June 17, 2013
Landing “sunny side up” in Chicago is always a pleasure. While we’re here for work, the city has so many additional benefits for the seasoned international business traveller including a deep-rooted jazz culture, a beach, restaurant service to die for and – the reason we were there in the first place – the Neocon expo, amongst other things an exhibition of the finest new American and international office furniture trends which takes place every year at the enormous Merchandise Mart in the centre of Chicago (above). Quite a lot “snapped my celery” this year, and while, under normal circumstances I find the Milan furniture fair is the front-runner in terms of defining trends while the rest of the world slowly catches up, This year it was refreshing to see Neocon marking those trends right on the button.
Collaborative seating seemed to be in abundance, high backed private or semi private workspace offerings were to my mind very well executed, and not short of tooling investment. A personal favourite for me was the Coalesse lounge chair collection by Jean Marie Maussad. It looks beautiful and functions beautifully. Working surfaces in the arm are integrated in perfect harmony, with the option of a folding hood to operate mobile or modern communication devices privately.
Haworth also showed a collection of highly refined solutions, the organically shaped collaborative lounge system with high or no back by Studio Urquiola captured my interest, as did the folding backed tub chair design, a fantastic solution to reduce transportation cubage.
For me the most minimal, beautiful, functional award went to Tuohy. I wasn’t alone as the awards judges also added the Neocon silver award to their mantelpiece. The pure and well balanced lines of the Abre collection just whispered sophistication.
Over the past few years the Brits have shown incredible presence and this year was no exception. Boss Design partnered with KI, with a number of Magic stools on their joint stand, along with their Layla sofa, Cega, Mars and Kruze as supporting items. Allermuir and Senator showed new developments including an on t-end wing backed chair and high-backed haven booths.
Flooring manufacturer Milliken had some very interesting new designs including Op Art a line based patterned carpet in a multitude of contemporary colours and boasting a very geometric yet futuristic style which I liked very much.
Canadian furniture manufacturer Teknion rolled out a very serious soft seating offering called Fractals by Jeffrey Burnett under the teknion studio brand. This product aimed at architects and designers with a high and low backed option stuck to the refined minimal signature of the designer, and was well executed. The firm also announced a partnership with B&B Italia for the North American market, which will mean some of the legendary Italian firm’s products being added to the Teknion portfolio.
Buzzispace once more earned my admiration. And I wasn’t alone. The firm’s commercial success, clever marketing, and groundbreaking new products mean they have been able to increase their floor space in the Mart and develop their global sales coverage.
Davis showed an array of new product by an international design elite. One of my personal faves was the simplistic benching system Q5 by British designer Jonathan Prestwich
Meanwhile the North America giant Herman Miller made use of the UK`s creative resources and especially those of design consultancy Industrial Facility. The Locale living office offered multilevel adjustable tables, storage, touchdown seating. This was a purist solution with splashes of bold colouring, sure to be a timeless hit with architects and designers across the world.
David Fox is an award winning British product designer based in Leeds. He has designed products for companies both in the UK and overseas including Boss Design, Connection Seating and Naughtone. His website can be found here.