Trends at NeoCon 2014: Privacy

With NeoCon 2014 several weeks behind us, I thought I would take a few days to outline some of the major trends I noticed while browsing the Merchandise Mart. It didn’t take very many showroom tours to identify today’s trend: Privacy.

Privacy is one of the subjects in office design that probably shouldn’t be a trend. And hopefully won’t have to be in the future. But because office design is completely trend driven, it tends to swing back and forth between the extremes.

…open offices, private offices, cubicles, open plan…

You get the picture.

This year’s NeoCon featured many different products that are in some ways reacting to what is already happening and in others trying to push office design towards a more balanced, privacy-centered office space. Below are some of my favorite products from NeoCon in the category as well as others that will help illustrate this growing trend.

High-backed Sofas

These products seem to be all the rage in that they are able to create a nice, semi-private space within the confines of an open plan office space. They can be used for solo work or for small group meetings with two are placed facing one another. With the high-backed, fabric walls, sound is muffled and a cozy and comfortable space is created away from the main workspace.

The first product listed is not new, but being the first of its type introduced in 2006, I added it to the mix.

Alcove X-tra HighVitra – Alcove

With its comfortable seat and backrest upholstery and the high, flexible side and back panels, the Alcove Sofa creates a sheltered niche of privacy, a place of retreat. The Alcove family features a variety of different sofa models for use in home interiors as well as office environments.

Learn More about Alcove

VillaShade_KimballOffice_2-Seat-001Kimball Office – Villa Shade

Designers can create intimate conversation areas by adding shade to the ever-popular Villa highback lounge seating. Install in a private or semi-private orientation—either way, Villa Shade offers calm settings for rest or focus.

Learn more about Villa

nof_fringe_18_enlargeNational Office Furniture – Fringe

With Fringe, you create spaces where people actually want to be. Whether it is in a corporate setting, community area, or in an education or healthcare environment, Fringe delivers privacy, openness, comfort, style and extreme flexibility from a single collection that moves with the way your organization moves.

Learn more about Fringe images pdfs privee06.pdf

Borgo Seating – Privèe

With Privèe the furniture becomes the architecture. Create lounge-based workspaces with the feel of home comfort. Enclosed “canopy” give privacy while keeping an open social environment. Canopy and removable privacy walls help dampened noise pollution and visual distractions.

Learn more about Privee

Modular Walls

Moving on from casual furniture with walls directly on them, another group of items that seemed to be making waves were Modular Walls. The best way I can describe these is to call them flexible and stylish cubicle walls that can be placed around furniture in a much more ad-hoc fashion that traditional modular wall systems.


Haworth – Opennest

People at work have become more mobile – moving freely throughout the day, no longer tethered to a designated space. And the ratio of individual to group workspaces has shifted to support collaboration. Openest is an ensemble of lounge furniture that responds to this ever-evolving nature of work by facilitating the new landscape of today’s work environments.

Learn more about Opennest

Steelcase’s Susan Cain Quiet Spaces


One of the interesting things I noticed was Steelcase’s creation of “quiet spaces”. Piggy-backing on the success of Susan Cain’s bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, these were meant to show off what can be done in an office space to create private enclaves for time away from others. Specifically targeted at introverts, these spaces are obviously useful for everyone to quietly think, complete some heads-down work, or just relax.

Susan Cain Quiet Spaces by Steelcase offer five diverse ways to empower introverts at work. Each space supports specific postures, work modes, and expectations for quiet and privacy supported by a carefully chosen range of architecture, furniture, materials and technology. Every quiet space is designed with V.I.A. which provides superior acoustic performance and offers an atmosphere where introverts can work their best.

Learn more about Quiet Spaces