news digest | Mar 12, 2024 |
American manufacturing slows down, purified air is the latest status symbol and more

This week in design, vacation rental platform HomeToGo partnered with frozen waffle brand Eggo to offer guests the chance to stay in a home renovated to look like a giant stack of pancakes—a branding stunt that rivals the recent debut of a real-life Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse and Shrek’s swamp. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
U.S. manufacturing shrank in February for the 16th consecutive month, marking its longest downturn since the 2008 recession, Furniture Today reports. The data comes from the Institute for Supply Management, which compiles a monthly index based on metrics like production, orders, and layoff or hiring activity. Among the 18 manufacturing sectors monitored by the organization, the furniture and wood products industry reported the biggest decline this month, registering a drop in activity across new orders, production output and employment. In a bright spot, furniture manufacturers reported lower order backlogs for the month and no change in supplier delivery speeds or inventory levels.

The Pierre Yovanovitch Group has acquired historic French furniture manufacturer D’Argentat and its subsidiary Ecart International, which was founded by the late French interior designer Andrée Putman. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The companies have worked together for more than a decade, and the purchase marks a step toward vertical integration for Yovanovitch. Following the deal, D’Argentat will retain its name, team and headquarters in Corrèze.

Chatsworth, California–based company Lamps Plus is closing down Pacific Coast Lighting, Furniture Today reports. The company said in a statement that its 45-year-old wholesale arm has long represented a small percentage of the company’s total business, which led to the decision to focus solely on its e-commerce and retail channels.

B Lab Global, the nonprofit organization that awards B Corp certification, is in the process of raising its performance standards for environmental, social and governance policies, GreenBiz reports. Though the current process allows companies to achieve certification by earning higher marks in some areas while recording lower performance in others, the newly proposed standards would require companies to achieve a minimum score across impact topics such as fair wages, human rights, climate action, and diversity and inclusion policies. Other changes would disqualify companies that generate more than 5 percent of their revenue servicing clients in fossil fuel industries. The organization is seeking feedback about the proposed changes until March 26, and it expects to publish a finalized update by the end of the year.

Beyond Inc. has acquired the intellectual property assets of online retailer Zulily in a $4.5 million deal, Forbes reports. The news comes just a few months after a statement published on Zulily’s homepage announced that the company would be winding down in order to “maximize value for the company’s creditors”—a decision that followed a rough few years of sliding sales and rotating ownership. Now the operation will be folded into Beyond Inc.’s off-price division alongside Overstock, which itself will return to the market later this month.

A record high of nearly 70 percent of Manhattan homes bought in the last quarter of 2023 were cash purchases, The Financial Times reports, in a sign that high mortgage rates are edging out all but the market’s wealthiest buyers. The metric represents a boost from the same period in 2022, when just 55 percent of transactions were all-cash deals—notably, before mortgage rates climbed to record heights, landing today around 6 percent. As a result, would-be homebuyers are increasingly reverting to renter status, with one recent report finding a 4 percent increase in new leases in Manhattan and Brooklyn in January 2024 compared with the same month the previous year, as rents rose to an all-time median high of $3,950.

In the wake of more frequent wildfires and worsening air pollution—along with a post-pandemic heightened awareness of airborne pathogens—a growing number of homeowners see purified air as the newest luxury amenity. As The Wall Street Journal reports, high-end developers are including a variety of air purification features in new builds—including ventilation systems in laundry rooms and under sinks to filter pollutants from cleaning products; fans to exhaust air from under slab foundations and keep contaminated soil vapors away; and ionization-based filtration systems to eliminate hazardous airborne particles. In existing homes, residents are adding stand-alone air filter units and materials that prevent chemical off-gassing, as awareness of healthy home design increases.

American manufacturing slows down, purified air is the latest status symbol and more
A table cloth from the newly launched collection by The InsideCourtesy of The Inside

Launches & Collaborations
Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler is celebrating its 90th anniversary by debuting a reproduction of the two-tiered antique flower holder from Fowler’s personal collection. While the original piece has since been bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the limited-edition reproduction will be available throughout 2024, with pieces hand-made and hand-painted in England.

Direct-to-consumer customizable furniture brand The Inside has announced the launch of its first soft goods collection, which includes digitally printed table linens—including tablecloths and runners—available in a variety of colorful floral patterns.

Recommended Reading
Whether the purpose is to add storage, evade burglars, establish a panic room, or bring spy-novel fantasies to life, a growing number of American homeowners are exploring ways of incorporating hidden doors and secret rooms into their homes. As Jane Margolies writes for The New York Times, the topic has blown up online: Houzz reports that searches for “trap doors,” “kitchens with hidden pantries” and “speakeasy home bar lounge” more than doubled between 2022 and 2023, and TikTok posts on the “Hidden Room” account have garnered 165,000 likes—all of which seems to reveal an urge among homeowners to create a hidden space to steal away.

Every designer faces the challenge of getting a client to see their vision—but in the case of clients who are colorblind (a condition that occurs to some degree in one in 12 men and one in 200 women), there’s an added degree of difficulty. For House Beautiful, Meghan Shouse asks designers how they accommodate the needs of colorblind clients, with an emphasis on improving communication, coming prepared with plenty of options, and seeing homes through an entirely different lens.

As the design industry moves toward adopting sustainable habits, furniture makers are embracing imperfections—such as visible wood grain or multicolor recycled plastic—as indicators of more ethical production practices, The New York Times reports. While uniformity was traditionally a sign of quality among mass-produced furniture items, brands utilizing recyclable materials and waste-stream byproducts are now letting go of consistency in order to follow through on sustainability commitments. Recent examples include Swiss design company Vitra’s use of recycled plastics in its new line of Eames shell chairs, which had to be created with reformulated colors, and Finnish furniture brand Vaarnii’s use of Scots pine, with its many knots and irregularities—a feature some designers expect to become even more common in the years ahead.

Cue the Applause
The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation held its third annual Leadership Institute for emerging industry leaders late last month. The 23 selected members converged for a weekend of keynotes and interactive discussions with senior leaders from the home furnishings industry. For the first time, five participants earned a Home Furnishings Leadership Fellowship from High Point University after completing 120 hours of work focused on leadership development. The inaugural fellows include Sydney Harris, director of organizational development at Furnitureland South; Ryan Mahoney, senior vice president of leasing at Andmore; Troy Pittenger, vice president of finance at Norwalk Furniture; Shane Pohlman, director of furniture at Nebraska Furniture Mart; and Erin Weir, co-founder of Pearl Collective.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.