Last week, the K&A team attended NeoCon 2022 at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The show, which was marking its 53rd edition, is a celebration of all things contract design. This year’s theme, “Design Makes a Statement,” was centered around the merging of form and function to create innovative solutions for today’s evolving commercial environments — including the workplace, healthcare, hospitality, retail, education and public spaces.

The enthusiasm and energy were palpable… and it was clear that everyone was excited to be back and in full swing. More than 400 companies highlighted their latest innovations, and there was no lack of creativity and ingenuity on display.

With so many new products, it was hard to choose our favorites. However, several exhibitors stood out from the pack — from beautifully constructed products designed to promote more hygienic spaces to those aimed at re-envisioning the workplace to products focused on inclusion — there was plenty of inspiration to go around.

Hygienic Surface Solutions

Now more than ever, there is a growing desire for hygienic surfaces in both residential and commercial spaces. Designers are turning to quartz surfaces as a way to elevate interiors aesthetically while keeping wellness at the forefront. A non-porous surface, quartz is easy to sanitize and requires less maintenance than natural stone. It’s also highly durable and less susceptible to cracking and chipping than stone — making it well-suited for high-traffic areas.

On the heels of their new showroom opening at theMART, quartz surfacing manufacturer Vadara looked to set itself apart from the less differentiated names in the industry. The brand’s mission is to capture the beauty of nature through artisan handcrafted countertops that artfully replicate the intrinsic beauty of marble and quartzite. The brand spotlighted six new trend-forward colors, inspired by sweeping views of natural landscapes across the globe. We were particularly impressed with the intricate detail and nuanced coloration.

Artisan-crafted quartz surfacing from Vadara on display in theMART

Another company focused on merging aesthetics with hygienic surfaces is Polyvision. The global brand was showcasing its new ICS Wall Systems. Made with CeramicSteel, a durable porcelain enamel surface, the ICS Wall Systems provide high-performance architectural panel solutions for a broad range of interior applications. The wall panels are naturally resistant to bacteria and viruses along with scratches, stains, graffiti, corrosion, fire and fading from UV exposure. They’re also easy to clean and sanitize — which is especially important in today’s public spaces.

The wall panels are available in 100+ colors or can be printed using Polyvision’s high definition printing technology to create customizable graphics and vibrant surface imagery. Designers can also work with the Polyvision Studio Team to specify unique surface shapes for further design flexibility.

The ICS Wall System from Polyvision featuring high definition printed panels

Acoustic Solutions

Managing noise in bustling office buildings and public spaces can be challenging. And that calls for creative solutions. We experienced numerous products focused on minimizing sound to foster improved working and collaboration environments. We were particularly impressed with Snowsound, which offers high-end, custom-colored acoustic panels that look as good as they function. The artistically designed panels come in 25 styles, and some can house lighting fixtures for even more design versatility. The patented technology absorbs sound at various frequencies and reduces reverberation to significantly enhance acoustics.

Clasp Ring acoustic panels from Snowsound

One of a host of clever solutions we came across was the Silen range. The Estonian-based company produces soundproof modular office pods and phone booths that can accommodate up to eight people. Manufactured with 100 percent carbon neutral materials, the pods can easily be moved around, providing a great way to enhance privacy in open-plan areas. There’s even an accessible version that accommodates wheelchairs — Silen Space ADA-compliant range — which earned a Best of NeoCon Innovation Award. We also tried out the brand’s thoroughly relaxing MindSpa, which took home last year’s Innovation Award honors.

The ADA-compliant Silen Space Hybrid

Sustainable Solutions

There was no shortage of products highlighting sustainability. We particularly appreciated XFrame, whose modular construction framing and commercial fit-out solutions aim to shift the building industry to a circular economy that reduces waste, reuses materials, or recycles them after use. XFrame is a 12-part manufactured plywood system that supports modifications to the frame of a building without producing waste. Designed with diagonal grid geometry, the innovative system facilitates both precise installation and stability. And the frame is fully recoverable and reusable.

The XFrame modular construction framing solution

Another company taking sustainability to the next level is Reseat ID, a platform created to buy, sell, register, and track the lifespan of commercial furniture. Users can purchase secondhand furniture from trusted sellers through a digital consignment concept. The items are cataloged in the platform’s system so they can be easily sold again at the end of their use. This novel approach enables companies to reduce costs by making high-quality used furniture accessible and providing a market to sell items when it’s time for an upgrade. The brand’s Reseat-ID Enterprise Tool took home three Best of NeoCon honors.

Technology Solutions

As the way we “connect” becomes increasingly digitized, products that can multitask are simplifying these interactions. The Artome M10 by Artome Oy is an all-in-one audiovisual solution for presenting and video conferencing. Portable and featuring an embedded sound system, Artome M10 doesn’t require installation — eliminating the need for electrical planning and cabling. Winner of a Gold Best of NeoCon award, the high-quality sound system and projector can extend its screen up to 150 inches, making it easy to adapt to gatherings of all sizes. We really like the sleek, Nordic-inspired design, which is offered in a variety of finishes and colors.

Artome M10 from Artome Oy
A Whole New World

Our team came home from NeoCon inspired and energized. It’s clear that commercial design is entering an exciting new phase… and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

We’ll be back next week with a recap of the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco. Stay tuned for more innovations!

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