More than 50,000 architecture and design professionals hit the ground running at NeoCon 2017, eager to discover the floor covering solutions that will tick all their boxes: beauty, sustainability and performance.

“They want beauty and performance and they want to be sure it’s going to be good for corporate or education or wherever they are coming from,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations, Karndean Designflooring. “We decided to do two things: show what’s new, why we are good for corporate, retail, etcetera—show case studies—and talk about the storyline about why our products fit into those categories and what problem we are solving for them. It starts with if it looks good and then goes on to performance.”

NeoCon, held at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, has further established itself as the commercial design’s launch pad for forward thinking with 2017 attendance up 7% over 2016. The Mart’s continued investments in new amenities and modernizations helped complement the show experience. Upgrades were apparent from the ground up as NeoCon attendees enjoyed The Mart’s brand new 2nd floor lounge, Marshall’s Landing, designed by A+I Architects and operated by DMK Restaurant Group and a new venue for keynotes and seminars on the 19th Floor.

Tarkett presented in a space that was more than two times larger than its previous showroom and launched more than 50 introductions. The expansion allowed for all the brands to be showcased in one space, including Johnsonite, Tandus Centiva, Desso, Benyon, Renner, FieldTurf, and Tarkett Sports.

“This year we are trying to show our product more in conjunction with one another and how they work together well, from a resilient standpoint, soft surface, accessories and wall base,” said Traci Kloos, senior design manager for Tarkett. “It helps to create a unique system that makes us a one-stop flooring solution for everyone.”

Mohawk Group debuted its new brand positioning, Believe in Better, which Karen Mendelsohn, senior vice president of marketing, said the company is using to establish its focus on specific segments and the end-user needs. The overall positioning talks about believing in better design, innovation, sustainability, operational excellence and project solutions.

“We are starting with an early focus on office, corporate and healthcare,” Mendelsohn said. “We were fairly well advanced in hospitality with the Durkan brand, and we had a separate sales team for there, so we saw the biggest opportunity to start was in health care and corporate office. We are also looking to get into education and K-12. We do believe in our world, size matters, but what really matters more is our ability to leverage and invest in the future.”

The company’s investments were noted with the new Lineate resilient tile collection, which won the NeoCon Gold award in hard surface; Lichen, which won a NeoCon Gold award in modular carpet; and the its Visual Interactive Studio (VIS), which provides 2D floor perspectives, 3D room scenes, and high-resolution renderings of designer’s unique flooring creations. The software also took home NeoCon Gold award.

“The company’s investments in capacity, capability, size and scale are paying off for us in a large way,” Mendelsohn noted.

Novalis Innovative Flooring showcased its AVA Commercial Specified luxury vinyl tile (LVT) for the first time at NeoCon. The entire line of AVA flooring was on display at the new Spartan Surfaces Chicago Showroom, a sales and consulting group specializing in commercial flooring that represents the AVA line.

“We are very excited to be a participant in this event experience and, at the same time, to be part of Spartan Surfaces’ grand opening of their showroom space,” said John Wu, president and CEO of Novalis. “We introduced AVA almost three years ago and have come a long way in a very short time to reach this important milestone.”

Commercial interiors continue to take cues biophilic design, incorporating the feeling of raw materials, natural light, vegetation, scenic views and other outdoor experiences into the modern built environment. Research continues to show that this makes employees happier and more productive. Several manufacturers at NeoCon incorporated these design principles into their flooring introductions.

“We hired a consultant to ask what designers and architects look for when they incorporate biophilic design ideas into the built environment,” said Russ Rogg, president of Metroflor. The company created product cards that describe how Metroflor’s products can be used by an architect or designer in those environments influenced by biophilic design.

“At this stage, biophlia and biophilic design is extremely new,” Rogg said. “We are not getting tremendous number of inquiries, but I might liken it to the sustainability journey, which all of us as product manufacturers are on. Ten years ago, it wasn’t in everyone’s lexicon as it is today. Biophlic design is in those beginning stages.”

The Aspecta One Ornamental LVT by Metroflor collection consists of three unique patterns that architects and designers can apply where they need exceptional interest and accent, without being overwhelmed by going through the entire custom design process. Building upon the existing Aspecta One design portfolio, the three overlay motifs—Damask, Masquerade, and Malta—evoke ancient cultures, such as Oriental, Arabic and sub-Saharan, or architecture styles like Art Nouveau and Rococo.

“Biophilic design establishes a new framework for satisfying the need to experience nature in the built environment,” said Robert Langstaff, Metroflor director of design. “At Metroflor, we are applying many of its principles to extend our design vision and capability within LVT.”

