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  • Writer's pictureAlexa Astacio & Samantha Colon

"E"s Favorite Things -- Our NeoCon Experience

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Every year, people wait for Oprah's list of favorite things to drop and some people are lucky enough to actually hear the words, " You get a car! And you get a car!" and well you know ...

While we weren't lucky enough to win a car in Chicago, we did have the opportunity to visit the Merchandise Mart earlier this month. NeoCon 2022 is home to the largest design zone in the world, allowing us to soak in what’s new and upcoming in commercial design. A few trends that were easy to spot: outdoor spaces, acoustic walls, bright colors, privacy booths and screens, and furniture that attempts to break down the wall between the office and home.

DesignMilk also noted that “There was a clear focus on accepting that we don’t know when things will go back to normal or what ‘normal’ will look like when they do – so embrace the in-between."

So, for the time being, we're doing just that in our roles as interior designers and foodservice designers. And, while we can't deliver all of our favorite things from NeoCon to your doorstep (though it would be fabulous if we could), we can at least promise that we'll share some pics and provide a feeling for the incredible experience.

Comfort of Home

While we were walking the show, West Elm and Shaw Contract had a sign in their exhibit and we couldn't have said it better. "A new collection that embraces the feeling of home wherever you are."

Since most people have worked from home for the past couple of years, office spaces are aiming to feel warm, comfortable and cozy. Many of the displays at NeoCon reflected elements to achieve that feeling. Some products used to create resimmercial design include flexible furniture throughout a workspace; rounded corners, which research proves to be more inviting; break areas fully stocked with snacks and recreational games; and fully stocked bars.

Hover over the images below for the manufacturers' name or click to view the website.

Privacy Booths & Screens

Before the pandemic, open floorplans were trending at home and we couldn't get enough of the workplace café. The latter created open spaces with areas to collaborate, refresh, work individually and zones for other purposes too. In this environment, privacy booths provided a space for one-to-one meetings, a quiet place to read and enjoy coffee, etc. Since 2020, privacy booths and screens have served as a safety net for those who are more comfortable working in an enclosed area, but need to be in the office environment.

Snap Cab really hit the mark on this front with its semi-portable unit. In the workplace, employees can focus within a peaceful space while remaining visibly connected to their team. And now they've made some tweaks to the unit for the medical community. It's no wonder the Snap Cab won the Best of NeoCon Gold and the Interior Design HiP Award at NeoCon 2021.

Hover over the images below for the manufacturers' name or click to view the website.

Connecting with Nature

Many offices are using plants more generously because of their positive effects on employee well-being. Certifications like FitWel and Well Building have certainly put a focus on taking care of people in recent years. In this post-pandemic world (can we say that yet?), designers are prioritizing biophilic elements.

In warmer climates, we've started to see a desire to incorporate patios and rooftops into dining seating options. Outdoor culinary concepts are also trending, including outside kitchens, kiosks, mobile carts and food trucks. Companies at NeoCon continue to amplify this trend by providing outdoor seating options and accessories. And, we love that Ghent is taking the white board outside ... and it even has a sun shade! Remember in school how excited you were to do a lesson outdoors?! Talk about leveling up.

Of course, we continue to see trends like living walls and plants being utilized to bring nature indoors. Living walls now come in a variety of shapes and colors, incorporate logos and neon lighting, and other customizable options. Fabric Images connected with nature using superior color imaging and backlight creating a realistic 3-dimensional clarity to the mountain scape pictured below.

Hover over the images below for the manufacturers' name or click to view the website.

Bold Colors & Patterns

Innovative corporate design experts at NeoCon emphasized the newfound trend of bright, bold colors. The idea is to make office spaces feel more pleasant and cheerful, and companies applied color pops on the floor, ceiling and everything in between.

Hover over the images below for the manufacturers' name or click to view the website.

Other Great Finds

Instagrammable spaces, fun messaging, acoustic materials, sustainable products and whiteboards in all shapes, sizes and locations were found throughout NeoCon. We're also excited that terrazzo is back!

Between The Mart and Fulton Market, it was an incredible show. It was interesting to see how brands have adapted to the new modes of working and now that we're back, we're working on new ways to integrate these trends into commercial foodservice design too. Since its only been a week or two, you'll have to watch our Instagram account or future blog posts for those details.


Samantha Ponzio Colon (on left), NCIDQ, is an elite|studio e Project Designer. Her previous experience focuses on restaurant and hospitality design, having worked as a draftsperson and department manager.

Alexa Astacio (on right) is a Project Designer with a focus on interior design at elite|studio e. Previously, Alexa was a Junior Designer at a New York architect firm.


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