Jeremiah Brent joins Queer Eye cast, Ikea wants to revive the American mall, and more

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News Digest | Feb 27, 2024

By Caroline Bourque

This week in design, disaster struck one Florida couple when the pair’s newly purchased beachfront property saw its entire backyard swept into the ocean during a particularly windy day—leaving the swimming pool suspended in midair on concrete-and-steel pilings. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News


Interior designer Jeremiah Brent is joining the cast of Queer Eye as the show’s new interiors expert, Variety reports. Brent steps into the position previously held by Bobby Berk, who served on the rebooted series’ first eight seasons before announcing his departure in November. Brent, the founder of Jeremiah Brent Design and lifestyle brand Atrio, is no stranger to the screen, having previously hosted shows like Netflix’s Say I Do (a wedding spinoff of Queer Eye) and the Emmy-winning Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The new season of Queer Eye—Brent’s first as part of the cast—will enter production this spring in Las Vegas.

Andmore has laid off some of its workforce, Furniture Today reports—the organization did not specify the number of affected employees. In a statement to FT, CEO Bob Maricich said that the company is providing support through the transition with severance packages that include salary and benefits continuation. “We did not take this decision lightly and fully recognize the impact it has on our valued team members,” the statement read. The news comes following a year of multiple company shutdowns and workforce reductions across the industry, including Wayfair laying off 1,750 employees last January and RH laying off 440 in March.

Elsewhere in the industry, Ohio-based accent furniture e-commerce business Metro Décor also announced layoffs last week, Furniture Today reports. Having filed a WARN Act notice with the Ohio Office of Workforce Development, the company stated that it would lay off 30 people at its office location in Glenwillow, Ohio, on February 29, and 50 employees at its distribution center—which will close following the job cuts—in Solon, Ohio, on March 31. In the notice, Metro Décor vice president of human resources Lindsay Vigorito stated that the company had been actively seeking capital or a buyer, and that it was unable to give employees further notice of the layoffs due to the nature of that search.

With foot traffic down about 12 percent from 2019, malls around the country are closing as retailers opt instead for strip malls or downtown storefronts. In contrast, Ikea is doubling down on the large-format space—and implementing a few new ideas to lure shoppers back in, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Swedish retailer says it is looking to buy and develop more mall locations in the U.S., building on the momentum of its recent acquisition of a mall in Brighton, England, and has plans to open malls in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Xi’an this year and in India in 2025. Ikea’s sole U.S. mall location in San Francisco may serve as a the blueprint for further expansion: The space includes a co-working space called Hej, with capacity for 500 workers at $399 a month, and will soon include a new food hall concept called Saluhall, which will offer a menu focused heavily on plant-based foods and offerings from local suppliers.

In a tight housing market that’s been slow to ease up, a new kind of development has emerged: subdivisions filled with freestanding properties ranging from 400 to 800 square feet—not quite small enough to be considered a tiny home, but far more compressed than the typical single-family space. As The New York Times reports, home builders have been steadily downsizing new homes in a trend dubbed The Great Compression, which has accelerated over the past year, when the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage reached a two-decade high of nearly 8 percent. As first-time buyers look for more affordable routes to home ownership and builders look to bypass rising land and material prices, groups like Lennar Corporation are responding with new communities like Elm Trails—a San Antonio, Texas, subdivision comprising mini dwellings as small as 350 square feet, where sale prices fall under $200,000.

Large appliances have become more technologically advanced in recent years, but technicians and consumers say they’re also breaking down more frequently—Yelp users requested 58 percent more quotes from appliance repair businesses last month than the year before. As The Wall Street Journal reports, appliance prices have declined 12 percent over the last decade, but consumers spent 43 percent more on home appliances in 2023 compared with 2013, due largely to higher rates of replacement. According to experts, current models of large appliances like refrigerators or washing machines are increasingly designed with sensors and switches that are meant to curtail excess energy and water waste but which often make repairs costly or difficult to diagnose. Plus, such fixtures are now more frequently constructed from plastic and aluminum rather than steel, leading to less sturdier machines overall.

Houzz released its 2024 U.S. State of the Industry report last week, which analyzed data from more than 2,100 residential design professionals on their outlook for the year ahead. The report found that interior designers were the most bullish about the year ahead, with 71 percent expecting that 2024 will be a good or very good year, followed by 66 percent of design-build firms and 65 percent of general contractors, remodelers and builders. Companies across all industry sectors expect an increase in revenue and profits in 2024, with designers predicting a return to more typical revenue expectations of 8.9 percent growth in 2024 compared with a more modest outlook of 3 percent growth at the beginning of 2023. Elsewhere, industry professionals expect labor availability to worsen even as product and material availability improves, albeit at a higher cost than in previous years.

