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ICFF, NeoCon & Design Days: A Statement on Trends in Design

ICFF and NeoCon 2023 brought our team back to the nostalgia of a past era, with cozy textures and muted hues taking center stage. Read on for more on inspiration, notable themes and a few of our favorite pieces from the fair.


Each year, ICFF is held at the Javvits Center in New York City to showcase new furniture and designs from across the globe. Similarly, NeoCon is held at The Mart in Chicago to demonstrate products from more than 400 manufacturers. Concurrently to NeoCon, MillerKnoll’s family of brands holds Design Days in Chicago at Fulton Market.

While it’s rare to see one emerging trend coalesce amongst the trio of events and cumulatively across the diverse group of smaller, up and coming designers with larger, well-known brands, a few themes stood out to us – namely, comfort, nostalgia and an expansion of the typical office furnishing to incorporate home-like pieces and outdoor inspiration.

Trend 1: Elevated Retro Style

We saw a number of materials and styles reflective of the 70s and 80s, with warm hues of pink, mauve, rust and seafoam green, and a few of our favorite exhibitors, like Muuto, showing pieces with bright pops of jewel toned color. We also saw a resurgence of neutrals, like the Bernhart and Knoll showrooms. These toned-down colors paired with contrast gave the impression of an elevated, sophisticated version of what we may have seen in our childhood homes. Could it be that the era of remote work and a return to some semblance of normalcy and society after a years-long pandemic have all of us craving a taste of the good old days?

Doimo in particular showed retro shapes and styles in seating, while Masaya used oak wood tones and warm rose and orange tones in their pieces.

At MillerKnoll’s Design Days showcase, we saw nostalgia play out in a more literal sense with archival pieces on display to honor the late Florence Knoll.

Muuto sofa
Pops of color by Muuto
IMG 4024 edited
A neutral setting by Berhardt
Soft pink seating by Hightower

Trend 2: Texture, texture, and more texture

From materiality to the form and finish of pieces, we couldn’t help but notice many home-like textures and pieces in fluid, soft shapes covered in nubby, woven or wool fabrics. Patterns with brighter colors put two-dimensional textures into wall coverings and other fabric-covered pieces, with some notable botanical and Central or South American culturally influenced pieces. We predict that this focus on materials is here to stay.

We saw this focus on texture in these colorful woven chairs from Masaya, or chunky, rope-like women pieces from Mooi. Shore Rugs showcased silicone cord pieces that could be used indoors or outdoors. Emphasis on texture carried over in form in many of the pieces at the show, such as this ottoman from Noun. Martin Brattrud took this trend to banquet seating with cane-back bench pieces with highly textured fabrics or quilting to create additional volume and texture.

The Moooi Bounce chair

Trend 3: Comfortable lounge seating

Soft and homey textures weren’t limited just to finishes – we experienced some of the most comfortable shapes in seating we’ve ever tried. Womb-like chairs that envelope you created a soft landing in most of the lounge seating we saw – something we could all use right about now, particularly where many workspaces are leveraging furniture elements soften a workspace and mimic the home.

Some of our favorite rounded shapes came from the sofas and coffee tables at Dooq, covered in soft textile and fashioned in fluid shapes, and cozy chairs printed chairs from Sollos. One standout was a cloud-like chair from Forces at Play, which enveloped us like a hug in nubby woven fabric. Another was a stunning rounded sofa from Arper in a bold rust hue, or art piece-worthy couches from Buzzispace.

Arper sofa in a deep rust
Comfy chair 3
One of our favorites: a womb-like chair from Forces at Play
IMG 4395
We loved the unique, rounded form of these sofas from Buzzispace

Trend 4: Bringing the outdoors in (or bringing our indoors out).

Arguably one of the most significant influences over the past several years has been a focus on the role of the outdoors in our general well-being. Whether it is creating outdoor spaces as a respite from endless virtual meetings, or bringing the outdoors inside by use of biophilia, botanical prints or maximizing views, we saw a beautiful contrast of concrete with soft, fluid and rounded forms, modern or industrial pieces with lighter tones (like pink) to soften the look, and items that function as planters to serve as a base for greenery.

Mexa Design, which uses mainly steel, powder coat, and weaving ropes for the pieces in their line, displayed a line of brightly-colored plastic wrapped tubing chairs, which would work as seamlessly in an indoor café space as in an outdoor setting. Sergio Matos, on the other hand, demonstrated furniture pieces inspired by botanical shapes. Finally, Tidelli’s rope and macrame pieces gave a bohemian, coastal vibe that wouldn’t be out of place in an indoor or outdoor space.

Mexa 4
Brightly colored powder coated pieces from Mexa
Bohemian rope and macrame seating from Tidelli

Trend 5: Custom items

While many offices are retaining a smaller footprint these days, we have seen that clients are spending just as much to customize and personalize the office space for the needs of their employees. Because of this, custom manufacturers are becoming more prominent.

Urban Hardwoods, Good Wood Nashville, and Wren + Cooper all shared custom capabilities to individualize a space. We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention MTRL, Pivot’s own in-house custom furniture manufacturer.

Good Wood

Trend 6: The Room Within a Room

It may come as no surprise that the progression of the workplace to a flexible, hybrid or distributed work model has created the need for numerous spaces – spaces within worksplaces to meet varied needs, like acoustic privacy for video calls, moments of respite (from endless video calls) and touch-down spaces that are not dissimilar to a cozy home nook. We are, again seeing the comforts of home pair with necessities like technology and privacy to suit every work posture we now need.

Spacestor, Boss Designs and Pedrali showcased nook areas with acoustic coves to shield some level of sound and sight, with on-trend curvi-linear interiors to serve as an alcove for a conversation or to take a call. Many booths we saw were multipurposed with smartly integrated technology. Even pieces such as conference tables took on a new agility, such as those from Naughtone, built with the ability to configure several ways, on casters, or with adjustable heights.

Pedrali acoustic mini-booths
IMG 4081
Chair with acoustic shield by Boss Designs
“This year was all about texture and curves. As we start to come back into our offices more frequently, the importance of comfort is going to be a high priority. We’ve had the comforts of home to lean into for the last three years, so having spaces in the office that can give us this same feel will be important,” said Darcy Ritter, Senior Account Manager. “The soft lines that were shown throughout the various designs at ICFF along with the luxurious textures have left a lasting impression on me. Bringing residential vibes into the office is a trend I’ll definitely be embracing.”

Our take?

Design always tells a story, and this year we saw the story of a return to times of comfort, nostalgia and familiarity while adapting nimbly to the new. As we continue to adapt to the changes technology has brought to work and as we enter an era of AI, it is little wonder that we find solace in retreating to the cozy comforts of home to be our most productive and content selves.

After all, the Flote Lounge Collection from Hightower was awarded the coveted of Best of Competition award at NeoCon for a line designed after the relaxing, playful buoyancy of a pool float. Need we say more?

View the full list of NeoCon winners here and the list of ICFF award winners here and here. To learn more about Design Days 2023 - MillerKnoll, click here.