A Designer’s Perspective on NeoCon 2012

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As a first-time visitor to NeoCon Chicago, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of crowds gathered to review the latest innovations in commercial interiors. But with such a short amount of time, prioritizing what to see was key — especially because I’m an interior designer in furniture procurement.

I’ve attended NeoCon East in Baltimore since 2006, and I’ve always been able to review most products while casually networking with vendors, reps, and colleagues. In Chicago, however, there were entire floors I didn’t have time to visit.

That said, I did see many fabulous products, and several of them really caught my attention.


The CP Lounge Chair designed by Charles Pollock for Bernhardt was an early stand-out for me in the seating category. Offering a sleek profile and overall sophisticated design, this extremely comfortable and aesthetically pleasing chair is poised to compete with some of history’s most notoriously timeless lounge chairs.

The Clarity chair by Allsteel is another highly acclaimed introduction. With its casual, minimalistic look, the Clarity has the versatility to be used as a task, side, or lounge chair. It has the flexibility to maintain a true level of comfort in any application.

Clarity Chair by Allsteel

Another 2012 show stand-out introduced by Sandler Seating is the Wave Soft Chair 901, which not only looks soft and cozy, but makes you feel like you’re being hugged by your own bed’s fluffy comforter.


Just when you think you have seen all that there is to see with tables, Nucraft, Humanscale, and Kimball unveiled their latest in high-quality, vanguard designs. Forget the old way of cranking and pushing tables to accommodate certain heights or various configurations. Nucraft conference tables are leading the way with a highly functional, upscale design that allows ease of movement by sliding the table top over the base without disconnecting the power and data; a perfect addition to Nucraft’s superior quality, casegood product lines.

Nucraft Conference Table

Humanscale’s height adjustable table features a counterbalance mechanism that allows for more surface weight while maintaining effortless adjustability.

Kimball might be the only manufacturer pioneering an L-shape height adjustable table. Introduced as part of the Priority line, this L-shaped table is sure to enhance today’s evolving work environment where people are more conscious of their posture and maintaining overall good health.

Systems Furniture

AIS and Teknion — among other manufacturers — introduced frameless, glass panel systems that are designed to be recessed into main panels. This conceals the necessary hardware and provides a smooth transition between the fabric or laminate panels and the glass.

Panel systems are constantly evolving by simplifying installation, improving storage capabilities, allowing easy access to power and data, and refining the overall look. If a traditional, closed office or open-systems concept is not the right fit for a space, freestanding furniture offers an alternative solution.

AIS Panel System

In this realm of freestanding options, Trendway’s products demonstrate unlimited versatility and astounding visual appeal, making them a superior choice amongst strong competition. Their concept of “100 Ways to Re-discover” is also worth mentioning, as it inspires the option of endless possibilities for spaces incorporating a mix of private offices, systems, and freestanding furniture.

Surface Materials

Mohawk and Shaw have both mastered replicating the look of stone in the form of warm, earth-toned carpet tiles — right down to the variation of color and the attractive veining. Crossville introduced its new porcelain tile collection called Shades, which is a line that ensures selection of the perfect shade of gray, or combination of grays, to compose a monochromatic, yet strikingly sophisticated installation.

Allsteel deserves applause for getting into the arena of Architectural Elements, introducing their take on high-quality, amazing-looking glass walls.

In addition, Allsteel and Kimball have both recently launched new computer software programs that allow designers to recreate spaces and add their furniture — all while generating a list of products that will simplify the designing and ordering process.

Exhibit Themes

After visiting more than 30 different showrooms, I feel the following are also worth mentioning for their efforts to incorporate eye-catching, memorable themes into their exhibits.

Arcadia and Encore featured a Pop-Art Theme; their wall art, furniture arrangement, props, and colors were very distinctive and indicative of 1970’s fashion.

Antron had a mind-blowing space featuring sculptural models of a special type of nylon, music, and other features to draw in visitors by appealing to all the senses. These spaces seemed to be particularly successful in making the learning experience involving their products enjoyable for everyone.

Antron Showroom

The bottom line is, even though NeoCon Chicago was overwhelming in size and presented the virtually impossible challenge of seeing everything in just three short days, the overall experience was amazing and definitely an event that I would recommend to anyone in the design industry.

If you go with an open mind and set realistic expectations, you’ll enjoy the experience and come away with plenty of new ideas to inspire outstanding designs!

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