Story at a glance:

  • The office furniture of the future is more than comfortable—it’s clean.
  • Sustainability is growing in demand across commercial design.

A renewed energy and sense of excitement dominated this year’s NeoCon at Merch Mart in Chicago. Designers from all over met June 13 to 15 to show off fresh designs and discover the latest office furniture and more.

Among the trends, we noticed a definite emphasis on the “future office,” as designers both seek to answer questions like: What makes an office worth coming to? And what makes people feel safe?

Here are some of our favorite launches and modern office furniture designs from this year’s fair.

Upholstery, Designtex

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Bloomer upholstery. Photo courtesy of Designtex

Texture, style, color—these elements have a profound effect on a person’s mood in a space, says Susan Lyons, president of Designtex. “We thought, ‘We’ve had a tough couple of years, wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate?’” she says of their mission and the launch of their newest products.

Almost every Designtex textile shown at NeoCon this year also had a profile that allows it to be cleaned and disinfected. “We try to blend beauty and utility into everything we do,” Lyons says.

Products like Bloomer, pictured, are Red List-free and WELL-certified, with no antimicrobials and no flame retardants. Bloomer has also been tested for up 40 hours of lightfastness, meaning the fabric held up to 40 hours of direct UV light with no signs of fading.

Path Chair, Humanscale

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Humanscale calls its Path Chair the “most sustainable and ergonomically advanced task chair for every body.” Photo courtesy of Humanscale

More than 20 pounds of recycled content—including ocean plastic, post-consumer plastic bottles, and post-industrial material—combine to make the new Path Chair, designed by Todd Bracher and the Humanscale Design Studio.

This incredibly sustainable chair uses the sitter’s weight and form to adjust perfectly without the need to operate complicated manual controls.

“Humanscale was founded on the idea that design has the potential to bring joy, health, and comfort to people’s lives,” says Humanscale Founder and CEO Bob King. “Design must also play a critical role in reversing the damage done to our environment. The Path chair represents ‘a new path forward’ in design, prioritizing the manufacturing of products that not only create comfortable, beautiful working environments, but also push forward our use of sustainable materials and manufacturing techniques.”

Path joins 25 other products in the Humanscale line that go beyond net zero and are certified climate-positive.

Lockers, Ethnicraft

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The new “Stairs” lockers from Ethnicraft, Oak Bok Cowork desk, and Oak Bok dining chairs. Photo courtesy of Ethnicraft

Ethnicraft has been making timeless wood designs for 25 years, and the new “Stairs” lockers build on this mission of solid wood beauty. The Stairs lockers have an elegance you don’t often see with storage, and they are made of oak wood using geometric shapes.

“I love the way light hits them,” says Anne-Marie Earl, communication specialist for Ethnicraft.

This setup is perfect for a busy office or transient coworking space, complete with the Oak Bok Cowork desk. This beautiful desk (more of a table, really) is designed by Alain van Havre. Its wide design allows two people to sit opposite each other with plenty of room. Three sets of power outlets are integrated into the design, so you don’t have to worry about messy cables.

Modular Carpet, Mannington Commercial

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The Case for Silence Collection was designed for use in severe environments with rigorous foot traffic. Photo courtesy of Mannington Commercial

Launched late last year, the Case for Silence is a modular carpet collection that offers two styles to coordinate and support calm spaces. “Our world is a constant barrage of sensory input, which never allows us to be truly still and to let our minds roam,” says Roby Isaac, vice president of commercial design at Mannington Commercial. “Our hope is that the busy spaces in which we work and learn can still help us find a nurturing balance.”

One of the members of the Mannington Design Studio designed the carpet after an experience in an anechoic chamber, one of the quietest places on earth with a negative decibel sound rating. The designer sat in darkness and silence for 20 minutes, which compelled the brain to seek out any sensory input it could find. The designer’s senses were amplified then, and she began hearing a soft static humming.

Both products are available in 12-inch-by-36-inch tiles and seven neutral colors designed to represent the solitary darkness and quiet essence of the chamber. The collection includes a limited lifetime wear and backing warranty, limited 15-year stain resistance warranty, and limited 15-year cleach resistance warranty.

Touchless Hand Sanitizing Dispenser, Vaask

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Vask is Norwegian for “wash.” Photo courtesy of Vaask

Goodbye junky, haphazard hand sanitizing stations. Hello, sleek inviting design. Vaask recently introduced this permanent touchless hand sanitizing fixture with a mission to make high-end spaces like restaurants even cleaner, but the team we talked to at NeoCon said they’re finding a demand for this everywhere—from offices to health care.

Vaask’s sleek construction and engineering (the design is from the same team who brought you Big Ass Fans) includes eye-catching customizable LEDs, automatic refill alerts, and precise hand detection. It’s made with cast aluminum and backed by a five-year warranty. Choose from custom powder coating and plated metal and graphic options.