Weekly Editorial

Trends From NeoCon 2023

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • June 19, 2023


With NeoCon in the rear view mirror, I hope many of you are reading this column from the comfort of the dock at your cottage. You certainly deserve a break after the event, one of the best I can remember.

I wasn’t blown away by the new products this year (though there were some stars), but I was wowed by the positive energy, new companies and groups occupying permanent showrooms and a general feeling that the industry is on the right track found at both THE MART and Fulton Market.

While trend setting used to be limited to European shows like Salone and Orgatec, NeoCon is definitely gaining stature as a place where the future of the office can be found today. For this month’s Space Solutions feature, we’re bringing attention to the trends highlighted at NeoCon 2023.

I dig those groovy colors, man — Color is an important part of any NeoCon and this year’s show didn’t disappoint. The palette was muted, subdued and very residential. The color palette at NeoCon 2023 seemed to be taken directly from a late 1960s or early 1970s appliance store with soft greens, yellows and browns dominating the showrooms, textile makers and carpet companies. I like it. A beautiful example of these soft colors could be found in both the OFS and Hightower showrooms, though at opposite ends of the spectrum. OFS was filled with warm wood tones and muted browns and yellows while Hightower was bathed in light blues and warm pinks. Both were equally effective and fitting for the products shown.

Round is the new square — The clunky, squared-off furniture of the past is long gone, replaced by rounded sofas and lounge chairs that feel more residential and much less institutional. This trend has been percolating for the past few years, but is in full swing in 2023 and is literally changing the look of some companies. Indiana Furniture looked great at NeoCon 2023 with its softer looking furniture lines on full display. I particularly liked the Rockstar Roadie chair, a welcome departure from mesh, metal and plastic.

I’ll be working in my pod — Steelcase was the first to launch what I call a personal work pod with its Brody product, but the trend continued full speed ahead at NeoCon 2023. I loved the Cove Chair at Haworth, created by Poltrona Frau. It is another great example of how we can work together, yet separately if the furniture is right.

If I can’t be outside, I’ll bring the outside in — Biophilic design is another trend that isn’t exactly new, but it did take a major step forward this year. And the plants found in many — if not most — NeoCon showrooms this year aren’t just window dressing. Many furniture makers are adding products that include planters or space for greenery. Magnuson Group’s Valuta and Kaskad products are great examples of how plants can (and should) be part of the office.

Work happens away from the desk — One of my favorite product categories in recent years is the introduction of laptop tables. These tiny desks were invaluable during the pandemic as many of us worked from sofas, lounge chairs and outdoor seating. I love being able to work from anywhere I can drag one of these tables. But I’m equally excited that a few manufacturers are adding to the size of the tops. AIS introduced what could be the Cadillac of laptop tables at this year’s NeoCon — the Mixers Sit/Stand desk. It has a slightly larger top, is height adjustable and the top tilts.

As comfortable as home — Offices are becoming more comfortable. Yes, the office is still designed for work, but it is feeling more and more like home as well. More than at any other NeoCon, I found myself thinking: “I wish I had this sofa (or lounge chair) at home.” I especially liked Global’s Drift lounge collection.

NeoCon is about discovery and I enjoy seeing products that will change the way people work. It is truly an event that informs the industry (and the wider world) about the workplace and work culture. This year’s NeoCon cemented its place as a bellwether for the future of the office.

Interested in some inspiration related to the trends listed above? Take a look at this month’s Space Solutions feature!

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