July 4/11, 2016; Volume 30, Number 27
By Sarah Bousquet
Chicago—NeoCon has long been recognized as the conference and exposition for those specializing in commercial interiors, and this year was no exception. Boasting steady traffic and high energy levels and enthusiasm, the event drew 53,000 attendees—an increase of 6% over last year.
“Design professionals head to NeoCon each year for a first-hand look at the latest prototypes and product launches, and to take advantage of our world-class educational programming — including keynote presentations that provide insider access to today’s most influential thought leaders,” said Lisa Simonian, vice president of marketing, NeoCon Shows. “This year was no different. In fact, many attendees reported the sense of camaraderie and the exchange of ideas that occurs during NeoCon is a big draw. More than just a major event, NeoCon has evolved into a true international design hub as well as a dynamic and collaborative learning community.”
Stephen Wells and Roy Huebner with One Global Design—a network of entrepreneurial owner-led design firms in the U.S., Mexico and Canada that work through a single point‐of contact—couldn’t agree more. At the Merchandise Mart (theMART) this year as both NeoCon attendees and exhibitors via a new product partnership with Mannington Commercial, One Global Design was able to see both sides of the expansive knowledge share taking place. “NeoCon’s relationship building opportunities align with One Global’s own collaborative philosophy and only continue to elevate local expertise and accountability through face-to-face conversations and education,” Huebner said. Spearheading some of the hot topics in line with this year’s theme of “Design That Works,” were keynotes by Paul Scialla, founder and CEO of Delos and creator of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI); David Rockwell, founder and president of award-winning architecture and design firm Rockwell Group; and Oana Stanescu, partner of architecture studio Family. Discussions ranged from building design that supports occupants’ health and wellness to user experience as well as what architecture/design can do for a community.
Another draw at this year’s show was theMART’s newly designed public spaces as part of a transformative $40 million renovation. NeoCon 2016 also welcomed five new permanent tenants and showcased a newly renovated seventh floor exhibit hall. “We added approximately 7,000 square feet of additional showroom space and still had 100% occupancy,” Simonian said. “Our redesigned seventh floor exhibit hall offered a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate experience that resulted in positive reviews of brisk business and increased traffic. Exhibitor and attendee feedback was phenomenal.” The new seventh floor showcased the latest products and services by group — interior building products/materials and finishes, furniture and fabrics, flooring and technology — touting nearly 50 of the top brands in floor covering, exhibiting across more than 15,000 square feet. Following are just some of the category’s highlights.
Focus on innovation, creativity
Providing designers with new and different ways to approach and specify projects was a focal point across virtually all segments at NeoCon this year. From new technologies and expanded original aesthetics to healthier solutions, exhibitors aimed to give the A&D community more creative ways to build.
Attendees are looking for innovative solutions, noted Jonathan Train, president and CEO of EarthWerks. To meet the need, the manufacturer showcased an original installation of its new Cocktail LVT collection in its booth. The playful floor design was created with water jet cutting technology — which can be used with any of EarthWerks’ product lines — via the mill’s new partnership with Enzo. “Our floor is not only eye catching, but it also shows designers just how creative they can be, which is getting a great response,” Train stated.
Also catching the eyes of attendees was Mohawk Group, which partnered with 13&9 Design—an Austrian product design firm—on its showroom redesign as well as some of its latest products. Topography, for example, won a Best of NeoCon 2016 Innovation award for its landscape architecture-inspired style. The new carpet tile collection features five styles with varying surfaces of relief and dimension that can be mixed together or used separately to create unique flooring.
“We’re noticing this year’s attendees are drawn toward products they can make a statement with as a designer,” said Jackie Dettmar, vice president of commercial design and product development, Mohawk. “Topography allows designers to play with scale in a system that when used together can provide infinite design options.”
Tarkett’s booth design and new products offered similar custom elements and creative inspiration. “This is the first year we are exhibiting Tandus Centiva, Tarkett and Johnsonite products in the same booth space,” said Mark Bischoff, vice president of Tarkett North America. “We wanted to showcase how we work together and/or separately in a way that’s real to the A&D community — for example, allowing attendees to see Tandus Centiva’s low-profile soft surface products set into our LVT offerings.”
Tarkett also invited designers to co-create their own flooring with the reveal of its new Infinies collection. Utilizing a new technology to deliver what the company claims is the industry’s first digitally printed LVT, designers can create custom looks via a simple online tool.
Other vendors also cited the importance of applying new tools and expanded creativity. “We’re noticing a lot of corporate projects are looking for flooring alternates to break up large office spaces,” said Emil Mellow, vice president of marketing, Karndean. “We have a team dedicated to providing new tools such as architect folders to help specifiers create and achieve their desired outcomes.” On the hospitality side, he mentioned attendee interest in the new Kaleidoscope LVT collection—wood, stone and block colors available in six geometric designs—for its flexibility and new pattern options.
Over at the Interface space, the focus was on using creative ways to broaden building solutions in an entirely different way. Hence the company’s new mission: Climate Take Back. “While we’ve seen a lot of corporate and higher education projects walk through, our showroom was set up to draw attention toward finding a better, smarter, healthier way to complete projects across all segments — not just sell products,” Chip Degrace, executive creative director, explained. “After all, what makes a good product is the company behind it. Climate Take Back will look at ways Interface and the industry at large can reverse the impacts of climate change, for example sequestering carbon dioxide from the air into building products.
Next, Crossville also aimed to push creative boundaries with the launch of its Satori collection from Laminam. Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, pointed to the porcelain tile panels as an example of Crossville’s product evolution, noting Satori hits the mark for aesthetics, install capabilities and quality. “
Attendees are looking for visual texture and materials that offer more of an edge without being too trendy or something that will go out of style,” Waldrep explained. “Satori does this with an enhanced texture that is visual and tactile, yet it is still easy to clean and durable. It can also be installed over existing flooring or as a wall tile, which extends design options and shortens project turn time.”
Metroflor addressed the A&D community’s wish lists by unveiling an extension of its popular Aspecta collection. “We wanted to offer a one-two punch,” said Russ Rogg, president, USA, “to meet the needs of varying budgets and projects. Aspecta One is intended for applications where the 3.2 mm, 28 mil Aspecta Five is not required.” He mentioned continued interest from attendees working in the healthcare and education segments, with design versatility as a leading factor.
Lastly, in examining the idea of reinvention, Bentley’s (los)t angeles collection looked to inspire designers to find new energy within already known places. “The gems of LA are hidden in plain sight,” explained Todd van derKruik, vice president of design. “Our (los)t angeles collection goes beneath the glitz and glamour and behind the urban decay to discover extraordinary, exciting and unexpected things.”