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Design Trends

NeoCon: A Highlight of Top Commercial Trends

It was another successful year at NeoCon, North America's largest contract furnishings tradeshow returned for its 45 th year June 10-12, 2013 at Chicago's Merchandise Mart. Attendance was up and a marked increase in attitude and enthusiasm was felt throughout the show. Scouring the market for the latest in commercial design, we've found several key trends.

Attention to product evolution was a highlight of several of the manufacturing displays. From products de-constructed to showcasing the fiber beginnings and assembly of product from inception to production, the story played an important role in defining key pieces. In the end, viewers felt a closer kinship and understanding of the products and their histories.

Finishes and effects on furnishings and accessories established certain manufacturers as noteworthy mentions. Sculpted finishes — such as quilting, inflatable furniture, sculpted botanicals and plant life, and organic forms such as mushroom chairs — displayed attention to detail. Effects that included glow and sheen from lighting design to tables and benches displayed a range of ideas on additional sensory perception.


With offices shrinking, we are seeing more office furnishings in leaner forms in both organic shapes and rectilinear formations. Lighting design is trending the same and, as LED lighting continues to expand its presence, task lighting becomes ever smaller.


As office spaces look to have more open-plan environments, workers still seek privacy for certain functions such as phone calls. This apparent dilemma is solved with several key furnishings at the show dedicated to privacy such as acoustic wall tiles, the return of a new style of phone booth and even privacy compartments.


Business meetings are de rigueur, and the best meetings are typically casual and impromptu. Designers are meeting this challenge with new ideas and approaches to meeting spaces in the workplace. Instead of outdated, paneled conference rooms with oversized tables, look forward to compartments with bistro or bench seating, video screens and Wi-Fi connections.


Technology is critical to business today, and we found a frequent theme in workplace furnishings. From tech-driven finishes to embedded technologies, take note, as mobility increases and employees look to work away from traditional spaces.


Whimsy and fun are important to the contract market, and we see this idea of fun in the workplace uptrending. As a place where a majority of lives are spent, this is becoming more critical.


Along with fun in the workplace, another key trend is taking items from residential design into the commercial design market. As more time is invested in the office environment, key pieces that are typically only found in home environments are finding their way into the contract market such as area rugs, armoires and living room environments.


Key color trends were seen throughout the show across lower- and higher-investment products. These commercial trend colors will highlight the 2014 and 2015 seasons of the industry.

Greens: With green having the greatest option of undertones in the color spectrum, this hue continues to charm its way into product lines. Its increased presence in glassware is key, while yellow-green is still going strong in many product categories. Olive tones are gaining momentum and acrylic greens are coming on strong. Aqueous greens that were popular two years ago are showing up again and in combination with complementary colors such as wine. The color combination of green and purple has been showing in fashion design, as well as residential design, for about a year and is now gaining traction in the contract industry.


DE5475 Martian


DEC779 Woodlawn Green


DE5698 Tropical Kelp


DE5517 Fluorescent Lime


DE5655 Fresh Sod


DE5573 Dill Pickle


DE5711 Up North


DE5718 Mother Earth

Purples: Lavender continues to shine and is not going away anytime soon, while warm grape is increasing its presence. Periwinkle, the warmest of the cool tones and a great transitional color, will also increase in popularity.


DEA144 Passionate Plum


DE6000 Vibrant Orchid


DE5985 Plum Power


DE5965 Roman Purple


DEA194 Mulberry

Blues: Everywhere we turn, blues are present. The freshest approach for blues for 2014-2015 is a deep blue that is a step-down from cobalt. Lush and saturated, it's a very pleasing color for the work environment.


DE5780 Water Baby


DE5852 Rainy Lake


DEA185 Old Mill


DE5722 Tropical Waterfall


DEA135 Deep Ocean


DE5894 Starstruck


DE5769 After the Storm

Reds: Introduced more and more into the contract market, cherry is the “it" red for product introductions. Especially popular is the color combination of cherry and purple and the late '70s/early '80s color combination of red with blue-green.


DEC701 Revival Rose


DE5104 Amour


DE5069 Cherry Hill

Hot pink: Its increased presence is seen most notably in carpet and chairs. The evolution as a graffiti and skater staple color to the contract market is complete.


DEA101 Fiery Fuchsia

Oranges: In all its shades, orange has had staying power and has become very comfortable as an accent in contract. The softer oranges are being used in monochromatic fashion, while russets have become true classics and are here to stay as color staples.


DE5169 Glazed Sugar


DE5186 Secluded Canyon


DEA109 Bonfire Flame


DEA112 Exuberant Orange


DE5230 Carrot Cake


DE5146 Campfire

Yellows: Ubiquitous as accents in many of the top contract lines, yellow shades were found, from daffodil to chamois. Yellows with green undertones will highlight the 2014-2015 contract market.


DE5469 Focus on Light


DE5463 Yellow Yarn


DE5457 Bamboo Mat


DE5445 Tanami Desert


DE5472 Lustrous Yellow


DEA165 Hearth Gold

Neutrals: Grays and taupes are classic hues that will always be part of the market. Newer to the neutrals is the color combination of a neutral with one solid color, such as wine, as an accent.


DEW395 Heirloom Shade


DE6356 Sheet Metal


DE6038 Young Fawn


DE6348 Draw Your Sword


DE6305 Galway Bay


DE6297 Patina Creek


DE6308 Black Spruce


DE6182 Mossy


DEA157 Cellar Door

Brown: Yet another classic, brown became trendy again several seasons ago in fashion and interior design, both residential and commercial. Uptrending for brown will be its use on eclectic furnishings and in its color combination uses such as brown with mauve or brown and camel.


DE6101 Galveston Tan


DE6082 Hickory Branch


DEA156 Cherry Cola


DE6021 Outer Boundary


DE6182 Beaumont Brown


DE6040 Cave of the Winds

Black: As the industry knows, black is never out of fashion and remains a true classic.


DEA187 Black


DE6343 Salem Black


DEA185 Old Mill

See More NeoCon 2013 Highlights!

All images by Sara McLean