CHICAGO — Home to three of the top four manufacturers and dozens of second tier and up-and-coming firms — not to mention a generations-old supplier and knowledge base — West Michigan is the undisputed capital of the contract furnishings industry. Or at least it is for 51 weeks of the year.
Last week, the industry turned its attention to Chicago's Merchandise Mart, where semi-trailers from Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth and a compact car from izzydesign again lined the Chicago River to greet thousands of trade professionals to the 2007 NeoCon World's Trade Fair.
Also known as the National Exposition of Contract Furnishings, NeoCon hosted more than 50,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibiting companies last Monday through Wednesday, along with the vast majority of the industry's key launches for 2007.
The coveted Best of Competition award will be staying on the West Michigan lakeshore for another year, as Holland's Haworth Inc. wowed judges with its Brazo task light. Designed by Pablo Pardo of Pablo Designs in San Francisco, the highly flexible light has enough height adjustment to be used as desktop task lighting or as a freestanding, floor-length piece. It is the first task light to offer focus control — the rotation of the glass tube dial located in the shade allows the user to direct and choose any desired light spread.
Interestingly, the energy-efficient LED light was a secondary release for Haworth this year, chosen at a European tradeshow as a complement to the company's growing portfolio of flexible furniture, including the Patterns systems that launched a year ago and the Planes collection of tables and casegoods this year. Planes won a Gold Best of NeoCon award.
Herman Miller, which won Best of Competition last year with its My Studio Environments, swept the Workplace Technologies category with its Convia Programmable Infrastructure and C2 Climate Control system, winning Gold and Silver, respectively.
Steelcase won six awards between its various companies. The core brand won a Gold in the Ergonomic Seating category for its new Arnia chair, its latest offering featuring the Alive seating technology. Local divisions Turnstone (Tour, Furniture Systems, Silver), Details Inc. (Series 7.1, Worksurfaces: Height-Adjustable, Silver) and Nurture (Opus Overbed Table, Healthcare Furniture, Gold) also received awards.
SpringLake's izzydesign won an Editors' Choice award for its Hannah task chair in the Seating: Ergonomics category. In its first NeoCon exhibition, Grand Rapids' Stelter Partners won a Gold in the Education Solutions category for its Vanerum Collection of adjustable height furniture for the K-12 environment, made available through a distribution partnership with a European company of the same name.
Although not headquartered in West Michigan, Knoll Inc., a firm with significant local manufacturing assets, earned three awards.