news digest | May 28, 2024 |
An appliance giant faces a consumer watchdog lawsuit, a North Carolina furniture producer lays off 200 workers and more

This week in design, one New Yorker had just signed the papers to purchase an apartment when he learned it had a surprise inside: an architectural marvel shared with city landmarks like Carnegie Hall, Grand Central Terminal’s Oyster Bar and The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Office and contract furniture producer HNI Corporation announced plans to close its manufacturing center in Hickory, North Carolina, early next year—a decision that will result in layoffs for 200 workers. As Furniture Today reports, CEO Jeff Lorenger says the move will allow HNI to cut costs by consolidating operations across its other facilities. Meanwhile, the company will continue to operate its brand headquarters out of Hickory while maintaining a commercial presence in the area.

Textile recycling company Syre—which specializes in circular polyester production—has completed a $100 million Series A funding round, Business of Fashion reports. The venture was launched earlier this year with $60 million in funding from sustainability-focused investing firm Vargas Holding and fashion and design company H&M Group. The new funding round includes additional investors such as Ikea parent company Ingka Group’s Imas Foundation, along with Volvo and investment firms Norrsken VC and Giant Ventures. With the new capital, the company plans to acquire patented textile-to-textile recycling technology and open several new production facilities: a blueprint plant in the U.S. set to begin operations later this year and two overseas commercial plants that will begin construction next year.

A consumer watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against appliance manufacturer Haier—the owner of General Electric’s GE Appliances business—for failing to warn consumers about the harmful air pollution caused by its gas stoves. As NPR reports, the lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund last week in the District of Columbia Superior Court, and it accused Haier of violating a consumer protection law that prohibits “deceptive and unconscionable business practices.” The group claims that according to its testing, two models of GE Appliances gas stoves produce nitrogen dioxide pollution at levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for outdoor air.

A hacker group has claimed responsibility for the cyberattack on the Christie’s website earlier this month, which forced the auction house to find alternatives to online bidding in time for its Spring Marquee Week sales. As The New York Times reports, a group called RansomHub alleged in a post on the dark web this week that it had sensitive information about some of the world’s wealthiest art collectors—including several names and birthdays as proof—and that if the company failed to pay the ransom, it would release the data by the end of May in retaliation. A Christie’s spokesman confirmed that the group took “some limited amount” of personal client information, but added that there was “no evidence that financial or transactional records were compromised.” Still, experts say the group’s claims could be plausible: RansomHub asserts online that it was responsible for a cyberattack on Change Healthcare earlier this year, for which it appeared to receive a $22 million payment from the company’s owner, UnitedHealth Group.

Ampla—a popular lender among smaller businesses in the apparel and home decor sectors—has faced a series of recent setbacks, including the decision to lay off half of its 62-person workforce last week, The New York Times reports. Founded in 2019, the company became a preferred lender for burgeoning brands in the DTC space due to its relatively low interest rates and flexible borrowing terms. But as the Fed hiked its benchmark rate, it has struggled along with its customers. An example from the home industry: The company recently sued Burke Decor for breach of contract, alleging the online retailer owed it $6.4 million plus interest. Now, sources familiar with Ampla say its executives are searching for a buyer after resorting to cost-cutting measures such as tightening or freezing clients’ lines of credit and telling others to seek out other lenders. The issues follow the company’s failed attempts late last year and this year to raise more capital in order to stay in compliance with its own lenders.

Pennsylvania home furnishings retailer Fecera’s Furniture is closing after a 78-year run, Furniture Today reports. Founded in 1946 by husband-and-wife team Arthur J. and Inez Fecera, the business began with a small storefront and grew into a three-location operation, which passed through three generations of family leadership before consolidating into one store in Sinking Spring in 2001. The decision to shut down the venture coincides with current owner Connie Fecera’s decision to join her husband, former CEO Arthur A. “Artie” Fecera, in retirement. Accordingly, the store began its going-out-of-business sale on May 23, with the 65,000-square-foot retail space simultaneously hitting the market.

