July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Rebecca Blasdel
Chicago—NeoCon 2017 can be viewed as a success based on traffic alone. Show organizers put attendance just north of 50,000, a 7% uptick over the prior year (FCNews, July 3/10). But brisk traffic and sold-out showroom space weren’t the only major takeaways from the show. Exhibitors and attendees alike were equally impressed with the vast array of new products, styles and designs on display.
Many of these new looks, observers say, will set the tone for the development and design of commercial interior spaces across North America and—in some case—around the globe. Seemingly everywhere you looked showrooms and booths were packed with an array of architects, designers and facility managers—all looking for products to specify for projects booked for the coming year. All commercial segments were well represented, with a particularly heavy focus on LVT.
On the whole, exhibitors expanded their full range of products to meet end-user demands for greater efficiencies via single-source supply. “All segments in the commercial interiors market were strong,” said Byron Morton, vice president, leasing, NeoCon. “The flooring companies all showed innovative resilient products in addition to traditional broadloom and modular carpet.”
Following are some of the design trends/new products that stood out at the show:
Biophilic design dominates
The overarching trend of designing healthier, greener and more sustainable spaces was palpable at NeoCon. This was reflected in the way nature itself influenced many of the designs, patterns and colors on display. Architects and designers are creating spaces that incorporate natural materials, a greater use of natural light and improved views of nature.
Many exhibitors are taking their design cues from Mother Nature. Examples include the inspirational trip that Mannington’s design team took to Portland, Ore., or the way Mohawk Group was inspired by how the lichen grows (hence on the new collection based on the same name).
In the Mannington showroom, for example, designers created an intricate paper sculpture of Portland designed by architect-turned-sculptor Christina Lahan. Her forest—made of white paper—demonstrated all the design inspiration used for the various collections based on nature and wood (paper).
Roby Isaac, vice president of commercial design, described the idea behind the exhibit—eco-friendly designs that are both respectful of and derived from the environment. “Paper is a low-ounce, low-profile product that’s made of Econyl so it has a recycling story. By making it with that fiber, and by maintaining a low price point, we were able to make it more of a budget-sensitive product. We wanted to do a well-styled product with a low price and low pile.”
Meanwhile, Mohawk put the emphasis on Lichen, the first floor covering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal certification (FCNews, June 5/12). The team at Mohawk and McLennan Design were inspired by the naturally occurring, brightly-hued organisms because of the regenerative role they serve in the ecosystem. According to Mohawk Group, 6% of the world is covered with lichen, which boasts more than 20,000 species.
Mark Page, Mohawk Group’s senior director of creative design and development, explained the inspiration behind the design. “When we started developing Lichen, we found that it takes its food from water vapor. When there is pollution in the air, that is when you start to see lichen die. When you see it in abundance that means the air quality is very good.”
According to Page, this provided both the green story for the product as well as the colorways and patterns. For Mohawk Group, he said it was important to develop a collection that would give more resources back to the environment than it uses during its entire life cycle.
Bringing the outdoors inside
Other major exhibitors showcased new products inspired by nature. Bentley revealed the Outskirts collection, which consists of three styles: Outlier, a bold metallic geometric weave; Ritual, which resembles a high-end wool and references branches; and Coexist, meant to complement all Bentley styles inside and out of the new collection. Todd van der Kruik, vice president of design for Bentley, described the motivation for the theme. “In ecology, edge effects refer to the changes in population or community structures that occur at the boundary of two habitats. As the edge effects increase, the habitats allow for greater biodiversity.”
The entire collection, he noted, has a moody feel that exemplifies the place where nature and neighborhoods meld into one another. “As we watch the continued expansion of the edge effect that exists between work and home, we sought to figure out how to help seamlessly support those traveling in between—to encourage diversity, growth and evolution by connecting our environments in new ways. The Outskirts collection explores these boundaries even further.”
In that same vein, the Tarkett space—which included the Johnsonite and Tandus Centiva brands—reflected the popularity of biophilic design. The More Than Wood line of LVT products takes on a whole new approach to wood-look flooring by minimizing repeats typically found in other hard surface products designed to mimic the real thing.
According to Terry Mowers, vice president of design, North America, the company was able to achieve this look through a combination of image scanning techniques and special treatment of the original source material. This approach, according to Mowers, emphasizes the magnificence of wood and all its character.
Natural elements were also evident in new products showcased at the Shaw Contract booth. In search of inspiration for new looks, designers foraged for naturally occurring patterns, taking hundreds of photographs of stone, ancient marble, moss, etc., which were then used to create a series of broadloom products that work together in harmony. The result was Off The Grid, a highly customizable system meant to mesh well with other materials.
Not to be outdone, Interface unveiled Global Change, a new collection that pairs biophilic design with the modular systems for which the company is known. The introduction—which includes soft, mineral-based colors weaves and prints modeled after natural occurrences—marks the first global launch created by lead product designer Kari Pei, who explained the inspiration behind the collection. “When you go for a walk through the forest, the earth changes—it goes from a hard, cracked surface and then as you progress the sun has sort of dappled through the leaves, creating a shadow play. You get to the edge and it’s a little softer.”
Interface also unveiled a prototype for the Proof Positive carpet tile, which it claims is the first carbon-negative carpet tile. After the tile is made, there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than if it had not been manufactured in the first place, according to the company.