What I Learned at My First NeoCon

NeoCon Wall Quote


Ask any commercial interior designer what the biggest industry event of the year is, and they’ll have the same answer – NeoCon. In its 51st year, NeoCon is considered the most important annual event for the commercial design industry that influences the trends and aesthetics of the built environment. This three-day extravaganza brings the world’s leading manufacturers, dealers, architects, and design professionals together at the historic ­– and massive – Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.  


Merchandise Mart at NeoCon

Merchandise Mart – Photo Courtesy of NeoCon


Fun fact: The Mart is so large it has its very own zip code.

This year marked my first time attending NeoCon. Although slightly overwhelming at first, due to the sheer size of The Mart and the staggering number of people, it was a phenomenal experience.

As far as interior design trends are concerned, I would summarize this year’s NeoCon showing in three words: color, pattern and comfort.


1. Color

Across the board, we saw an expansion in color palettes for flooring, wall coverings, textiles, and furniture. Blush, or dare I say mauve, was among the most popular colors introduced into new collections. Usually, this color was paired with a darker green to contrast.

In furniture, we saw color introduced in several ways, but the most interesting and trendy method was colored wood. Manufacturers offered this wood in an array of hues, using an opaque stain that allowed the natural grain and texture of the wood to show through to make for stunning pieces.


NeoCon - Color

2. Pattern

New textiles are always exciting to see, and this year there was an abundance of large-scale, geometric patterns, and stripes and plaids made a comeback. Blush, mustard yellow, and hunter green were among the most prominent colors in the new styles. Heavy textures like raised and embossed processed were common in the textile showrooms. Privacy curtains were also given new life with fresh patterns and color palettes.

We also saw a distinct flooring trend incorporating abstract, artistic patterns (think paint splatters and brush strokes), as well as the geometrics we saw elsewhere. Color palettes included neutral on neutral with an emphasis on texture, solids offered in nearly every color of the rainbow, and neutrals with pops of bright colors.


NeoCon - Pattern

3. Comfort

There was also a lot of emphasis on ergonomics and comfort in furniture design. Even lounge furniture was slightly increased in scale to offer extra cushion and a stronger resemblance to residential furniture.

My favorite showroom hands-down was Hightower. Hightower specializes in the manufacturing of furniture, and their showroom emphasized comfort and high style. They exhibited fully furnished settings ranging from lounge, small meeting areas, café-style seating, private nooks, and bar seating, utilizing a mostly neutral and pastel color palette.


NeoCon - Hightower


I think it’s safe to say our group of interior designers had a great time in the Merchandise Mart and can’t wait for NeoCon 2020!


NeoCon Group


If you are interested in seeing how we can implement some of these trends into your designs, reach out to us.

NeoCon 2017 Update

NeoCon is a chance to see new products, immerse yourself in each showrooms’ unique design, mingle with other designers, and bring back inspiration for our clients. Whether it be ideas for comfortable, collaborative office breakout spaces or a twist on a traditional textile, this event showcases everything you could dream of as a designer. Consider it a small slice of a interior designer’s paradise!

With about one million ideas to take away from NeoCon, let’s hear from our team about a few of their favorite design trends from this year…

Liam Keesling

My favorite trends seen throughout the furniture showrooms were the combination of solid textiles and exposed wood frame construction in many of the side chairs and lounge furniture pieces. The furniture appeared lightweight but well-crafted, using interlocking joints that were celebrated rather than disguised or hidden. My favorite part of the craftsmanship was the natural wood finish used to see the beautiful grain.


Asia Coffee

I was really excited to see the Tandus/Centiva/Johnsonite showroom! This was their first year in a larger, more prominent showroom on one of the main floors of the Merchandise Mart. It was a fantastic space for them to display the wide variety of flooring options that they offer (i.e. carpet, luxury vinyl tile, rubber tile). I was especially impressed with the digital imaging capabilities that were showcased. They can take any image or photo and not only print it onto luxury vinyl tile but wall base as well! This capability allows us to be more creative in the ways we can bring an Owner’s brand into the design of their space.


Laura Hardin

I find myself trying to remember all of the carpet, textile, wall covering designs, and new furniture trends. But what I typically am in search of is unique glass design. I don’t get a chance to specify this product often but I do find it fascinating on the inspiration and overall design created for decorative glass. Skyline Glass doesn’t disappoint, this year’s glass designed by Suzanne Tick won two NeoCon gold awards. Two patterns in particular caught my eye, Diffuse & Disperse as they are simple and timeless with the ability to layer and scale to a design for the perfect fit into a project. I look forward to the official release of these new patterns as well as the other new exciting products we saw.

Top Trends at NeoCon 2015

About NeoCon

For Laura and Liam, interior designers at Schmidt Associates, NeoCon is simply an event that can’t be missed. NeoCon is the largest commercial interiors show in North America, and has been held at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago since 1969. The three-day event, buzzing with over 1 million square feet of exhibition space, focuses on fostering connections and learning opportunities in the interiors industry. The event showcases more than 700 leading companies and attracts nearly 50,000 design professionals.

NeoCon features new products specific to each of the following:

  • Workplace
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Education
  • Public Spaces
  • Government


Top Trends for NeoCon 2015


1. lounge

Majority of the furniture throughout the showrooms trended towards designs reflecting the 1970’s in both the lines of the furniture and the colors. Further, residential furniture styles that embodied comfort and privacy started to creep into the commercial work place, focusing more on creating areas that provide a sense of relaxation and privacy that a person feels at home.

One such example of this “home to office” trend can be seen in the showroom’s lounge areas. The lounge pieces featured were geometrically shaped, yet comfortable and inviting. In addition, sofas and foot rests were also trending to really achieve that “homey” feel in the workplace.

2. floor

Carpet tile systems ruled the flooring category in residential and in the office. While carpet has been a primary floor covering in office spaces for some time, the new trending tile systems put a larger focus custom design. The carpets came in square tiles or planks with a lot of added texture and organic patterns. These tiles and planks could then be arranged however the designer pleased to match the look and feel of a specific room.

Carpet trends:

  • Mix and Match tiles and planks: Different colors, textures and patterns to make new, unique patterns. Allows for owner to choose how they want their tiles or planks arranged.
  • Deconstructed carpet: Backing shows through the raised texture to mimic the look of natural products like wood, stone, and cobblestone streets.
  • Modern floral patterns


3. Felt

Felt was featured in nearly every showroom and proved to serve a variety of purposes, especially in the workplace.

Felt was used for:

  • Desk and room separators
  •  Acoustics
  • Wall decorations and coverings


4. Ottomans

Bright colors and geometric shapes sum up the ottoman trend. Majority of the ottomans were displayed as sets with multiple geometric pieces, which allowed for the individual ottomans to be connected and arranged in a variety of ways.


5. Focus Spaces

Similar to the lounge areas, the focus spaces also provided privacy and comfort in the workplace. Many of the spaces were tall like old phone booths and formed some sort of cocoon around a person’s head to keep the sound in and block outside distractions. Majority were made with bright colored felts and featured comfy chairs and foot rests, once again pushing for that homey feel in the office.


Closing Thoughts

“NeoCon is a great opportunity to not only see new products and finishes, but also to see fresh ideas on how these components can be incorporated into different settings. The experience fuels our creative minds and strengthens our know-how for future projects here at Schmidt Associates.”
– Liam Keesling, Schmidt Associates Interior Designer