Insights from NeoCon - BNIM Interiors on Future-Focused Design

Insights from NeoCon - BNIM Interiors on Future-Focused Design

The BNIM Interiors studio travelled to Chicago earlier this summer to attend NeoCon, one of the largest commercial interior design expos and conferences in North America. Our Interiors team – Amy, David, Janell, Katie, Sarah, and Tina - joined designers from across the country at the three-day event to explore the latest products, materials, and innovations in design. Held at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, a four million SF+ building spanning two city blocks, NeoCon featured booths and showrooms hosted by over 400 manufacturers and industry partners for designers to learn about and test out emerging designs.

The BNIM Interiors Studio is sharing key insights and inspirations, focusing on what they foresee for the future of design:


Maker Spotlight - Material and Craft Transparency

Various manufacturer’s booths and showrooms at NeoCon emphasized material transparency and the craft behind the design, demonstrating the fabrication process of furniture and finishes and placing the spotlight on the makers. Designers were invited to observe, and even help partake in, the creative process behind materials and products, such as working on a loom to create upholstery.

"Take a step back - to simple materials, refined details, and a transparent process for creating each piece.”

Tina Wehrman

“To experience the process of how furniture and textiles were made right in front of our eyes gave a whole new appreciation to the craft that goes into many of our favorite timeless pieces.”

Katie Neighbour


The Future of Furniture - Blurring Lines

The Interiors team observed a wide variety of expressions in furniture, products, textures, colors, and materials, such as the integration of retro design elements, new takes on classic furniture, the creative use of spatial acoustics, and the wide spectrum of color ranging from exploratory vibrant and bold palettes to timeless black and white, warm neutrals, and de-saturated tones. The team also observed spaces that emphasized creating of places of rest, offering soft and welcoming forms, designing for workplace equity, and taking on a more residential nature.

“I was really excited to see how the design industry is taking sustainability seriously so that it is no longer an afterthought but a key pillar of our work. I was also encouraged to see furniture and materials start to take on more unique character, even starting to blur the lines between residential and commercial.”

Sarah Johnson




Focus on Sustainability - Environmental Impact and Biomimicry

There is an increasing awareness of the environmental impact of materials across the industry, and innovations are beginning to happen in the materials and supply chain. The conversation is becoming more intentional as manufacturers implement ‘cradle to cradle’ design – looking at the full lifespan of materials from their production to shipping to product use to disposal. Future-focused design is also increasingly inspired by biomimicry in materials and products, exploring the possibilities of natural materials such as mushrooms, seaweed, cactus, hemp, and roots.

“The future is biophilia on a micro scale. Innovation is happening on the materials side of things to reduce environmental impacts of products. Examples would be companies acting on reducing their carbon footprints, reducing raw materials used to manufacture products, biomimicry inspired design, and plant-based alternatives like mushroom and cactus leather.”

Amy Dishman





Meet the Team

BNIM’s Interiors Studio is an innovative group of design professionals who create beautiful, human-centered interior environments that enhance the health and well-being of building users, improve functionality and flexibility, implement inclusive design and sustainable design practices, and thoughtfully consider the social, cultural, and geographic characteristics of a place.

Janell Rock, IIDA, LEED AP, WELL AP, NCIDQ: As Director of Design for Interiors at BNIM, Janell has led a many complex and highly successful projects. In every project, she pursues the beautiful and seamless integration of architecture and interior design. Projects: Princeton University Lewis Center for the Arts | Marquette University Dr. E.J. and Margaret O'Brien Hall | The REACh Expansion at the JOhn F. Kennedy Center for the Performing ARts

Amy Dishman, IIDA, LEED AP, NCIDQ, LFA: Amy brings over 15 years of experience in design to her role at BNIM. Amy is BNIM’s latest Living Future Accredited (LFA) design professional, and she has a passion for sustainable and active design, promoting health and well-being in her work through the interaction between the natural and built environments Projects: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music | Southeast community College New Constuction Technologies Center | A to Z Naturals Nutrition Center

David Amstutz, AIA, NCIDQ: David is an interior designer and registered architect at BNIM who is focused on providing innovative solutions in design. He is fascinated by how things work, how components come together, and inspired by how the resulting products and built environments shape the people that interact with them and the ecosystems they inhabit. Projects: Reconciliation Services Renovation | County of San Diego Mira Mesa Epicentre | Leawood Presbyterian Church Phase 1 renovation

Katie Neighbour: Katie has worked with a variety of clients in her career to prepare concepts, schematic space planning layouts, 3D renderings and FF&E procurement. In addition to her work at BNIM, she specializes in branding, calligraphy, hand lettering and custom illustrations. Projects: Des Moines International Airport | LifeServe Blood Center Headquarters

Sarah Johnson, IIDA: Sarah has contributed to a range of projects in her time with BNIM, encompassing design for workplace, K-12 schools, higher education, performing arts, and civic buildings. She believes that as designers, we have a duty to provide helpful, beautiful, respectful, conscious, protective, and accessible design to all.  Projects: Missouri State University Temple Hall Renovation + Addition | Metropolitan Community College Blue River East | Las Vegas Downtown Civic Center and Plaza

Tina Wehrman, IIDA, NCIDQ: In her time at BNIM, Tina has been an instrumental leader in Interiors, contributing her expertise to studios and projects across the practice. Tina is known among her team members and clients for her creativity, knowledge, attention to detail, and optimism.  Projects: Charity Hospital Adaptive Reuse | University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art | Las Vegas Downtown Civic Center and Plaza