news digest | Sep 21, 2021 |
A new editor at The World of Interiors, Casper cuts back, and more

One of Europe’s most iconic city centerpieces received the design treatment this week, as the posthumous project of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude saw its completion with the Arc de Triomphe’s adornment in hundreds of thousands of square feet of silver-blue fabric and almost two miles of red rope. Read on for our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

Mattress company Casper laid off dozens of employees late last week, TechCrunch reports, including its chief marketing officer, chief technology officer and chief operating officer. All three C-level executives were new additions to the team—CTO Ben Clark joined in July 2019, CMO Lisa Pillette came on in March 2020, and COO Charles Liu had been at the company just eight months before this round of layoffs. The news comes just a year after Casper shut down its European operations to focus on achieving profitability in North America, cutting 21 percent of its global workforce in the process. The stock, currently trading at $4.85 a share, is nearing its all-time low of $3.18.

The International Organization for Standardization recently began development on a global standard to allow architects and designers to certify buildings and products as carbon neutral, Dezeen reports. Scheduled to be published next year, the new benchmark will provide guidelines to determine the carbon impact of a project and how offsets can be made to compensate for emissions, preventing the “carbon-washing” that takes place when companies are able to make unsubstantiated claims about their carbon footprint due to the vagueness of current standards.

A top executive at OpenSea, the largest marketplace for crypto collectibles, has stepped down from his role after it was revealed that he used insider information to purchase NFTs in advance of the company publicly promoting them, Artnet reports. Nate Chastain, formerly the platform’s head of product, used secret crypto wallets to buy digital artworks before they were featured on OpenSea’s homepage, which typically drives up the price of pieces. He then sold off the works and pocketed the earnings in a personal account. It wasn’t until Twitter users spotted his unique CryptoPunk avatar on both his account profile and matching wallets that the connection was revealed. “The fact that this kind of behavior is genuinely scandalous in the NFT world is a very good indication that NFTs are much closer to being securities than they are to being art,” tweeted Felix Salmon, Axios’s chief financial correspondent.

Manufacturing in Vietnam will no longer resume on September 15 as previously expected, Home News Now reports, because the government has extended its lockdown order to September 30 in hopes of further improving vaccination rates before lifting restrictions. An estimated 26 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated, with 6 percent having received their first dose—though, more than 50 percent of residents in the Ho Chi Minh City area, where most furniture for the U.S. market is produced, have received their first dose. In the meantime, facilities are beginning to operate at reduced capacity, while the government is allowing employees to return to work within 14 days of their first dose.

Illinois-based outdoor furniture manufacturer NorthCape International has secured $10 million in funding from Gerber Finance, which provides services for companies experiencing accelerated growth. Despite facing supply chain complications during the pandemic, NorthCape says it increased its revenue by 27 percent in 2020, and projects a 35 percent increase this year with the new injection of working capital.

U.S. stocks took a major dip Monday, marking the S&P 500’s biggest decline since May, The Wall Street Journal reports. The slide was the result of a global selloff on risky assets like stocks and commodities triggered by concerns about the China Evergrande Group, which carries the largest debt burden of any publicly traded real-estate management or development company in the world. Following the pullback, U.S. stocks rose again on Tuesday—with the Dow Jones up 0.5 percent and the S&P up 0.4 percent—leading analysts to believe the dip was long overdue after a relatively calm summer. Now, investors are turning their attention to how the cooling pace of global economic recovery will affect the markets moving forward.

Twenty-five-year Vogue veteran Hamish Bowles has been tapped to lead the editorial team at The World of Interiors, and will become the magazine’s third editor in its 40-year history when he assumes the role in January, Curbed reports. Bowles steps in following departure of current editor Rupert Thomas, who served the title for 22 years and was a protégé of founding editor Min Hogg. The new leadership may also signal a coming shift for the eclectic magazine—in a release issued by Condé Nast, the publisher stated that Bowles will “lead The World of Interiors’ editorial team into a new era that honours the magazine’s timeless heritage while expanding its influence and reach to audiences across digital and video.”

