INTERNATIONAL design trade fairs are a lightning rod for future forecasting of global trends in furniture, furnishings, lighting, accessories and technology.
The Milan Furniture Fair, Chicago’s NeoCon Fair for commercial interiors and Orgatec, a biennial exhibition for the future of office and workspace design held in Cologne, are highly anticipated events that attract thousands of design professionals.
A week after his return from the NeoCon Fair in June, Laminex Group Design Director Neil Sookee presented Global Trends 2015 to a group of Melbourne designers who gathered at the Workspace showroom in South Melbourne. His insights into the future direction of global design in office and living environments observed in Milan, Cologne, Chicago and New York covered new technology in workspace design, ergonomics, colour, finishes, texture and light.
At NeoCon 2014, the theme of ‘Place Matters’ focused on design that promotes workplace collaboration, flexibility, energy and intellect as an extension of the Living Office philosophy introduced by acclaimed furniture company Herman Miller last year. The aim is to create a workplace that encourages relaxation and wellness which in turn stimulates a creative, focused and productive working environment.
“Felt is the darling material for the office interior,” Sookee said, noting that the selection of finishes and designing for the senses is an important element of the design process. Soft to the touch, felt is used to upholster workstation screens and panels which absorb ambient noise, task seating and casual seating in public and private meeting areas. Wool, timber and the emergence of cork textiles are other materials that connect the office interior with nature.
Contemporary office design also looks to new technology to improve the flexibility needed for modern shared workspaces, fully wired work stations and wireless and Bluetooth technology. The height adjustable Kinetic Desk by Stir, launched at NeoCon 2014, remembers pre-programmed settings for each individual. It extends from the typical desk-based sitting position to standing height for a healthy alternative to the static desk and sedentary mode of work.
Colour palettes range from rustic earthy tones inspired by real leather, to tinted neutrals and pastels in combination with light wood grains. “Blue is favoured for corporate interiors from vapour blues to the deepest indigo” Sookee noted. “Yellow, green and retro patterns continue to influence colour schemes today and large scale patterns in black and white are timeless combinations.”
“Light natural woods and the ubiquitous whitewashed oak remain popular in Europe and reclaimed woods are beginning to enter the office market,” he said.
White has replaced office grey as a popular base colour for workstations but the classic accent colours of apple green and orange remain while the red colour palette is softened with a grey base. Retro colours such as burgundy, gold and terracotta, grey-browns and brown-greys have emerged alongside tinted neutrals, pastels and neutral woods. Rose gold and metallic colours are also found in lighting and accessories.
Wall treatments can also be ephemeral. Light projection installations such as Lightweeds designed by Simon Heijdens, and natural light manipulated by architecture, as seen in the interior of the Light Walls House designed by Japanese studio mA-style Architects, create dynamic shadows that connect interiors with nature.