cut the material without losing color and allows the transparency of the cork structure to be visible.
ESI, winner of the 2014 Best of NeoCon award, was back this year with an update on the Edge-Evolve monitor arm which handles up to 32” monitors side by side. This year, the product features additional attachments and couplers to the arm that allow additional monitors to be added. The result is a sleek, spare work surface that can be used by several individuals at one time in an open-office setting.
The company also showcased the Lift, a sit-to-stand workstation that attaches to virtually any work surface. Capable of holding a monitor, keyboard and mouse, the Lift enables users to change their work stations easily. Similar stations are offered by Varidesk but the ESI models offer a bit more flexibility and ease of use.
Attendees were also invited to try Buzzi Space—whimsical shared work spaces that encourage collaboration and interaction. The work spaces can be paired with decorative yet functional pieces such as BuzziCactus that offer sound insulation, design and a pinnable work surface that can be used to display papers, photos or other work materials. The company also featured its BuzziHive semi-private acoustic cocoons along the main floor of the exhibit hall for use by attendees for meetings or a brief respite from the show floor with a latte to check emails.