The full-throttle approach to open-plan offices is tempering as designers address occupant demands for areas of seclusion as well as collaboration. Exhibitors at this year’s NeoCon, which took place June 9 to June 11 in Chicago, put unique spins on this need by showcasing potential solutions in everything from lightweight and re-configurable partitions to introvert-friendly hideaways. But they didn't stop there. While walking the Merchandise Mart floors, we also spotted savvy updates to office staples that are sure to stir office envy.
Known for its quirky takes on conventional seating, desks, and partitions, BuzziSpace crafted a table with ample span and width for use as collaborative surface for solo work, group meetings, and even lunch. By in-house designer Alain Gilles, BuzziPicNic takes the rustic form of a picnic table but is wired for integrated power. It can be paired with the company’s benches and desktop partitions to segment the space.
<5_MY Chair, Coalesse
Made entirely of carbon fiber and weighing less than 5 lbs. each, Hong Kong–based designer Michael Young’s aptly named <5_MY Chair for Coalesse can support up to 300 lbs. The unit is made of inflated casings that are wrapped in carbon fibers tied together to join parts such as the legs, seat, and curved back as a seemingly monolithic piece. Each chair can be stacked with up to four others and is offered in a variety of custom colors and finishes.
Plank, Joel Berman Glass Studios
Designer Joel Berman recreates the grains of a rough-hewn cedar plank in a smooth, embossed glass finish with Plank. Offered in dimensions of up to 5’ wide by 10’ tall, the clear, kiln-formed glass is tempered for durability. “We wanted to do something based on nature,” Berman says. “We wanted to do something original. We really wanted to capture the essence of the grain.” The glass is also offered in etched whitewash and back-painted versions.
Magnetic edges enable the quick and tool-free rearrangement of Teknion’s LiteWall partitions as an office’s space needs change. The 48”-wide panels are offered in heights of 48”, 51”, and 66” with mesh upholstery and a mica-finished frame.
Openest Collection, Haworth
Comprising angled partitions, soft seating, and work-friendly surfaces, Haworth’s Openest Collection by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola was created with collaborative and re-configurable spaces in mind. Three screen heights, symmetric and asymmetric sofas, and round coffee and side tables are included.
Human Nature, Interface
The latest from the sustainable carpet manufacturer is made entirely of post-consumer recycled nylon yarn and is crafted in patterns and textures that emulate natural floor coverings, such as grass fields, garden paths, forest floors, and worn wood. Human Nature comes in Interface’s new 25cm-long-by-1-cm-wide plank and its designs are meant to be mixed and matched to delineate space and provide subtle texture underfoot.
Vessel, Todd Bracher for 3M Architectural Markets
Designer Todd Bracher created Vessel for 3M Architectural Markets to add visual interest above restaurant tables and bars without hotspots or shadows. Offered as a pendant or a sconce, the luminaire features quartz-crystal cylinders that wrap and diffuse the 3500K or 2700K LED light. Optics, available in 2.4”, 6.6”, and 11.9” lengths, can be used within the same installation. In black, bronze, gold, white, wine, and clear anodized finishes.
One factor limiting the reconfiguration of open-plan offices is the location and management of power and data lines. KI’s Trellis rail system is designed to give occupants flexibility when using freestanding and fixed and height-adjustable tables. The power bar’s steel frame is fitted with a 10-wire plug-and-play system, which can accommodate straight runs and 120-degree layouts.
With Remix, Knoll melds the ergonomics of a technical desk chair with the aesthetics of an upholstered one. A flexible frame and mesh back offer lumbar and shoulder support while a contoured seat provides comfort. Back heights of 36.5” and 45” are offered. The mesh backing comes in gray and black as well as yellow.
This modular sofa system combines smooth lines and warm colorways to meet the myriad seating needs of contract interiors from offices to restaurants. Zinta, which was introduced earlier this year in Milan, can be angled and snaked through a space. The sofa’s wood-veneer frame comes in natural, brown, and dark oak with dark gray aluminum legs and a variety of cushion colors and fabrics.
Susan Cain Quiet Spaces, Steelcase
The inherent bustle of open-plan offices was once thought to inspire workers and boost their output, but subsequent research has been less definitive, with results varying by employee personality and task. One solution to balance activity with solitude comes from Steelcase. The Quiet Spaces collection was designed in collaboration with author and self-proclaimed introvert Susan Cain. It features five modules (Flow, shown) that incorporate seating, surfaces, and lighting to create a subdued, private work environment.