Launches and Collaborations

West Elm has debuted its first collaboration for West Elm Kids—an interpretation of the children’s book The Old Truck, authored and illustrated by brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. Through the lens of a young Black girl’s imagination, the book tells the story of one family’s hard work and persistence through a life spent on a farm. The corresponding limited-edition collection includes 13 gender-neutral baby and kid-friendly pieces—such as quilts, pillows, rugs, wallpaper and home accessories—featuring the book’s block-print illustrations in bright colors.

New York houseplant provider Horti launched a new “plant insurance” program, Clever reports. Led by the company’s resident plant doctor and scientist Chris Satch, the initiative connects plant owners to the company’s network of specialists through two unique plans: The Plant Reassurance Plan, at $4.99 a month, allows users to send in a photo of an ailing plant to receive a diagnosis and care tips in return, while the Plant Resurrection Plan, at $9.99 a month, offers customized tips and plant replacement should treatment not succeed.

Marking the conclusion of its sixth annual student design fellowship, Be Original Americas has released the recorded presentations from this year’s digital educational initiative, now open for free public access. Viewers can visit the organization’s website to watch any of the 20 sessions, which offer a look into various factories and architecture and design studios, along with the headquarters of several Be Original Americas member companies around the world. Featured businesses include Blu Dot, Gensler Architecture & Design, Herman Miller and the International Interior Design Association.

For the latest product news, check out BOH’s new weekly digest of collection debuts, Product Preview.

Showhouses

Together with design marketing platform Embello, Martha Stewart Living has announced its first-ever Living by Design Virtual Showhouse, launching on March 8, 2022. Virtually set in Bedford, New York, the town of Martha Stewart’s primary residence, the space will be designed by Brandon Architects and feature sponsored products and direct path-to-purchase callouts. The group of 20 design influencers tapped to design the space include Bobby Berk, Corey Damen Jenkins and Shea McGee.

Recommended Reading

Incense sales rose during the pandemic, as many lost their sense of smell due to the illness, while others longed for new scents after spending months in the same place (with the same old smells). For the New York Times Style Magazine, Ligaya Mishan traces the history of incense from its ancient roots to more recent New Age iterations, explaining why today’s stuff is a new kind of home accent with a consolatory quality.

Italian-born industrial designer-artist-architect Gaetano Pesce is the undisputed master of blobby, formless shapes—his organic, candy-colored pieces have long held a groundbreaking, and at times controversial, place in the world of design. For Curbed, Matthew Schneier takes a deep dive into the life of the iconic designer, whose work has once again assumed an influential place in today’s design zeitgeist. “His fervid energy, his experimental daring, and his celebrations of error and uncertainty all make him look more and more like a visionary of our chaotic, cheerfully toxic present,” says Schneier.

Historically, it hasn’t been easy to determine when a house was built—you’d have to dig through old documents, deeds and census records to obtain an often incorrect approximation. Now there’s a faster, more accurate way to find out, The New York Times reports. Through the practice of dendrochronology, a method of dating houses by analyzing tree-ring patterns in the timber used to build them, homeowners can achieve a more specific read on when a building was constructed, right down to the year and sometimes even the season.

Cue the Applause

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has been listed as one of Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people of 2021—the only architect to make the list, Dezeen reports. Kuma was recognized for his “intricate buildings” and their ability to merge seamlessly into the surrounding environment. As head of the Tokyo-based Kengo Kuma and Associates, he designed such projects as the Japan National Stadium—the main site of this year’s Olympic Games—as well as the V&A Dundee design museum in Scotland, the Folk Art Museum of China Academy of Art, and the GC Prostho Museum Research Center in Japan.

Homepage image: The West Elm Kids collaboration with children’s book authors and illustrators Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey | Courtesy of West Elm

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