news digest | Dec 19, 2023 |
Australia bans engineered stone, Gen Z flocks to Pinterest and more

This week in design, Christmas is fast approaching, and it seems that designers are rather unexpectedly opting to decorate with their own chic renditions of the sparse Charlie Brown tree. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Etsy announced last week that it was laying off 11 percent of its workforce, or roughly 225 employees, as part of a restructuring effort, CNBC reports. In a letter to employees, CEO Josh Silverman attributed the cuts to a “very challenging” macroenvironment, with gross merchandise sales remaining essentially unchanged since 2021, even as Etsy’s marketplace of sellers has more than doubled in size since 2019.

Australia has banned engineered stone, Dezeen reports, in an effort to reduce the risks posed to a growing number of workers who contract silicosis—a potentially fatal lung disease—after cutting the material. Prior to the ruling, Caesarstone had been under fire in recent months after three Australian news outlets accused the stone supplier of not properly protecting its workforce; amid the uproar, brands like Ikea and Bunnings moved quickly to ban engineered stone from their own product ranges in the country. Now, some of those who campaigned for a ban in Australia are turning their attention to markets like the U.S., where there are 10 times as many stonemasons (roughly 100,000) and regulations have lagged despite rising cases of silicosis.

Conn’s Inc., a Texas-based specialty home goods retailer, acquired 120-year-old furniture retailer W.S. Badcock LLC in an all-stock transaction, Furniture Today reports. Headquartered in Mulberry, Florida, the new subsidiary operates roughly 380 Badcock & More stores throughout the Southeast. The combined companies are expected to operate more than 500 stores with a projected $1.85 billion in annual revenue. Following the acquisition, Mitchell Stiles, president and COO of Badcock, will remain in his current role, reporting to Conn’s CEO Norman L. Miller.

Norwalk Furniture announced last week that president Caroline Hipple would be transitioning to a role as brand advisor and creative director. As Furniture Today reports, Hipple will also be rejoining HB2 Resources, a management consulting firm she helped found. As Norwalk’s board of directors searches for a new leader, Dennis Camp—a partner at the company’s accounting firm, Payne Nickles & Company—has been appointed interim president.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to return 16 major Khmer-era artworks to Cambodia and Thailand, The New York Times reports. The pieces selected to be returned last week are among the best-preserved sculptures recovered from the Angkor period, which stretched from the 9th to the 15th century; they are also all associated with Douglas A.J. Latchford, a museum donor and prolific dealer who was indicted for illegal trafficking shortly before his death in 2020. The artworks’ return marks the museum’s first repatriation following an announcement earlier this year that the Met would review all of its collections and policies in response to scrutiny over looted artifacts among its holdings.

Logistics giant XPO acquired 28 service centers from Yellow Corp. in an $870 million deal, Reuters reports. The purchase comes several months after Yellow filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August, freeing up roughly 8 to 10 percent of market share, since it had serviced large customers such as Walmart and Home Depot. With the acquisition, XPO will expand its network with the addition of new real estate in freight markets like Atlanta, Houston, Nashville, Brooklyn and more.

Gen Z prefers knockoffs—or “dupes” as they’re more commonly known on TikTok—more than any other generation, according to a new report by Business Insider and data company YouGov. In a survey of more than 1,800 Americans spanning five generations, over 70 percent of Gen Zers reported that they sometimes or always buy less-expensive imitations of name-brand products. TikTok plays a large part in the trend: 61 percent of the respondents reported that they used the social media platform to find dupes. (The hashtag #dupe alone has more than 5.9 billion views.) Meanwhile, platforms and producers have adapted to accommodate the craze, with TikTok launching its own in-app shopping feature and brands on Amazon creating name-brand knockoffs that include the word dupe in the product name.

In the U.S., federal law prohibits anyone under 18 from being employed in the roofing industry due to the dangerous nature of the profession. Still, many migrant children flock to the profession—referring to themselves as “ruferitos” on social media—as they seek under-the-table work in the construction industry in order to sustain themselves and send money home to families living in poverty, The New York Times reports. Despite the fact that children working on construction sites are six times as likely to be killed as minors doing other work (according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), the NYT’s investigation found that underage migrant workers had been employed to replace the roofs of big-box stores, government-owned buildings, campus housing and private homes. Plus, as a greater number of migrant children enter the U.S. and the construction industry, the Department of Labor has failed to keep up by enforcing child labor laws, bringing only an average of seven cases a year over the past decade.

