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Taking up residence

If this year's Neocon is any indication, America's hotels, offices and health care facilities will be a lot more colorful and a lot more cheerful than homes across the country.

The contract field has embraced color in a big way across all product lines.

Not quite gone, but definitely in the background, are the basic beiges, browns and grays of conventional contract decor.

In their place — color, color, more color. Think purple, orange, hot pink, teal blue, yellow, red, and copper.

Normally staid fabric designers were using words like "funky colors," "classics with a twist," and "gut reactions and fashion trends" to convey their new color sensibilities.

And Maharam, one of the contract fabric world's major players, allied itself with Kvadrat of Denmark, a major European textile supplier with a program that offers 500 color selections in a dramatic showstopper presentation that shouts the word COLOR.

These colors popped up on everything — office system partitions, desk accessories, fabrics for furniture, walls and windows, and on a bevy of molded chairs in interesting new shapes.

And Neocon also is the showcase for much that is new in terms of construction, and the Surface Tension Collection at Designtex introduced cushioned loft fabrics that do not compress. And Interface introduced the latest in its Terratex sustainable, completely recyclable fabrics — this time made from corn.

As exciting as the color story was, another major trend emerged from this annual giant contract show in Chicago.

Over the past several years the lines between what is considered "contract" and "residential" have been blurring. Last week's Neocon accelerated the pace dramatically. In furniture, collection after collection had definite residential vibes.

Among those that looked as though they could fit right into many an elegant contemporary home was Bernhardt Designs collection by Michael Vanderbyl, made of mahogany-like parawood.

And to further the residential feel, there were an increasing number of specialty rug exhibitors, including some from Tibet, and highly decorative lighting specialists with programs developed for non-residential as well as their core residential businesses.

It will be fun watching these two pieces of the home furnishings business come together.

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