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Insights — Q&A

Sustainability & Flexibility Took Center Stage at NeoCon 2024

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Every June, Chicago’s design community hosts NeoCon at the Merchandise Mart (and, since 2023, Design Days at Fulton Market). Designers, architects, and vendors come from across the country to see the latest innovations in material, furniture, and lighting. This year, Brent Capron, the Studio Design Director of Corgan’s New York office and Sean Kim Nickerson, the Interiors Studio Leader from the firm’s Los Angeles office, and Jasime Efrussy, Director of Furniture Services from Corgan’s Dallas office went to the Windy City to see what’s new.


Brent Capron

What was the most exciting product or panel that you saw?

The Round Table I participated in was great. The conversation revolved around design culture, keeping younger designers engaged with the industry and sales community. The panel was especially interesting in a world increasingly focused on work life balance rather than working late nights to achieve that perfect design moment or to get ahead in your career. With the generational shift taking place, there is a growing expectation of improving that balance from the incoming work force.

What will you bring back to your office and design team?

There were a few key bright moments in refined furniture design, such as the power management of the Halcon and Tuohy conference tables and the collaborative furniture coming out from Stylex. The design continues to be refined, so that the necessary elements, like plugs in a conference table, aren’t just hidden in a recessed steel box, but made into a design element themselves. The cork sofa from Isomi was also especially cool. When farmed responsibly, cork is a renewable, sustainable material that is also biodegradable – the cork sofa is a cradle-to-cradle solution that has very little effect on the environment.

What were the themes of the event?

In my opinion, the focus of the event was about refinement: reimagining the classics in new colors and increasing flexibility of furniture and materials. For example, pieces with dual purposes allow flexibility and a greater ease of reconfiguration while maintaining a high level of function. Everyone is gradually upping their game in terms of sustainability, and brands like MillerKnoll are starting to talk about refurbishing classic pieces, rather than replacing them.


Sean Kim Nickerson

What was the most exciting product or panel that you saw?

Design Days at Fulton Market continued the suspense of “who’s next” in moving from Merchandise Mart (in River North) to Fulton Market (near the West Loop). MillerKnoll were the pioneers, making the migration two years ago. This year, the Teknion showroom grabbed the spotlight at Fulton. At NeoCon in the Mart, the biggest buzz was at the Bernhardt showroom with Interior Design magazine’s Best of Year award-winner Daniel Germani’s “Ice” occasional table, which is made entirely of blown glass.

What will you bring back to your office and design team?

2025 is the year of the magnetic office – the office as the amenity was front and center. At both Design Days and NeoCon, the focus was reimagining the office with color, shape, and modular architecture. Colors of hope and optimism were abundant throughout the shows: vibrant hues of green Oslo seating at Muuto, eye-popping yellows of the Dado sofa at Andreu World, and a rainbow of options of Naughtone’s Morse table system.

There were also lots of organic shapes and soft radius edges, signaling that the new norm for the office is inviting, welcoming, and inclusive. Corral’s Logger modular sofa collection was inspired by fallen timber on the Northern California coast defines and refines spaces in unexpected ways. The Vox community table at Neinkamper had a height-adjustable table with an island base and soft edges that elevates and supports a spectrum of privacy, flexibility, and efficiency in a dynamic working environment.

Modular architecture to meet the increasing demand for private, collaboration, and focus spaces has resulted in a myriad of choices and budgets. Kettal was a standout among a crowded field.

What were the themes of the event?

From Allsteel to Haworth, sustainability was given valuable real estate in their showrooms, demonstrating their commitment. In collaboration with Normal Copenhage, Allsteel debuted their Mat chair crafted from hemp and seaweed. Herman Miller created a museum-like walkthrough highlighting its commitment to removing harmful chemicals like PFAS from their materials, using sustainable packaging, and de-materialization of its Mirra 2 chair. OFS planted trees in the attendees’ honor to reinforce its tagline “Grow Together.” Haworth showcased designers who are upcycling construction lumber to show that great design can be created by reusing materials typically tossed into a landfill.


Jasmine Efrussy

What was the most exciting product or panel that you saw?

NeoCon 2024 demonstrated significant evidence of the circular economy through various products and discussions centered around sustainability and material reuse. One of the key highlights was the focus on the circular workplace, which emphasized reducing waste by implementing a circular design approach. This involves designing products with their entire lifecycle in mind, from raw material sourcing to end-of-life reuse or recycling. The show featured innovative products designed with circular economy principles. For example, Patricia Urquiola's Bolete Lounge BIO for Andreu World is a standout product. This lounge chair is made from a BIO Thermo polymer of natural origin, which is 100% recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. It also includes recyclable interior structures and foams, illustrating a commitment to sustainability and circular design.

What will bring back to your office and design team?

I particularly liked innovative materials such as BTD Wood Powder Coating's eco-friendly finishes and Onyx Specialty Papers' use of natural elements like coconut husks and banana stalks in their products. KUBI modular lounge collection by HBF, designed by Barbara Barry. The collection features a minimal cubic form with a sturdy yet visually light wood frame, making it ideal for both residential and contract applications.

What were the themes of the event?

Several themes emerged prominently at Design Days/Neocon 2024:

Sustainability - A significant focus on eco-friendly designs was evident, with many products using recycled materials and emphasizing durability and low environmental impact. For example, the Aarea task chair by Teknion uses ocean plastic, and Herman Miller’s updated Mirra 2 chair reduces its carbon footprint through material innovations.

Flexibility and Adaptability- The need for flexible workspace solutions was a recurring theme, highlighted by products like the Vox Community desking system and various modular furniture collections designed for dynamic and collaborative environments.

Inclusivity and Accessibility - There was a notable emphasis on designing for inclusivity, with features like ADA-compliant phone booths and ergonomic furniture that caters to a wide range of users, ensuring that workplaces are accessible to all.

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