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NeoCon: A Treat for All The Senses

Posted June 13, 2011 in Classes & Presentations


NeoCon is a show. To paraphrase Ed Sullivan, a really big show. Celebrating its 43rd year in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, NeoCon is the premier design center for the newest products and innovative ideas for corporate, hospitality, healthcare, retail, government, institutional and residential interiors from more than 700 showrooms and exhibitors.

And as my aching feet can attest, we did our best to see them all.

Matt Peteren

Our day started with an inspiring talk from keynote speaker Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green.

Whereas Peter Byck, in his movie, “Carbon Nation,” addressed the matter of climate change with a little humor, Petersen shared how Global Green is harnessing Hollywood star power to call attention to this critical issue. He showed us a PSA featuring some of the movie industry’s elite who tell viewers that by the end of the century, major cities, including New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco and New York could see significant flooding—or even become completely submerged—by rising oceans caused by melting ice caps. He then asked everyone in the room to stand and repeat this statement: “I Love My Home.” Then, we turned to the person beside us and gave them a hug. Petersen challenged us all to, “Take our corner of the world and make it better.”

Neocon 2011

Then it was off to the showrooms for an all-out assault on our senses. For 78 years the Merchandise Mart has been the go-to place for interior designers, facilities managers, purchasing agents and others, and this year was no exception. We were elbow-to-elbow with people from around the world, chattering in several languages. Every so often, long lost friends and colleagues would reconnect, and a reunion would take place right in the hallways.

Neocon 2011

We explored massive showrooms that were half-a-city-block large.

Carpeting Neocon 2011

We saw colorful carpets and floorcovering made of seemingly everything from recycled waste to the finest silk.

Gayle Michelle Lee

We (instructors Gayle DeBryun, Michelle Kleyla, and Lee Davis) touched, rubbed, and stroked lush fabrics that draped from ceiling to floor.

Students at Neocon

Everyone, from faculty to exhausted students, lounged, relaxed, spun and sat in myriad chairs, peeked in numerous filing cabinets and opened and shut many, many drawers. And of course, we filled our arms with goodies and giveaways that ranged from countless tote bags, to a 4 gig, “gold” plated thumb drive that contained a digital catalog of beautiful outdoor furnishings. (We found out later that if we had drawn the “silver” drive, we would have been awarded an iPad2. Drat.)

Young &Churu

Best stop? The seventh floor, where two Kendall senior industrial design students, Bryce Porter and Churro Yen were at last able to reveal the project they had been collaborating on with Leggett & Platt, a company that doesn’t make furniture, but manufactures the components that go into office furniture.

Porter & Churu's Project

Their circular workstation, movable bench, and adjustable height conference room caught the eye of many, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Porter and Yen (who was married just last weekend, but spent the week after his wedding alone in Chicago) had several job offers upon graduation.


As the clocked ticked toward 5:00 p.m., showrooms turned into cocktail lounges, as designers and buyers began to celebrate another successful show. We, however, did not partake. After all, we have a full day of seminars ahead of us tomorrow!


–Pamela Patton


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