News Digest | Sep 19, 2023
This week in design, the debut of a house built atop a 200-foot-tall cliff in the Arizona desert has proved to be a feat of extreme architecture and design—requiring helicopter deliveries and consultations from a team of professional rock climbers. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.
The California State Senate banned the sale of upholstered furniture and mattresses containing fiberglass and other flame-retardant chemicals earlier this month, Designers Today reports. The bill will now head to the state assembly, and if passed there, will take effect statewide on January 1, 2027. Though historically used to meet fire retardancy standards, fiberglass may produce negative health effects, with short-term exposure found to cause lung inflammation and bronchiolitis, and long-term exposure associated with lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis. The material has already been banned in the state in foam mattresses, while most furniture manufacturers began phasing it out of products over the past two decades.
After Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing placed the blame for its sudden closure on PNC Bank, the bank has offered its own rebuttal. In the court documents, PNC objected to MG+BW’s first-day motions—requests for post-petition financing that would allow customers to collect finished products they already paid for, along with the payment of claims to critical vendors and certain taxes and utilities. “PNC assiduously disputes the narrative in the first-day declaration that seeks to lay blame at the feet of PNC for management’s ineptitude in running their business,” the filing stated. “At a minimum, because Debtors are not currently operating and there is no exigency for the first day relief being sought, PNC should be afforded more time to review and comment on Debtors’ requested first day relief.” PNC noted that it plans to address the allegations at a later date in the proceedings.
Amazon announced last week an expansion of its logistics network, which will allow sellers to move their products from Amazon’s warehouses to other sales channels—including unaffiliated stores and warehouses—instead of only directly to consumers through the site, TechCrunch reports. The new program, called Supply Chain by Amazon, will allow the platform to oversee logistics start-to-finish for sellers, first picking up their inventory directly from their factory and then managing the supply chain all the way through to delivery. The initiative is currently in a pilot testing program with a select set of sellers, with plans to debut to all users later this year.
Office vacancy rates in the U.S. have reached record highs this year, currently sitting at around 15 percent—though a closer look reveals a commonality among vacant buildings, the majority of which are out of date. On the latest episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, Gensler CEO Diane Hoskins and her co-CEO, Andy Cohen, explain that businesses that have returned to the office post-pandemic are increasingly opting to move into buildings constructed after 2015, which often have better-quality spaces and amenities—easing the return-to-office transition for employees. They describe the movement as a “flight to quality,” with buildings in the post-2015 category seeing lower vacancy rates in the single digits.
Soft Surroundings—a St. Louis–based company specializing primarily in women’s apparel and accessories, but also in home goods—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, Home Textiles Today reports. According to its filing, the company secured $18 million in debtor-in-possession financing from restructuring firm Gordon Brothers to fund its transition. Moving forward, Soft Surroundings has agreed to sell its assets to retailer Coldwater Creek (a subsidiary of Hong Kong sourcing firm Newtimes Group), which will continue to operate the brands’ e-commerce and DTC catalog business.
Surya acquired Salt Lake City–based furniture company RST Brands, Designers Today reports. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal marks Surya’s second acquisition in the past six months as it looks to expand its assortment of outdoor rugs, textiles and accents with outdoor furniture, following the company’s purchase of Global Views earlier this year.
Launches & Collaborations
The Metropolitan Museum of Art collaborated with Samsung to bring its collection of masterworks into the homes of the electronics company’s Frame TV owners. Through the online Samsung Art Store, owners of the Frame can now choose from 38 pieces sourced from The Met’s collections—such as the American Wing, Asian Art, Egyptian Art, European Paintings and Islamic Art—with works including Edgar Degas’s The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Paul Cézanne’s Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses.
Beauty brand Ilia teamed up with e-commerce art platform Tappan Collective to commission three custom artworks that draw inspiration from the brand’s Eye Stylus Shadow Stick. Artists Brianna Lance, Satsuki Shibuya and Jaimie Milner each produced a distinct piece to be auctioned, with proceeds to benefit the Heart of Los Angeles Visual Arts Program.
The Bruno Effect—an online marketplace connecting interior designers and collectors with contemporary, vintage and antique furniture and collectibles—announced that it has changed its name to Effetto. Effetto, Italian for “effect,” represents an evolution of the brand’s original name and is designed to “evoke the power of the network effect among relationships in the design world,” according to a release.
In partnership with Afterpay, Ikea has introduced its first-ever buy-now, pay-later program. The new service—applicable to orders in the $40 to $500 price range—will allow customers to purchase in four payments interest-free over a six-week period.
The Kips Bay Decorator Show House announced the annual list of designers and architects chosen to re-imagine this year’s Dallas edition. The 22 design professionals participating in the showhouse this year include Darren Henault, Sara Hillery, Jason Jones, Rivers Spencer and more, whose work will debut to the public for two weeks beginning November 3. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, Dwell with Dignity and The Crystal Charity Ball.
For Curbed, Mia Mercado asks the question on everyone’s mind: Is the long reign of boucle finally over? Though it first gained popularity in the 1940s after architect Eero Saarinen used it to upholster the iconic Womb chair, the second coming of boucle arrived shortly after Gwyneth Paltrow partnered with CB2 in 2018 to debut an ivory swivel chair covered in the cozy material, spawning a resurgence of boucle-covered pieces soon adopted by retailers like Walmart, Wayfair, Target and even grocery chain Aldi. Five years later, boucle now dominates listings on resale sites like Kaiyo, Craigslist and AptDeco, and is beginning to attract ire from designers for its overuse.
Hospitality brands like Four Seasons, Aman and Ritz-Carlton may have paved the way for luxury branding into the condominium market, but they surely have not cornered it—hot on their heels are automakers and fashion houses, judging from the recent debut of a Porsche Design Tower, Residences by Armani Casa and the forthcoming Bentley Residences along the Miami coastline. As Debra Kamin writes for The New York Times, the market for name-brand luxury condominiums is projected to grow 12 percent each year between now and 2026—and as a result, you are likely to see more residences branded by purveyors of everything from luxury cars to couture.
Cue the Applause
The International Furnishings and Design Association announced the winners of two of its top awards granted annually. This year’s winner of the 2023 International Honorary Recognition Award is Ellen Gefen, a home furnishings broadcast journalist and co-founder of High Point, North Carolina–based production studio Gefen Productions, while the 2023 Trailblazer Award goes to Patti Carpenter, a micro-enterprise specialist and principal of Carpenter + Company/Trendscope. Both winners will be honored at the organization’s annual Diamond Awards Gala in Boston on September 29.
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