Talking Points

Bisley’s Helen Owen reports from Neocon in Chicago, and says it was a year for big themes at one of the world’s biggest furniture shows

Words by Helen Owen, Bisley

While the large-format expo may have fallen out of favour in other ‘edgier’ parts of the world, we can be fairly certain that NeoCon will just keep on growing as it approaches its 50th year in 2019.

While the visitors may be international, the show is dominantly North American, reminding us that this is the birthplace of the office and that manufacturing of contract furniture is big business. There is no doubt that NeoCon has evolved into one of the most recognised and attended trade shows in the industry.

Seemingly a slow year for new products, 2017 has been a great year for big themes, with keynote speaker Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, confirming to the Neocon 2017 audience that the topic of employee wellness is firmly on the agenda. A self-proclaimed sleep evangelist, she stated: ‘You thought you were doing furniture, but you are actually doing much more than that.

Knoll sets up shop with its showroom at NeconKnoll sets up shop with its showroom at Neocon

Those of you who are interior designers can help make transformational differences in lives, and those of you who produce furniture can give them the tools to do so. This is a time of incredible opportunity.’

Enlightened employers understand that the health and well-being of workers has an impact on the bottom-line. This is manifesting itself in further investment in sit/stand solutions and other ways to get workers moving. Complicit with this caring and honest culture was the presence of ‘transparency’ as a theme. Privacy pods formed with glass provide both a literal and physical interpretation of transparency, creating a space for concentrated work in open plan office landscapes while providing natural light and views.

The Humanscale showroom at NeoconThe Humanscale showroom at Neocon

There is a general consensus that ‘corporate America’, in terms of workplace trends, is about four years behind Europe. However, the axis has shifted, with the emergence of San Francisco as a fulcrum for the forward-thinking tech sector. The region’s famous casualness has finally filtered down, not only in the materials used but also in the dress sense of Neocon’s hosts and attendees.

The blurring of the boundaries between work and home continues unabated. I even came across a new word – resimercial. Not sure. That one might take some getting used to!

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