With a commitment to expertise, we cultivate fresh perspectives, explore new solutions, and foster an environment where innovation is key. In search of the latest and greatest, our team headed to Chicago for NeoCon 2023, the world’s leading show for commercial interiors.
Our Design Director, Jason Diaz, is a long-time NeoCon attendee, and this year he had the unique opportunity to be a 2023 Best of NeoCon Juror. Leading up to the convention, Jason spent a few extra days in Chicago with other influential designers, architects, manufacturers, and respected leaders in the design industry. The Jurors gathered at the MART to assess over 300 product entries that are impacting the future of design.
Our designers returned to Atlanta with insights about the workplace in a post-pandemic world, where the human experience is prioritized and a balanced, productive, and collaborative space is essential. Read some of our key takeaways from our time in Chicago:
Furniture Embracing Architecture
With a continued desire to get employees back in the office and excited to be there, furniture manufacturers are developing and improving modular and mobile furniture solutions. These furniture pieces are a growing trend due to their ability to delineate space without fixed architecture. With a range of heights and varying levels of privacy, modular and mobile furniture solutions provide flexibility for an ever-evolving workplace.
- Modular and mobile furniture lends flexibility to “Neighborhood” planning.
- Open collaborative, semiprivate, and private spaces can coexist and reinforce one another.
- Accommodations for technology, lighting, mechanical systems, and fire control are built in for compliance and comfort.
Me & We Spaces
Flexible and innovative use of space is extremely important and directly connected to the success of RTO (Return to Office). The transition to fewer private offices and smaller private office footprints is gaining traction as furniture solutions offer generous accommodations within a smaller footprint allowing for more “We Space” rather than “Me Space.”
- Modular walls and micro architectural solutions offer efficient, well-appointed private space within an 8’x8’ and 8’x10’ footprint.
- Some modular wall systems can be seated on existing finished floors without being permanently affixed to the floor and instead only needing a simple connection to utilities.
- Spaces need to be agile and offer easy adaptability, so many furniture solutions can serve multiple uses from private offices to huddle rooms to shared offices.
Materiality & Tactility
Human connection and a sense of comfort are vital to the office return integration. Many manufacturers are diving into the human experience to develop products that evoke a sense of calm, comfort, and camaraderie to both the elements and each other.
- This trend lends to softer architectural forms, profiles, and patterns.
- Muted colors are embraced and celebrated alongside warm neutrals to create a layered, balanced palette.
- Natural wood furniture, soft touch hard surfaces, and textured fabrics and patterns celebrate hand craftsmanship and draw us closer to our surroundings. Lounge furniture also adjusts its ergonomics to be more task-focused.
Designing for the Senses
Researchers, manufacturers, and designers are expanding beyond the visual experience of the built environment. Sound, touch, and even the aromatic experience are being folded into elements of the design to round out a space’s sensory impact taking into account neurodiversity and well-being.
- PET and an array of acoustic products are crucial considerations to all spaces. Products for sound dampening and absorption can be planned for both prior to and post construction.
- Aroma dispensing systems can be tied into HVAC systems, creating a hospitality feel within any environment.
- Visual privacy opportunities through furniture systems and accessories allow all users to minimize the visual disruptions in open work environments.
Direct & Indirect Sense of Nature
Incorporating natural elements, whether biophilic-inspired or physical flora, helps soften hard materials and spaces while contributing to mental health and wellness.
- Flooring patterns embrace local ecology, culture, and pattern to create a dramatic ground effect.
- Division of spaces using natural elements with creative furniture solutions creates a softer way to break up space.
- A focus on recycled materials, carbon footprints, and life cycle impacts are just as important as a product’s aesthetic.