By Rob Kirkbride
So it's Wednesday at NeoCon, you are sick of looking at the same old furniture, and you want to see some cool stuff on the day when it is actually copacetic to do so. With hundreds of showrooms to choose from, where does a curious industry insider start?
Worry no more. The Business of Furniture team was hard at work over the last two days scouring showrooms high and low for the coolest, most innovative and generally awesome products at NeoCon. To be sure, this is not a comprehensive list (so don't phone Bellow Press complaining that your product didn't make it), but it gives you a few places to start.
Before you yawn when we mention a plastic shell chair in this list, take a peek at KI's new Doni chair, designed by Giancarlo Piretti. Piretti does it again for KI, creating one of the most comfortable, cool chairs in its category. We like it because it is available as a guest, multi-purpose stacker, tandem, fixed or task seat. Designers will love it because it combines two colors through a two-shot injection molding process (think school or corporate colors). The flex in the back and well-designed seat pan make it a damn comfortable sit. See it at 1181.
Many companies have launched lounge furniture designed to add a little privacy to the open office, with varying levels of success, Allsteel has a hit on its hands with Reflect, a lounge product that adds a bit of style to the winged-back privacy lounge category. You can't see one of the best features of Reflect, the swivel base that allows you to turn away from noisy situations in an office or swivel toward your coworker to create a semi-private meeting area. It is a beautiful oasis of calm in chaotic offices. Find Reflect at 1120.
Mid-century modern furniture is all the rage, but takes expertise to get it right. Jasper Furniture returns to its roots with its new Bourne collection of mid-century inspired furniture. Jasper nailed it with Bourne, a collection of seating, tables and credenzas that would make the Mad Men proud. The company's attention to detail and manufacturing know-how shines through as well. it has some of the most beautiful lines of any product launched at NeoCon 2016. Check out Bourne at 3-111.
It was a big year for really good seating at NeoCon 2016. Haworth's Fern is worth a look, but we like OM's new Truly. chair. It is the company's best chair to date and marks a real turning point for OM because it adds some real design chops to a company that already makes really good seating products. More than two years in the making, Truly. is truly good and reason enough to visit them on the seventh floor. We think OM could be another in a growing line of great California-based office furniture makers. OM is in booth 7-4072.
Neutral Posture is another company that continues to redefine its seating designs. Its new Icon seat is another step in the right direction for this scrappy Texas firm. Most importantly, Icon is a great sit, comfortable, stylish and robustly built. Designers are going to love the ability to remove the seat cover and replace it when it wears out or the color or pattern gets passe. The seat cushion simply pops off, and the cover can be removed and replaced in minutes. Brilliant. See Icon at 10-153.
We are thrilled that Humanscale went ahead with its Diffrient lounge concept, a spectacular follow-up on Niels Diffrient's classic Jefferson chair. A lot has been made about the benefits of standing while working, but Diffrient and Humanscale also know about the health benefits of working in a lounge position. The new Diffrient lounge is a prototype, created from the sketches and research from the late designer's studio. It is a remarkable tribute to Diffrient who is sorely missed by the industry. Check out Diffrient's legacy at 351.
The big guys have some interesting products, too. We like how Steelcases's B-Free Lounge rounds out its offering of personal workspaces and lounge products. It is one of Steelcase's most successful European products, and it is finally coming to the North American market. The B-Free Lounge is a simple product that has two screens and cubes to sit on. The pieces all fit together with magnets, making it easy to configure. Note to industry: It doesn't have to be complicated to be great. B-Free can be seen at 300.
Height-adjustable tables are a dime a dozen, so we were surprised to find Focus from SurfaceWorks in the mix at NeoCon. What makes it special is a soft urethane edge that doesn't cut into your arms when resting them against the table and a kidney-shape front surface. It also has a cool raised lip on the rear of the table that prevents stuff from falling or sliding off the back. Sometimes it's the little things that count. Focus is at 7-4093.
Let's head across the street for a stop at National to see its radically different Kozmic collection of lounge-like furniture. Good for airports, higher education settings or cool corporate offices, Kozmic makes the cut because of its modularity, unique shape and variety of applications in which it shines. It's the kind of product you are going to love or hate, but National deserves credit for taking a chance on such a different product. Kudos to National for Kozmic. National's showroom is at 325 N. Wells St., Suite 110.
We will stay across the street with Canopy from Kimball. Canopy is a simple, curved divider that makes life on a bench or height-adjustable table a whole lot more comfortable and beautiful. And it sure beats looking at or listening to your noisy neighbor across the way. We like the way it uses a curve at the top, which gives the worker just a bit more privacy than they would find in a traditional open office. Canopy can be seen at 325 N. Wells St., Suite 100.