by Connie Cook, Senior Product Manager

Chicago’s Merchandise Mart recently hosted NeoCon, an annual exhibit for the commercial design world. This year marked the 50th anniversary of this gathering of manufacturers, architects, designers, design organizations and media. Iconic exhibitors included Herman Miller, Knoll, Mohawk, Sherwin Williams, among others. While the primary focus of this show is commercial (i.e.: office) design, the Mart’s residential showroom tenants also rolled out their welcome to the over 50,000 professionals who attended the show.

The Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 

Most notable this year was the undeniable influence of the Millennial generation on office environments. Millennials are uncompromising in their demand that the lines are blurred between work and play, professional and personal. As a result, office furnishings manufacturers are incorporating more home-like and nature-influenced aesthetics into office environments, including furnishings, décor, flooring, and finishes.


Whether your frameshop produces custom framing or contract framing, connect to these trends by incorporating nature-influenced artwork into your framing designs like the examples shown here.

Nature Themes

Bringing the outdoors into office environments was a prominent theme at this year’s NeoCon. Whether incorporating botanical prints into cubicle wall fabrics or using actual live plants as wall décor, nature is making a big presence in office environments. The result is a calming connection to the outside world, and even some air quality benefits from the oxygen producing plants.

Left to Right: Small plants appear to float on a glass room divider, Botanical print cubicle walls, Living office wall

Triptych from Crescent’s conference room featuring Couture 1304 Gray Pebbles top mats

Human Elements

Another design theme that was evident at NeoCon was the celebration of human interactions within a working space. Office furnishings designed for privacy and creature comforts appeared in nature-influenced colors. Office wall décor featuring bold words, “DO YOU” or larger than life finger prints acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of the individual. Even the showroom signage from the Herman Miller showroom emphasized this trend by incorporating wood cut prints that celebrate the human character.

According to Ryan Jenkins in a recent article, “5 Ways Millennials Are Redefining Work-Life Balance” (February 2018), Millennials are looking not necessarily for what was previously called “Work-Life Balance”. Instead, they seek Work-Life Integration. They check their work email and messages while they are at home and want fluid interaction with their professional and personal lives without rigid boundaries. Creating work environments that acknowledge this is just what this generation demands.

Top mat features Crescent’s Moorman Shimmer Wovens in 7312 Mint Julep


After nearly a decade of prominent gray, greige and neutral office color trends, NeoCon showed us that intense, lively and saturated colors are taking center stage. The hues that were shown still reflected the influence of nature. Woodsy colors predominated in deep shades of green, blue and browns. Yellows and yellow greens were also strong, as were lively pops of bright colors. Apholstery and fabrics incoporated the human influence through heathered finishes and weaves that harkened to handmade goods.

Top mat features Crescent’s 8 ply 229598 Before Dark

About the Merchandise Mart

Opening in 1930, the Merchandise Mart was at the time the largest building in the world. With 4,000,000 square feet of floor space, the building was so large that until 2008 even had its own zip code. Built in the art deco style, it was built by Marshall Field & Company and designed by the architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. The building was owned by the Kennedy family for over half a century, but is currently owned by Vornado Realty Trust. In addition to the architectural and interior design design vendors that comprise the bulk of the building’s tenants, Motorola, Illiniois Institute of Art and a plethora of retail shops can be found at this historic address (

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