news digest | Aug 15, 2023 |
Amazon cuts private-label furniture brands, the extreme soundproofing of the ultrarich and more

While the “modern farmhouse” style enjoyed a long reign in the home world over the past decade, some are beginning to grow tired of the aesthetic—as evidenced by a growing Facebook group called The People Against Modern Farmhouse, now 165,800 members strong. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Between rising housing costs and pay rates that fail to keep pace, a majority of Gen Zers now believe they will never own a house, The New York Times reports. According to Moody’s Analytics, rent has grown 135 percent between 1999 and 2022—while incomes have only risen by 77 percent in the same period. Those conditions have directly translated to less accessible housing, where a median-income household in the U.S. now needs to spend more than 30 percent of their income—long the standard metric for appropriate housing costs—for an average-priced apartment. Gen Z has felt the brunt of this pressure: About one third of the demographic’s adults live with their parents and plan to stay with them long-term, and more than a third of respondents to a recent survey conducted by housing lender Freddie Mac think they’ll never be able to achieve homeownership.

Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Søn acquired Danish lighting manufacturer Pandul. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 1982, Pandul is known for a product assortment created by master designers such as Hans J. Wegner, Erik Magnussen and Henning Koppel. According to a release announcing the purchase, the company’s pieces will continue to be distributed through existing sales channels.

Amazon is reducing its private-label operation and discontinuing dozens of its in-house brands in the process, The Wall Street Journal reports. Along with eliminating 27 of its 30 clothing brands, according to the WSJ, the company plans to drop private-label furniture lines as well, and will phase out the Rivet and Stone & Beam brands once the stock of those items runs out. The company’s Amazon Basics brand, which sells home goods and tech accessories, will remain in operation. The decision to cut down offerings follows efforts that Amazon began last year to scale back amid a sales slump and criticism from lawmakers who have targeted the tech company with antitrust allegations in recent years.

Private equity firm Carousel Capital has invested in Birmingham, Alabama–based McCorquodale Transfer (MTI), a residential services platform. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 1995 by CEO Bart McCorquodale, MTI provides interior design clients and their customers with outsourced receiving, warehousing, moving delivery and installation services, along with relocation services to residential customers and commercial clients across the Southeast. Following the investment, Carousel Capital plans to assist MTI in achieving growth through strategic acquisitions.

AI-designed sustainable materials may be a reality within the next 18 months, Dezeen reports, thanks to the efforts of a startup called Orbital Materials. Launched by CEO Jonathan Godwin less than two years ago, the company utilizes a model similar to AI applications like ChatGPT, inputting instructions for material performance that the program uses to create a 3D molecular structure for the design of a real-life product. Orbital Material’s current focus is on sectors in which a product could be brought to market most quickly, such as the realm of “carbon capture” (a term used to describe materials that can draw carbon dioxide from the air), though in the long-term, Godwin also plans to develop materials for architecture and design.

College students and their families are expected to spend a record amount on back-to-school and dorm shopping this year, CNBC reports—an average of roughly $1,367 per person, marking a 40 percent jump from 2019. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and market researcher Prosper Insights & Analytics, respondents expect to buy more new merchandise this year, along with big-ticket items like electronics and furniture, with students driven in part by the influence of dorm design inspiration on TikTok, and parents driven to splurge after their children missed out on the typical college experience during the pandemic. Additionally, analysts say the market share for dorm shopping may be distributed differently this year with the absence of Bed Bath & Beyond stores, potentially sending the increased spending toward retailers like Target, Amazon, HomeGoods and Ikea.

Across the pond, British philanthropist Hamish Ogston donated nearly 29 million pounds (or $36 million) to address the shortage of specialists who can preserve historic buildings, The Guardian reports. The funding will go toward U.K. architectural conservation organizations such as English Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, Commonwealth Heritage Forum and the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship—all of which support the education and training of craftspeople in disciplines such as carpentry, plastering, roofing and stonemasonry.

Textile converter and manufacturer Swavelle Group shut down its mill in Garfield, New Jersey—a site that came under its purview following the acquisition of the Bella-Dura textile company in 2019—after four years of operation. According to a statement issued by the company, a combination of difficult market conditions and rising production costs have made the site’s operations unsustainable for the overall business. It’s unclear how many will be affected by the closure, though the company said it would work to support affected employees and community members. Next month, Swavelle Group will begin transitioning its U.S.–based production to partner mills overseas.

Launches & Collaborations
Brooklinen tapped interdisciplinary Brooklyn artist Zoe Schlacter for the latest installment of the brand’s Artist Series bedding collaborations. The resulting pattern draws inspiration from movement—called Contour & Flow, it features striking swirls punctuated by graphic vertical lines and is available in the shades Toffee and Raindrop Blue.

Recommended Reading
The practice of biohacking rose to prominence in the 2010s as an effort to achieve maximum physical and mental performance through rigorous exercise, a strict diet, a meditation routine—and now, a house outfitted to enhance all of these practices. For The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Flint takes a glimpse inside the homes where every design choice is geared toward peak health and wellness, with features like ultraviolet light systems that promise air and water purification, molecular hydrogen gas generators and infrared saunas—even when the payoff of such expenditures are dubious.

In New York, the cacophony of street noise in the city’s most dense neighborhoods can be deafening even from inside your own home—unless, of course, you’re the owner of a space in one of a growing number of luxury high-rises that offers library-level quiet, no matter what’s going on outside. For Curbed, Kim Velsey explores the world of high-end professional soundproofing, which utilizes tactics such as double-paned windows that “can cost as much as a car” to ensure that apartments are sealed off from everything from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to a next-door neighbor’s pin-drop.

Homepage image: Brooklinen tapped interdisciplinary Brooklyn artist Zoe Schlacter for the latest installment of the brand’s Artist Series bedding collaborations | Courtesy of Brooklinen

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