I wish I could make a definitive connection between the health of the contract furnishings industry and the economy at large, because the mood at NEOCon is up. Way up. Of course, as the grandaddy of all modern trade shows [now in its 43rd year], it’s unabashedly about sales, so there’s a pervasive atmosphere of positivist hucksterism.
But the good vibes are hardly without foundation. The Business Industry Furnishings Manufacturers Association recently released figures that suggest an industry wide rebound, following several years of declining numbers. BIFMA projects worldwide sales of about $11.4 billion for 2011 and $12.6 billion for 2012.
Irrespective of the industry’s trajectory, NEOCon remains a major spectacle; manufacturers exploit the opportunity to show off in a big way.
I’m always impressed when a showroom space is really transformed for the show. And while I’m not exactly sure how the Antron carpet line is expressed by its installation [which showroom personnel told me was designed by architects Perkins & Will],
I think part of the point of NEOCon is making a big statement, and the ice-cave effect at the Antron space certainly makes a statement. People will remember it, although it’s unclear whether they’ll actually associate it with the brand.
Few in the industry make a statement as well as the Maharam textile concern, which has made itself distinct by visually merchandizing its Merchandise Mart space like an art gallery. It’s a technique that advances Maharam’s brand identity as purveyors of cerebral high-design, so displaying the goods in ceiling-to-floor swaths reinforces the notion that each textile is a unique work of art.
although an important part of his work’s impact is its dimensionality, so you really sense the flatness of the image in the wall panel. The picture on the company website [below] makes it look a lot better.
Luna Textile’s NEOCon gesture has typically involved making a non-furnishings object out of its upholstery fabrics, — trenchcoats were last year, umbrellas I think the year before. This year: briefcases.
Interface Flor mounted a giant chalkboard outside its space — a bricks and mortar version of a Facebook “wall” — and encouraged attendees to “make their mark” thereupon; many attendees gleefully complied.
More than anything, NEOCon is about new product introductions. Some items come to the show already in full production mode; others are still at the prototype stage, and they’re often the most fun. I really liked this “Concierge Desk,” from Loewenstein. Made of molded Corian and LED lighting with remote-controlled color effects, it’s intended to look “futuristic.”
It’s in a vignette that includes Loewenstein’s groovy Orb chair. What’s hard to see in the photo is that a multi-function touch-screen device is inset in the top. You really expect a girl wearing a Mondrian mini-dress and go-go boots to arrive and help you make a dinner reservation.
I like the fact that Herman Miller is aware of its place in design history. This year it assembled an exhibit that spotlights its role in the past half century of seating design,
with materials suggesting the Eameses and their plywood splint inspiration through Mad Men era office items and various Aeron iterations, culminating — for now — with the Sayl designs of Yves Behar, who was live and in person to happily shill some of his product.