NeoCon Top 10: Our Favorite New Contract Seating Pieces

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

A difficult task though it was, we whittled down our favorite seating products of NeoCon 2017 to 10 that we think will be big hits with their smart designs, functionality and versatility. Each selection also demonstrates that the contract trends of the last several years — residential crossover, softer palettes and freestanding privacy solutions — are still dominating the industry as we look for ways to make the workplace more hospitable, flexible and amenable to individual work styles. (Check out our previous NeoCon reports on Flooring and Finishes, Privacy and Acoustics, Tech and Specialtyand Furniture.)

Allseating: Lyss

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Allseating tapped some legendary product designers to create new collections that were launched at this year’s NeoCon. Among them, Carl Gustav Magnusson created this seating line with a sophisticated modern silhouette that is universal enough to go into a lounge, library, lobby or boardroom. The body consists of a white outer shell and contrasting, gray inner shell with a curved cutout in the back punching through both layers, while the base comes in a range of styles: four-prong guest, five-prong caster with or without swivel, wood base guest, four-prong glide or wood glide. The shell can also be fully or partially upholstered.

Allsteel: Vicinity

Part of the manufacturer’s Gather collection, Vicinity is a line of seating and tables with a residential bent perfect for cafés, common zones and multipurpose spaces in the office as well as in hospitality settings. A subtly dipping seat and clean minimalist form defines all of the seating models, which include lounge and stacking side chairs as well as counter- and bar-height stools. Our favorite is the generously proportioned lounge chair, which can be fully or partially upholstered; its shell is available in seven veneer options such as walnut, natural or gray rift oak and beech.

We want to take a moment to point out other Allsteel news, in case you haven’t heard: The manufacturer announced during the show an exclusive partnership with beloved contemporary Danish brand Normann Copenhagen. Available for the first time to the American contract market through this partnership, Normann Copenhagen pieces were spotted mingling with Allsteel-manufactured products in the Chicago showroom. These included the ever-popular and iconic Form chair, which comes with solid-wood or metal legs and in armchair, side chair, rocker or stool models.

Arper: Cila

Layers of cloth enveloping the body informed this lightweight side chair’s shell: A gently arched back cascades at the sides to embrace the sitter without introducing full-height arms. The result is an easy design well-suited to both residential and contract settings and in a variety of applications from dining to working. Cila’s plastic shell is available in six colors with or without a seat pad or fully upholstered on the shell interior, while the base is available as metal or wooden legs or a metal sled or caster base.

Davis Furniture: Sachet and Soft Privacy

Design duo Jehs+Laub created several handsome pieces for Davis that launched at this year’s show, among them, the sophisticated Sachet. This upholstered armchair sports classic stitch details that give it a soft appearance, yet its structured shell imbues it with a modern edge. Available in mid- or low-back heights, Sachet can be specified with one of five base options: four wood legs, four metal legs, five-star caster base, four-prong caster base or wire base.

Meanwhile, Soft Privacy is Jehs+Laub’s response to the open-plan workplace’s pleas for privacy solutions. In essence, it’s a lounge chair with a high back and sides seamlessly rising from a tapered base. This tufted partition–like back transforms the lounge chair into a quiet alcove for one. But the chairs can also be clustered in groups, facing each other, to convert any setting into a semiprivate meeting zone. The chair is also ideal for university and hospitality environments.

HBF: Kanso

Interior designers and architects have long associated HBF with expertly crafted transitional wood furniture that has a distinctly American (and sometimes dated) aesthetic — but not anymore. Under new leadership, the brand has transformed and this was the talk of NeoCon among all the design professionals. Some of the changes were brought about by tapping a younger generation of both established and emerging designers to develop fresh new offerings more in tune with international trends. Nao Tamura, for instance, drew on her Japanese heritage when designing the Kanso series. Meaning “simplicity” in Japanese, Kanso presents a minimalist aesthetic with visual lightness yet versatility: Its customizable design of upholstered seating benches and integrated supportive elements adapts to every user’s posture, thus morphing into a comfy lounge spot, meeting area or work perch in an instant. Upholstery is offered in a variety of textiles, while the legs are available in black, white or light gray powder coat or polished chrome, satin chrome or antique bronze.

Herman Miller: Colourform Sofa Group

Although this really debuted during Milan design week, Colourform made its U.S. debut at NeoCon. Designed by Amsterdam-based studio — and color, pattern and texture extraordinaire — Scholten & Baijings, this lounge-sofa collection features simple forms, clean lines, a soft palette and a touch of whimsy in the way the arms recall textiles draped over an edge. Models include two- and three-seat sofas (armless also available), a club chair, ottoman, bench, sectional and S-shaped tête-à-tête piece.

Koleksiyon: Boccaporto

While a lot of privacy booth–style furniture is already available on the market, not all of them are equal in providing conveniences for work use. Boccaporto is getting this right, though, with not only a sound-dampening hood, but also integrated lighting neatly concealed within a niche behind the seat back. Power outlets are also placed there as opposed to below the seat like many similar pods, which might perhaps reduce accidental device drops or unplugging. Boccaporto is suitable for workplaces, but also libraries and universities, airports and other open interior environments where a quiet space is desired.

Steelcase: Umami

Boasting ultimate flexibility for changing needs, Umami (also shown at top) is a lounge system of modular components that can lock together to form different environments — from booths to open lounges — then unlock for easy reconfiguration. At its heart is the sculpted, beautifully contoured upholstered seating, which can be specified in a variety of textiles and colors and arranged in straight, L and U shapes. Other components include tables, privacy screens in two heights and platforms.

Vitra: Pacific Chair

Celebrated London-based designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby crossed the pond to attend NeoCon and officially launch their Pacific chair. Vitra approached the pair asking them to rethink ergonomic task seating — with a quiet design. The result is a sophisticated streamlined chair with a backrest that extends farther down than typical backrests to conceal mechanical components with the exception of the base. The five-star caster base and arms are available in black or chrome finishes.

Stay tuned for our final NeoCon 2017 recap, which will highlight the most exciting textiles and wall coverings.

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