NeoCon 2017

Surface Trends: Some Observations

NeoCon — our favorite time of year. There’s just no other show in this country that provides the visual stimulation or feeds the trend-seeker’s soul quite like this one. Floor after floor of the best and the, quite literally, brightest in commercial interiors design.

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Understandably, we view the show with a decorative surfaces-geek eye, so our top trends veer in that direction. And we saw plenty that made our socks roll up and down this year.

Any recap of the show will certainly point first to the reemergence of Scandinavian influences. Clean lines, lighter tones, pops of bold color. It seems, to us, the logical evolution from the midcentury modern trend that has taken both commercial and residential interiors by storm in recent years. Breaking that down further, here’s what caught our attention.

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Continued shift from veneers to laminates.

Now able to match real wood and veneers in grain fidelity and sophistication, the advantages of laminates are making them increasingly attractive in increasingly more applications. Certainly, desk systems, hospital interiors and educational environments have long embraced laminates, but the once coveted solid wood or veneered focal piece — desk, conference table, cabinetry, credenza — is now showing up in laminate, too, showcasing its enhanced durability and increasing design versatility.

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Subtle, elegant grains.

Where two points converge: the Scandinavian influences coupled with the availability of elegantly designed wood grains came together as we saw an evolution from the subtle lineal patterns that have been a hallmark of commercial interiors surfaces to more elaborate grains and structures. Subtle in color, rich in character.

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Small spaces, slim profiles.

Offices continue to grapple with the seemingly contradictory mandates of “open spaces!,” the need for occasional privacy and millennials’ desire to continually shake things up. No sitting at one desk all day. There are pods and small offices and sitting desks and standing desks and small conversation areas and big meeting areas and still the occasional (egads!) office with four walls and a door. All those spaces living in harmony have contributed to a design trend toward more, smaller spaces and slim profile furniture that is visually appealing, easily moveable and doesn’t clutter up a what-could-be-easily-cluttered-looking space. The surfaces lend themselves to these smaller profiles, adding clean, sleek sophistication that doesn’t scream to compete.

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Pops of drama.

That said, all those muted tones were very often offset with splashes of drama. Subtle colors and grains found complement with a single bold pattern or color, whether hard surface, textile, carpet or chairs. (The chairs! We became obsessed with the chairs!) Those pops are one of the fun things about our jobs, frankly. For every 20 hardrock maples and blond lineals, we get to add something dramatic and bold.

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Expanding sustainability.

A healthy work environment has come to mean more than simply recycling copy paper and introducing low-emissions fabrics and case goods. From ergonomic workstations to what’s in the fridge, everything focuses on the health of the employee and the responsibility of the employer for both environment and that employee’s health. There’s a lot to the sustainability story for laminates if you’re interested in the read.

If NeoCon had a slogan (does NeoCon have a slogan), it should be: Better than Christmas!