Interface’s Global Change collection reflects the human need to seek out nature and brings these qualities to commercial interiors. “Designers are no longer designing for the building owner; they are designing for the people who are living and working in that space,” said Kari Pei, product designer for Interface. “They need to have options and flexibility and they need to have ways to tell the user how to behave in multiple areas within one space.”

Patcraft’s newest carpet collection, Isle of Skye, incorporates visuals inspired by the rugged beauty of Scotland’s most northwest island.

“Natural design certainly guided our reliance on these calming, organic patterns, colors, and designs that help create a more comfortable environment, one that aids in decreasing stress in order for our end-users to perform and truly thrive within their space,” said Patcraft Designer Ron Powell.

Inspired by the idea of nature’s carpet, the Lichen Collection by Mohawk Group is a new modular plank carpet system also inspired by biophilic design and sustainability. Designed in collaboration with Jason McLennan of McLennan Design, Lichen is the first flooring product to achieve the International Living Future Institute’s Living Product Challenge Petal certification.

Many product designers shared tales of nature treks as the inspiration for their new launches. Portland Project LVT by Mannington, for example, began with a road trip to Oregon. The design team immersed themselves in the beauty of the region, exploring the rugged coastline and trekking through mountains and forests. The spirit of the trip is captured in the collection’s four unique styles: two coordinating abstract patterns and two wood grains, all offered in 6”x48” planks.

Maria Scott, director of design for Shaw Hospitality Group, said designers took trips to Olympic National Park in Washington and Zion National Park in Utah to develop the Off the Grid collection.

“It was an awesome experience being off the grid, able to discover and reconnect with nature,” Scott said. “We took images of everything, taking in the small details that you could never see anywhere else, and translated these into the designs.”

Todd van der Kruik, vice president of design for Bentley, said he visited places like Ojai, Calif., to find his muse. “As we watch the continued expansion of the edge effect that exists between work and home, we sought to figure out how to help seamlessly support those traveling in between—to encourage diversity, growth and evolution by connecting our environments in new ways. The Outskirts Collection explores these boundaries even further.”

“Every year at NeoCon, our showroom transformation triggers conversations about how our brand is evolving, and about how our customers are designing commercial interiors,” added Sherry Dreger, vice president of marketing for Bentley. “This year, think Anthropologie for the office—a blend of life at work and home without compromising on style, comfort or culture.”

A Few More Flooring Advances Spotted at the Show:

  • Armstrong Flooring’s Continuum Solutions product portfolio showcased the company’s infinite design possibilities across a range of products and platforms. The introduction of ColorArt Medintech and Medintone with Diamond 10 Technology coating, ideal for healthcare and education, caught attention with new trending colors like violet mist, water blue and gold dust.
  • Design inspiration for Frame & Flashback, a 18”x36” modular carpet collection by Bolyu, originated with the Dutchman Piet Mondrian. Influenced by the Cubism art movement, geometric squares were created, some holding bright primary colors.
  • Shannon Specialty Floors unveiled new high-performance design (HPD) products under the Teknoflor brand at NeoCon, two new resilient sheet goods, Forestscapes HPD and Urbanscapes HPD, and a new homogeneous sheet, Medscapes HPD.
  • Mannington Commercial introduced the Paper Collection, a low-pile, modular carpet collection was created by the Mannington Design Studio in collaboration with the HOK Product Design team. Manufactured with Aquafil Econyl fiber, the product is marketed at a more affordable price point for the A&D market.
  • The influence of the artisanal and authenticity in design continues. J+J Flooring Group’s new modular collation, Form + Finish, is inspired by pottery, and can be paired with J+J’s new LVT products for multi-use spaces.

NeoCon 2018, the 50th anniversary event, will be held from June 11-13 at the Mart. NeoCon East returns to Philadelphia for the 15th annual edition, November 15-16, 2017, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Best of NeoCon

Carpet: Modular
Mohawk for Lichen
Silver: Shaw Contact for Emergence
Innovation: Bolyu for Collaborative Collection

Carpet: Broadloom
: Tarkett for Apace
Silver: Bentley Mills for The Outskirts Collection

Carpet Fiber
Aquafil for Econyl Pure
Silver: Bolyu for ContinuousColor

Hard Surface
Mohawk for Lineate
Silver: Patcraft for Subtractive Layers

Healthcare Flooring
Tarkett for Ensemble Healthcare collection

Software Application
Mohawk for Visual Interactive Studio

Editors’ Choice
Bentley Mills for Night Vision