news digest | Feb 13, 2024 |
Bobby Berk designs model homes, Mexico outranks China as the top source of U.S. imports, and more

This week in design, homeowners are embracing the winter weather by constructing backyard ice skating rinks—with setups ranging from quick-assembly kits to custom full-size arenas. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Despite recent speculation that its newly launched home collection may be discontinued, Banana Republic plans to continue developing its interior decor product offerings, an official from the brand told Women’s Wear Daily. After debuting home textiles last spring and furniture, lighting and decor in the fall, Banana Republic plans to launch additional bedding, dining and bath products in the coming year. Still, sources close to the brand say there is some truth to the rumors that Banana Republic Home has faced challenges, with one telling WWD that shoppers at the company’s temporary home store in New York found that certain pieces were too large for their city apartments. The retailer has faced setbacks in recent months, with net sales down 11 percent in the third quarter of 2023 compared with last year, though new initiatives like the recent appointment of Zac Posen as creative director of parent company Gap Inc. may help breathe new life into the brand.

For the first time in 20 years, Mexico outranks China as America’s top source of imports. As The New York Times reports, new data released last week revealed that goods imported from China dropped 20 percent last year, with American businesses and consumers increasingly turning to places like Mexico, Europe and South Korea for auto parts, shoes, toys and raw materials. According to economists, the decrease in trade dependency on China largely results from tariffs originating with the Trump administration, which have continued throughout the Biden presidency.

Every six years, the Energy Department is required to review and tighten efficiency standards for appliance makers (a rule that led to the controversy over a potential ban on gas stoves last year). Now manufacturers are pushing back on the pace of those regulations. As The Wall Street Journal reports, several industry groups contend that despite recent technological advances, the legislative rules are causing many appliances to near their energy-efficiency limits while driving up costs for consumers. Groups like the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers are now lobbying Congress to reduce its six-year timeline; in November, U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko of Arizona introduced a bill called the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, which aims to prevent the DOE from mandating efficiency standards that aren’t cost-effective. In the meantime, new standards for dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers are expected to be completed by mid-2024.

Mattress and upholstery fabric maker Global Textile Alliance laid off roughly 95 employees at its factory in Reidsville, North Carolina, Furniture Today reports. Last week, GTA—a subsidiary of Belgian company Love Home Fabrics—filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification alerting the state that employees in its knitting, weaving, finishing and operational support departments would be impacted. According to the filing, the manufacturer attributed the cuts to “competitive and market forces in the textile and bedding sectors.”

Nearly five years after being ousted by the company’s board, Adam Neumann, former chief executive and co-founder of WeWork, is attempting to buy back the bankrupt venture. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Neumann’s lawyers notified WeWork’s advisors last week that he is partnering with New York hedge fund Third Point and other investors to explore a bid for the company. The effort already faces some hurdles: A Third Point spokesperson told WSJ that the fund has not committed to participating in any transaction and “had only preliminary conversations” with Neumann; meanwhile, WeWork executives have been keeping him from submitting a bid ever since he initially expressed interest in December. For the time being, the current management has said it intends to hand over control of the company to creditors before returning the business to profitability.

Bobby Berk designs model homes, Mexico outranks China as the top source of U.S. imports, and more
A model-home bedroom by Bobby Berk for Tri Pointe HomesKara Mercer

Launches & Collaborations
Actor and comedian Seth Rogen is the guest judge and executive producer of a new reality competition show centered on pottery and ceramics, ARTnews reports. The Great Canadian Pottery Throw Down follows 10 amateur potters as they engage in weekly challenges, with ceramicist Brendan Tang and professional potter and educator Natalie Waddell serving as judges.

Bobby Berk has debuted a new partnership with builder Tri Pointe Homes that will allow home buyers to purchase properties designed by the former Queer Eye interiors expert. Buyers will be able to choose from among 10 styles—including Luxe Bohemian, New Mediterranean and Transitional Farmhouse—available in Tri Pointe communities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rancho Mission Viejo and Winchester, California.

Recommended Reading
Taking a cue from sprawling European estates built centuries ago, a number of homeowners in the U.S. are constructing stand-alone chapels on their properties, seeking a place to worship and to conduct weddings and baptisms on their own turf. For The Wall Street Journal, Sarah Paynter takes a look at the growing trend, exploring how homeowners are leaning into increasingly ornate ancient design principles and religious antiques to furnish their personal chapels.

Many Americans dream of running away to Europe to live the expat life—but the complicated process of buying a home in a foreign country usually doesn’t make an appearance in those fantasies. For The Washington Post, Gabe Bullard breaks down the process of purchasing a property abroad, from applying for the correct visa to finding a local real estate agent and financing the purchase based on country-specific regulations.

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