neocon chairOnce the largest building in the world, the newly designed Merchandise Mart sprawls across a city block surrounded by water in downtown Chicago. Earlier this year, 53,000 professionals from all over the world were seen buzzing amongst the latest exhibits at the 50th annual Neocon conference. They flocked to the famous midwest venue to see what the leading designers and manufacturers had to offer in homey shapes, brilliant colors, and yes-texture, texture, and, more texture.  Neocon attracts designers, manufacturers, and professionals from all corners of the design industry, setting the tone for the year ahead. Here we’ll share what trends and brands you should expect to see on the horizon (and trickling into the wallcovering space). And the major topics du jour within the industry.

We are seeing the trends starting to matriculate out into the rest of the world, just as attendees are settling back in from the 3-day stretch of roundtable discussions, simulated commercial spaces, and intimate exchanges made possible when every influential somebody is under one art deco-inspired roof.

Neocon reaches every major category from furniture and fabric to lighting and wall treatments. It’s a major event to attend for the wallcovering installer considering venturing into commercial projects in healthcare, retail, education, and hospitality. With over 700 exhibits, we’ll try to condense them into overall themes to consider over the next year and in your wallcovering specifications.

In the Know: Trends & Talking Points

What we are seeing surface as trends from the conference were human-first furniture shapes and solutions, distinctive colors with bold pattern choices, and intricate textures that add new elements of dimensionality to the interior space. Designers were noticed for iterating from Eames with classic materials yet in comfort-driven silhouettes. Amongst their choices were aesthetically-driven outcomes that forced the functional form to behave as art-first, furniture-second.

Color is in. And it’s displayed in unusual ways. It’s seen creating 3-dimensional effects with fields of light and shadow exposing bright color fields peeking out from varying surfaces. The result is a vibrating energy option for an interior space. In other instances, high-contrast colorways were seen mixed with bold graphic elements in lue of safe neutrals. Lastly, distinct Bauhaus elements chosen in more subdued patterns were displayed creating a design look from the 30s with a modern twist.

We’ll revisit the themes around design discussions last year for contrast. They were around space, work, culture, and balance. This year the themes were: team, data, storytelling, strategy, sexy, mash-up, human, and happiness. Roundtable discussions centered on the design for personal space and productivity. Dart by Chilewich proved relevant with highly durable options for high-traffic spaces and commercial jobs while aligning with a human-centered focus.

Big deals are underway also. You may have heard the latest acquisition of Herman Mills and Hay with Maars living walls. Maars is a Netherlands-based manufacturer of modular wall fabrications. The acquisition adds to the Herman Mills portfolio, expanding the company into innovative and living design choices. It was no small merging either, Maars is a large shop that boasts annual sales of $65 million. They can be seen specified for hospitality projects and in big offices for the likes of Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

In the Know: Products

Criss-Cross by Carnegie

Creating shape-shifting backdrops in commercial space is where the interlocking modular shapes from Carnegie shine. Then, the Criss-Cross line pivots that aesthetic to a more intimate residential space. The Criss-Cross line picks up the trends of custom shapes that can be used together to create new geometric patterns across a room in demure shiny colors. Etsy is starting to explode with graphic wall decal choices for the beginner wallcovering installer or DIY designer, but the three-dimensional surface of the Criss-Cross line combines trends with texture and bespoke wall shapes.

Lacebark by Innovations

Natural greens of a pacific northwest dusk after a rain mix with rich golden confetti accents to create a whimsical twist on a natural backdrop that is Lacebark by Innovations. Gold leaf paper layered over emerald green creates a unique high-end material with an arts and crafts feel. The result is a rich contrast for the most stylish of grand rooms or performance center hallways.

Groovy by Knoll Textiles

Rolling in with confidence once reserved for a 90s wardrobe are bold color choices mixed with texture and sheen featuring the Groovy line from Knoll Textiles.

Landscape by Brentano

The Landscape line by Brentano should be on every design-inclined wallcovering installers mind. With nearly every Pantone color represented, the choices are smooth and limitless. If for no other reason, keep Brentano Landscape options in your pocket for when a subtle design approach is needed.

Filzfelt’s Ribsy

If you are in search of diversity in natural shapes and patterns displayed with varied texture and pattern, choose Filzfelt’s Ribsy felt wall tiles available in 50 colors.  They boast a nuanced texture with an added architectural benefit of noise reduction.


Since covered walls are in, we suspect designers are making more daring choices in their fabrics. This opens up the possibilities of what makes it into the latest design shows. We’re excited to see the bold colors mixed with exciting solutions that soften noise, expose color in interesting ways, and incorporate natural accents that will make a space feel fresh.