news digest | Mar 19, 2024 |
A groundbreaking real estate settlement, Meghan Markle launches a lifestyle brand, and more

This week in design, a treasure-filled clearing-out sale is set to debut as The Brooklyn Museum prepares to auction off more than 200 furnishings and the contents of four period rooms, with antiques spanning the 17th to 20th centuries. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
The National Association of Realtors has reached a settlement over claims that it conspired to impose excessive fees on homesellers, agreeing to pay $418 million in damages and eliminate its rule on commissions. As The New York Times reports, the agreement could upend the U.S. real estate market, in which sellers pay average commissions of almost 6 percent to real estate agents—compared to 1.3 percent in Britain and 2.5 percent in Australia. The deal is expected to be filed within weeks, after which it will need a federal court’s approval. Economists say the change could decrease commissions by up to 30 percent, reducing the $100 billion Americans spend each year on commissions by between $20 billion and $50 billion.

The Biden administration finalized a ban on the only remaining type of asbestos still used in the U.S.—a raw form of the material known as chrysotile asbestos, which is used in roofing materials, textiles and cement. According to The New York Times, the new regulation put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency marks the first time the federal government has significantly restricted asbestos since 1989. Once the final rule is published, it will trigger an immediate ban on imports of the material, while allowing up to 12 years for companies to phase it out in manufacturing.

Nebraska is the latest state to institute regulations for the interior design profession following the passage of Legislative Bill 16, which was signed into law by Gov. Jim Pillen earlier this month. The law will create a voluntary registry for “qualified interior designers” to practice independently within the scope of work defined, allowing design professionals to stamp and seal their own documents for permitting. Nebraska is the 29th state to establish legislation for registered interior designers, thanks to a multiyear effort led by local chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers and the International Interior Design Association, with support from the advocacy group Consortium for Interior Design.

At the start of the pandemic, Austin led the charge among Sunbelt cities attracting new residents from across the country. As waves of remote workers flooded the state capital, low borrowing costs sent home prices soaring 60 percent from 2020 to 2022. According to The Wall Street Journal, the state of the city’s housing market today represents a sharp reversal of that trend: Prices in Austin have fallen more than 11 percent since their peak two years ago, marking the biggest decline of any metro area in the country. Elsewhere, landlords are offering weeks of free rent to fill empty luxury apartment buildings, single-family homes are selling at a loss, and it's unclear whether Google still plans to staff the 35-story downtown office tower it built nearly two years ago. According to analysts, the drop in activity is due to a combination of several factors, including overbuilding and lack of affordability, underscoring the dwindling of migration patterns that dominated the early days of the pandemic.

Cincinnati–based home furnishings retailer Watson’s has acquired Fort Myers, Florida–based home retailer Recreational Warehouse, which specializes in spa, pool and outdoor kitchen items, Home News Now reports. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to Watson’s CEO Erik Mueller, the purchase will see Recreational Warehouse become a wholly owned subsidiary of his company, fully transitioning to its branding over the next few years.

Montreal-based home furniture manufacturer Dorel Industries laid off 40 employees—or 5 percent of its American workforce—as part of a restructuring effort, Furniture Today reports. The company cited macroeconomic strain, particularly high inflation and high interest rates as the reason for the job cuts. In Dorel’s fourth-quarter earnings report, CEO Martin Schwartz cited recent Census Bureau data, noting that furniture sales across the industry fell 7.5 percent last year in the U.S. and dropped nearly 8 percent in Canada. While the company recorded a $3.8 million loss for the quarter—its 10th consecutive quarterly decline—this was a step up from last year’s $41.4 million loss.

Launches & Collaborations
Meghan Markle has announced the launch of a new lifestyle brand called American Riviera Orchard, People reports. According to a pending trademark application, the brand plans to offer tableware and drinkware items such as decanters and table linens, along with cookbooks and jarred food products.

Muriel Brandolini has launched a new e-commerce site. The marketplace will offer the interior designer’s custom, limited-edition djellabas, tablecloths and vintage fabric panels, designed with her signature eye for bold color and pattern.

The Sill has expanded into outdoor plants and gardening products
The Sill has expanded into outdoor plants and gardening productsCourtesy of The Sill

New York–based houseplant startup The Sill has announced its expansion into outdoor plants and gardening products. Starting this week, the direct-to-consumer brand’s site will feature more than 150 new items, including both evergreen and flowering trees and shrubs; fruit trees and berry bushes; and garden tools like pruning shears, watering cans, soil and fertilizer.

Danish lighting brand Louis Poulsen has collaborated with Brooklyn-based glassblowing duo Home in Heven—the brainchild of designers Breanna Box and Peter Dupont—on a lighting collection available for auction exclusively on 1stDibs. The assortment includes seven different styles of table lamps and pendant lights, which will be available for bidding from March 21 through March 28.

Swedish retailer Desenio has announced the debut of the Imagine Collection—the brand’s first AI-generated series of art prints. Designed by AI art creator Maria Rönngren, the collection aims to depict a surreal take on ordinary scenes, ranging from decorative buildings to colorful art installations.

The Kips Bay Decorator Show House New York has selected a location for its 49th annual show, which will debut on May 2. The Upper East Side town house was designed in 1904 by American architect Charles Platt, who outfitted the four-story Neo-Georgian red brick home with five bedrooms, a Suzhou garden, wood-burning fireplaces and more. In the weeks to come, the showhouse will announce the slate of designers chosen to re-imagine the space before it is introduced to the public.

Recommended Reading
Several years ago, as the first months of a global crisis unfolded outside, Americans faced an entirely different setback at home: the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. In response, U.S. consumers began buying up bidets like never before—and unlike the many since-discarded impulse purchases of the pandemic, this one stuck. For The Washington Post, Rachel Kurzius explores the new wave of bidet evangelists sweeping the nation, promoting the appliance for its cleanliness, accessibility and earth-friendly qualities.

For home appliance brands, color has always been key—it’s a legacy that extends back to Le Creuset’s 1934 debut of its Volcanic orange hue for cocottes, and can still be seen today in brands like KitchenAid, which began releasing its own color of the year in 2018. For Eater, Jaya Saxena unpacks why color serves as the category’s entryway into the broader world of design.

Starting in 2005 with a wave of new tax credits and incentives for film and video production, Georgia’s movie business has boomed—and as a result, stars put down roots in Atlanta, earning it a new nickname: “Y’allywood.” For The Wall Street Journal, E.B. Solomont examines the recent proliferation of luxury real estate transactions in the city (from big-name buyers like Melissa McCarthy, Tyler Perry and Josh Brolin) as just one aspect of the capital’s overall revitalization.

Cue the Applause
The Bienenstock Furniture Library has announced the winners of its 2024 student competition for furniture and interior design. Valente Zambrano, a furniture design student at the University of Houston, won first place in his category, and Pratt Institute student Liam Monaghan earned second place. In the interior design competition, Leila Nathan of Saddleback College took home the first-place prize, and Savannah College of Art & Design student Aneesha Dama earned was the second-place winner.

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