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Furniture Flexibility the Key for Many NeoCon Exhibitors.

Workspaces that adapt, both to differences in needs and physical bodies, abounded at North America's largest contract furnishings show

THE MERCHANDISE MART in downtown Chicago burst at the seams June 18-20 when more than 1,200 exhibitors at the NeoCon World's Trade Fair filled 1.8 million square feet --41 acres -- of exhibit space. Attendance was 53,677, a slight drop-off from last year, but the exhibitors Wood & Wood Products spoke to seemed upbeat about their prospects despite the softening in attendance figures.

The Merchandise Mart says the number of companies that sent attendees (more than 15,000) held steady from last year, indicating that the attendance drop may reflect tighter travel budgets rather than a dampened buying mood.

Many NeoCon exhibitors touted the ergonomic benefits of their products, with features like adjustable-height tables and desks. Equally prevalent were mobile, adjustable or floating systems that can be customized and rearranged to meet changing user needs.

Last year's dot-com bust buried furniture lines targeted toward Internet start-ups, but the revolution of the computer remains evident. Easy access to power and data lines was prevalent in the furniture shown, and several companies displayed wire management hubs for an entire office as well.

On the other hand, powder-coated wood finishes had a fairly quiet show after the splash they made last year. Several companies exhibited powder-coated furniture, but they were shown more as part of the fleet than the brand-new flagship. In fact, one major manufacturer divulged that it had to reeducate its sales representatives against "over-selling" the benefits of powder-coated wood out of concern that the finish will not meet the durability standard of solid wood or high-pressure laminate work surfaces.

Many NeoCon exhibitors showed pieces that combined a variety of materials. The four-year-old company Buffalo Stone showed wood office furniture with granite and marble work surfaces. The furniture also features adjustable lifting mechanisms to change work surface heights quickly and quietly.

Jofco International's TW Collection won the Editor's Choice award in the Best of NeoCon competition. The line is a modular desk system with accompanying filing, storage and technology accommodation elements. Jofco offers the furniture group as part of an exclusive importing and distribution program with Italian manufacturer Frezza.

Harden Contract's new Serotina line of modular office furniture is made of solid cherry and available in six standard finishes. SmartCOMM pop-up electrical portals for videoconferencing can be mounted within primary work surfaces, conference tables or occasional tables.

Trendway says its Choices2 line offers a unique combination of flexibility and fast delivery -almost every piece in the line is available within three days in most of the company's fabrics and finishes. An overhaul of Trendway's decade-old Choices line, Choices2 integrates with the company's Contrada and other systems but adds options such as a new panel design with inserts that slide in and out of the frame or a beltway panel that provides power and data lines at work surface height.

The Global Group introduced Nutcracker, a meeting table that can expand or contract by adding the side table. The opened "V" configuration is also suitable for teleconferencing, because all participants are visible to the camera.

HON introduced Park Avenue, its first new major veneered furniture collection in more than 10 years. Case goods for the executive furniture line feature cherry veneers and finishes. The product is manufactured at HON's Lousberg, NC, plant.

Techline introduced Series 2, a new line of furniture targeted for the SOHO market. The line consists of hundreds of modular components that can easily be rearranged or added to as needs change.

"Kick" is a new systems line from Turnstone, a Steelcase company. The line is targeted toward budget-conscious users, but has a variety of options to allow users a wide aesthetic range. For example, panel frames can be fitted with monolithic skins, translucent fabric, perforated metal or other materials, depending on the desired look.

Teknion won a Gold award for xm, a hybrid of panel-based and freestanding furniture systems. The furniture is highly mobile and easy to rearrange but also interconnected with technology.
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Author:CHRISTIANSON, RICH
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:675
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