The annual Design Days and NeoCon gatherings always provide a unique glimpse into the future for designers, showcasing new trends and innovations in the industry, and last month’s events were no exception. This year marked a departure from the traditional setting at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, with an increasing number of manufacturers moving to the vibrant Fulton Market area. With this shift, designers adapted their approach to the events and split their time between the two locations, creating an inspiring and diverse experience.
Although the displays were spread out in 2023, emerging trends were clear throughout the two locations. From colors and materials to themes and values, similarities stood out between showrooms, indicating design evolutions to keep an eye on as the year progresses.
Drawing from Nature
There was a clear departure from the saturated jewel tones seen in previous years. Instead, designers embraced bright, natural, and airy themes. Monochrome and white palettes became the popular choice alongside earth tones, including desert-inspired hues and warm woods. Aligning with the overall trend of light and fresh environments, textures took precedence over large patterns. A bit of a surprise among the minimalistic themes, however — purples showed up frequently, particularly mauve, along with clay and pink tones.
Matte black finishes remained a favorite, providing a versatile base for various design elements, while smoked glass and natural materials like stone gained prominence, adding a touch of elegance and connection to nature.
Flexible Work Environments
With a focus on bringing employees back to the workplace, we saw lots of emphasis on enticing workers by mimicking some of the comforts of home, including various amenities like access to outdoor space and private offices that offered multi-purpose functionality.
The trends of mobility and adaptability sustained their dominance, with mobile dividers, markerboards, and adjustable height stations on casters featuring prominently. Dual-purpose spaces that could transform from offices to meeting rooms were also prevalent, emphasizing the importance of versatility. Additionally, the introduction of mobile batteries for powering devices showcased a potential shift toward more untethered power sources in the future.
Sustainability, Wellness, and Equity
An emphasis on lifecycle assessments, the use of recycled materials like PET, and take-back programs called continued attention to sustainability during the events. However, the challenge of sourcing products locally to reduce carbon footprints remains. Manufacturers’ efforts to achieve carbon neutrality through offsetting were acknowledged, but the industry must still strive for inherent carbon neutrality without relying solely on offsets.
This year also brought greater consideration for both wellness and equity. On the forefront were spaces that promoted decompression and respite, reflecting a conscious effort to address the wellbeing of employees returning to in-person work. While there was an increase in highlighting BIPOC artists, planning for neurodiversity, and including accessibility features, there’s still room for improvement to make sure that representation and inclusion are priorities in design. A display of accessible private pods for the workplace was particularly exciting, showcasing a thoughtful approach to meeting the needs of all individuals.
In an ever-evolving industry where designers are exploring inventive solutions to craft spaces that blend functionality and aesthetics, the 2023 Design Days and NeoCon events showcased exciting new innovations. It will be interesting to watch the trends as they progress and explore how they can support a more sustainable, equitable, and creative future. The BWBR Interior Design team is excited to explore how these developments can work for our clients!