A rug from the Gray Benko x Annie Selke Curated Collection
A rug from the Gray Benko x Annie Selke Curated Collection - Photo Credit Courtesy of Gray Benko and Annie Selke

Launches and Collaborations


Annie Selke tapped South Carolina–based photographer and designer Gray Benko to curate a selection of rugs inspired by the Magnolia Network star’s whimsical take on historic homes. The resulting assortment mirrors Benko’s affinity for bold use of color and pattern, complete with handwoven wool, cotton and jute rugs that would look at home in the designer’s own space.

Ruggable teamed up with Netflix series Bridgerton for the debut of the Modern Regency collection. Created with the show’s historic setting in mind, the new line features rococo-inspired details, floral motifs and bold colors in storyline-inspired styles such as “Lady Whistledown” and “Fit for a Queen.”

Showhouses


The seventh-annual Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse Palm Beach has opened to the public at 230 Miramar Way, located in the SoSo neighborhood of West Palm Beach. Reimaged by a team of 23 designers and architects—including DuVäl Reynolds, Megan Gorelick and Nadia Watts—the space will remain open for tours until March 17, with proceeds to benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.

Recommended Reading


The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 introduced a new wave of federal tax credits and rebates that went into effect last year, allowing eligible consumers to earn discounts or partial refunds on earth-friendly home amendments. But how exactly should a homeowner begin to access those savings? For The New York Times, Nadja Popovich and Elena Shao provide a guide to understanding how to tap into federally funded rebates on everything from home energy audits to energy-saving renovation projects.

Home ownership typically signals the end of the friends-as-roommates era—but for Gen Z, that kind of co-living may soon extend beyond the rental years: A recent survey found that 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would likely buy a home with a friend, while new data from real estate company Pacaso found a 21 percent year-over-year increase in co-ownership among friends and non-married partners. For Vice, Henry Zhang consults friends who have tried the arrangement, with some finding that becoming financial partners adds an unexpected level of friction to otherwise seamless friendships.

Cue the Applause


Apartment Therapy released its 2024 Design Changemakers list, highlighting the most exciting names in the realm of home, style and design. This year’s cohort includes Jessica Alba and Lizzy Mathis of Honest Renovations; Frieda Gormley and Javvy M. Royle of House of Hackney; Deirdre Maloney and Minya Quirk of Afternoon Light; Dani Klarić; Veronica Valencia-Hughes of Revealed; Jerald Cooper of Hood Century; Jenny French and Anda French of French 2D; Priya Vij of Hapny Home and Jamie Davis of Portola Paints.

Call for Entries


The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center is now accepting project submissions for the 2024 Southeast Designers & Architect of the Year Awards. The annual awards ceremony honors designers and architects from across the Southeast who demonstrate excellence in the categories of residential interior design, contract interior design and architecture. For more information or to make a submission before the March 1 deadline, click here.

The American Society of Interior Designers have opened submissions and nominations for its 2024 National Awards program, which spotlights those who have proven design’s global impact. The Awards fall within three categories, including the Focus Project Awards, which recognize world-changing design projects addressing wellness, diversity, community and climate; the Annual Awards, which honor the work of designers with exceptional achievements throughout the year; and the Legacy Awards, which celebrate designers who have exhibited cumulative design excellence. To make a nomination before the March 6 deadline, or submit an application before the March 20 deadline, click here.

In Memoriam


Charles Stendig, an American furniture importer who introduced iconic pieces of European design to the U.S., passed away earlier this month at the age of 99. As The New York Times reports, Stendig’s career took off after a chance encounter with a Finnish trade representative in the late 1950s—then a recent business graduate of New York University on the G.I. Bill, Stendig soon visited the country to find that its furniture industry was booming, which inspired him to open a Midtown trade-only showroom showcasing the best in contemporary and avant-garde European furniture. He went on to influence the design landscape in the U.S. with first-time introductions like Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair, Thonet cane dining chairs and the Joe love seat, designed by Italian architects Jonathan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino and Paolo Lomazzi. “He loved modern furniture, and he was having fun, and it showed,” Pointed Leaf Press editorial director Suzanne Slesin told The New York Times. “And he was the only one showing this wild and wonderful contemporary furniture. He was it.”

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