A growing number of first-time homebuyers are tapping their parents for financial help, according to a recent Freddie Mac analysis, which found that the share of buyers under 35 who co-signed a mortgage with borrowers age 55 and older reached 3.7 percent in 2022—matching a 30-year high set in 2015, The Washington Post reports. Across the board, 12 percent of homebuyers received help from family and friends as of last month, up 9 percent from the same period last year. With the housing market remaining unaffordable to most buyers due to mortgage rates at 20-year highs and the median home price at $420,800, real estate company Redfin expects the trend to rise even more in 2023.

Pinterest released its “Summer 2024 Trend Report,” which utilizes the site’s popular searches to determine what’s next in fashion, beauty and home decor. The takeaway: “Big, bold style” will reign supreme this season. In the interiors space, that translates to “dopamine decor”—a trend that gravitates toward vibrant, personalized decorations and furnishings, which saw a 280 percent increase in searches on the platform. Under that umbrella, several microtrends are experiencing their own boost in popularity, with a 2,605 percent increase in searches for “grandma core bedroom,” a 2,090 percent search increase for “Nancy Meyers living room,” and a 1,418 percent increase for “vintage eclectic home.”

An appliance giant faces a consumer watchdog lawsuit, a North Carolina furniture producer lays off 200 workers and more
The Water-Moonlit rug from Marc Phillips and ClodaghCourtesy of Marc Phillips x Clodagh

Launches & Collaborations
New York–based designer Clodagh and rug company Marc Phillips have teamed up for a joint collection inspired by the five elements: wood, metal, fire, water and earth. Each of the resulting hand-knotted rugs incorporates a mix of natural fibers including silk, wool and hemp.

Sherwin-Williams has debuted a new AI-powered app that allows users to upload photos of a room and receive personalized paint recommendations based on the colors detected in the space, including on art and furniture. Users can also order free color chips or purchase peel-and-stick samples directly from the app.

Cosentino joined forces with Italian design studio Formafantasma to create a new sustainable surface product called Earthic. Available in six neutral shades, the material was manufactured with postconsumer bio-resin derived from vegetable oil and recycled cooking oil.

Chicago-based retailer Jayson Home is debuting a summer pop-up at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, open now through August 19. Located in a seventh-floor loft space, the maximalist assortment includes case goods, artwork, rugs, lighting, design objects, and a variety of antique, vintage and new upholstery sourced from across the globe.

Recommended Reading
Over the last few years, buzzy DTC cookware brands like Our Place, Great Jones and Caraway took social media by storm, drumming up hype and waitlists for their all-in-one affordable pots and pans. Now many of those same pieces are clogging up resale sites or ending up in the trash. For The New York Times, Ella Quittner checks in with disillusioned consumers, many of whom have decided to graduate to higher-price heritage cookware pieces—those with less Instagram appeal and longer lifespans.

Following last year’s highly saturated Barbiecore craze, the interior mood this summer is decidedly darker. In The New York Times, Lia Picard explores why the dramatic design principles made popular during the Victorian era are having a renewed moment for many designers and homeowners today—and how the moody choice can create a space that’s surprisingly cozy and warm.

From the outside, the Cross chair from Danish furniture brand Takt looks like a simple wooden design. Closer inspection reveals that it might just be the “world’s most environmentally conscious chair.” Fast Company’s Nate Berg dives into the exhaustive criteria used to reduce the piece’s carbon footprint (including an examination of its land use, ozone depletion and freshwater ecotoxicity) and explores how the process could offer a window into the future of sustainable furniture production.

Cue the Applause
The Female Design Council announced the winners of its first International Contemporary Furniture Fair Best in Show awards, presented at ICFF 2024. Liora Manné earned the Best in Textile Design distinction for her “Superbloom” installation, presented as part of The Crossroads exhibit; Monling Lee of Jumbo NYC won Best in Furniture Design for the Fortune chair, manufactured by Heller; and MushLume Lighting, founded by Danielle Trofe, earned Best in Lighting Design for her mycelium-grown collection.

Formica Corporation announced the winners of its seventh annual FORM Student Innovation Competition, which challenged North American interior design, architecture and furniture design students to utilize the brand’s products to create furniture pieces in alignment with the theme “Newstalgia.” The grand prize went to Cali Pitcher from Georgian College in Ontario for her midcentury-modern-inspired multifunctional piece Notions; Audrey Weiss from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, earned second place for her piece Novaro; and Juarez Zacatel and Monica Arrezola from Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla in Mexico won the third-place prize for their Saturno cabinet.

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