Launches and Collaborations
Luxury hotel group Aman launched its debut design venture at Design Miami’s annual fair earlier this month, Vogue reports. Aman Interiors includes the launch of the Foundations Collection—a line that includes a bench, chair and side table, plus limited-edition pieces designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma—as well as interior design services reserved only for owners of Aman residences.

Digital design atelier Society of Wonderland and French design brand Mojow teamed up on a limited-edition furniture collection that brings a playful spin to Mojow’s Yomi collection. The collaboration will see the brand’s midcentury-style inflatable sofas, armchairs, benches and poufs decorated with large-scale patterns available in pink, black and white shades.

Italian design house Pininfarina and Brazil-based high-end furniture brand Florense came together to design the Arco kitchen collection. Inspired by nature—with a focus on curved shapes and striking hues like peach and teal—the new line covers every component that makes up a kitchen space, from large furniture to accessories.

Australia bans engineered stone, Gen Z flocks to Pinterest and more
The Arco kitchen collectionCourtesy of Pininfarina and Florense

The Kips Bay Decorator Show House has announced the location for its seventh annual Palm Beach iteration, set to debut to the public on February 23, 2024. It will be situated inside a modern villa tucked away on a private road in the waterfront SoSo neighborhood. The 8,589-square-foot space features five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, a gourmet chef’s kitchen, a large pool and a 4,500-square-foot rooftop complete with an outdoor kitchen.

Showroom Representation
Coleman & Rose now represents Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and northern New York counties. The brand, which is based in Healdsburg, California, and Arequipa, Peru, offers a product suite that includes luxury alpaca fabrics and hand-woven rugs for the home.

New York–based design brand Lingua Franca is carrying Los Angeles–based artist and furniture designer Kathy Taslitz’s tabletop collection online and at The Holiday Shop—a pop-up exhibition at the brand’s West Village location. The line includes ceramic bowls, bookends and kitchen accessories.

Recommended Reading
While the rest of the consumer goods sector hit the brakes this year, Pinterest seemed immune to the slowdown: Its monthly active users hit 482 million in the third quarter of 2023, and its revenue increased 11 percent year-over-year—mostly thanks to Gen Z. As Amanda Hoover writes for Wired, the younger generation now makes up 40 percent of its active monthly users, a greater share than the millennials who put Pinterest on the map. Company executives suspect it has to do with the platform’s position as a place of exploration and inspiration as opposed to the algorithmic competition of other social media sites—either way, the company is cashing in on the user surge with a variety of new in-person and virtual shopping features.

When Jessica Vincent entered a Goodwill in Hanover County, Virginia, last week, she wasn’t expecting to find any treasures among the dusty shelves. Then, an iridescent glass vase caught her eye. Inscribed with a small M on the bottom—which she believed stood for Murano glass—she wondered if the $3.99 piece might resell for a couple hundred bucks. As Rebecca Carballo reports for The New York Times, the vase turned out to be a design of renowned Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, and the once-in-a-lifetime thrift store find nabbed upwards of $100,000 at auction.

Call for Entries
Nominations for the 2024 American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame are now open, calling for candidates from across the industry who have impacted home furnishings in extraordinary ways. To nominate someone before the February 1, 2024, deadline or for more information, click here.

Cue the Applause
The New York School of Interior Design has announced three design leaders and one firm that will be honored at its annual gala, set to take place March 5, 2024, at a private club in Manhattan. The Albert Hadley Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Ann Pyne, president of design firm McMillen Inc., which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Nate Berkus will receive the Larry Kravet Design Industry Leadership Award, and Erick Espinoza, creative director of Anthony Baratta LLC, will receive the Rising Star Award.

The Alturas Foundation has named Jomo Tariku as the 2024 recipient of its annual Artist Grant. An Ethiopian American artist and industrial designer based in Northern Virginia, Tariku produces work that synthesizes his experience of Africa’s diverse landscape, indigenous cultures, architecture, colors and more into a new design language, with pieces exhibited in major institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The grant will support Tariku’s research and the development of a new design installation based on African and African American culture.

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