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This past week Chicago was abuzz not just from cicadas, but also from all the excitement surrounding Neocon and Fulton Market Design Days. (Okay, so there aren't many cicadas in the city, but they are driving us bonkers elsewhere in Chicagoloand.)

Anyway, I spent a day and a half this week walking the halls of The Merchandise Mart and streets of Fulton Market. Have to admit, I needed a nap when I got back to my home office Tuesday afternoon.

I caught a sales rep yawning in a showroom on Monday afternoon. And some of what I saw at Neocon and Design Days was yawn-worthy.

Because there are only so many ways you can redesign a chair. And when an overstuffed arm chair with no arms wins a Best of Neocon award, you start to wonder if innovation is taking a nap, too.

Celebrating Products & Good Design

But the point of Neocon (and now Design Days) is to celebrate products and good design. So what if it's not a new idea? If its a good design, then it has merit.

Of course, my focus is healthcare and senior living. And while most healthcare and senior living product manufacturers save their new introductions for Healthcare Design and Environments for Aging, there were a few newcomers that won Best of Neocon Awards in the healthcare category:

  • Elara Modular lounge seating from Carolina, an OFS Company.
  • Dais lounge chair from Keilhauer.
  • Light Collection textiles and wallcovering from Momentum (also won a HiP Award).
  • ReMaterial resilient flooring from Patcraft (also won a HiP Award).

Other health and wellness HiP Award-winners:

Absent from this list are past award-winners Kwalu and Wieland. Healthcare did not claim much of a spotlight this year at the three "biggies" -- Steelcase, Herman Miller (where did you go, Nemschoff?), although Haworth created a comprehensive PDF showcasing how its products support a variety of healthcare spaces.

What About Those Chairs?

I found myself interested in seating this year, so I went to see the seating products that won these awards. Elara is a nice expansion of last year's award-winning Elara lounge chair that would work well in a variety of healthcare spaces. (Full transparency: Carolina is one of my clients.)

And while I appreciate the Dais chair's natural, fossil-free materials and nice design, I didn't think it was very comfortable. You don't want to make patients uncomfortable while they are waiting for their treatment.

The clever Meditation Seat is a product originally designed for residential use from a start-up company. At $2,900 a chair, I don't see it being specified in healthcare. Its only use would be in staff respite areas, or perhaps as an alternative office chair (which the company was trying to promote).

The company also claims its design helps ease back pain because it aligns head, shoulders, and hips (with no lumbar support), but there's no research to back that up. And that's another reason you won't see it in staff respite areas. But maybe a high-end spa.

Color You Can Feel

Now I know I saw just a tiny fraction of what Neocon and Design Days had to offer, but one of the best things I saw was British-Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori's textile and wallcovering collection from Momentum (pictured above). This joyful, fun, vibrant collection won the Best of Neocon's highest honor -- Best of Competition.

It reminds us all of the power of color -- as its brochure says, "color you can feel." It may not have a place in healthcare, but I can definitely see it in senior living -- especially if you want to create a modern vibe.

The colorful showroom also won the Best Large Showroom award from IIDA. And (wait for it), Illori's Art on the Mart show made its debut just prior to Neocon. It can be viewed each night starting at 9 p.m. through September 11, 2024.

One Last Thing

With more companies moving out of The Mart and over to Fulton Market (Mohawk and OFS/Carolina will open showrooms there this fall), many are wondering if Neocon is dead.

Neocon is not dead, my friends. I mean, come on, each Mart floor has 200,000 sq. ft. of showroom space. They can't all move to Fulton Market.

And as much as I enjoyed walking around Fulton Market on a balmy summer day (would I have gone there if it had been raining?), there's something nice about being able to "window shop" in The Mart. Some manufacturers also claim that their clients don't want to come to The Mart outside of Neocon, because it's hard to get to and parking is difficult.

Those same issues exist over at Fulton Market. I did hear from a reputable source that the Neocon and Design Days organizers are talking about a more close collaboration, which I think is good, because it worked pretty well this year.

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Photo courtesy of Momentum.

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Philip Light

3 days ago

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Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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