news digest | Nov 1, 2022 |
‘Buy now, pay later’ puts Gen Z in debt, a furniture giant settles with the EPA and more

While fashion trends often travel downstream to the home realm, one influencer is going viral for taking things in the opposite direction—creating maximalist outfits from a variety of household objects (from door hinges to electrical outlets). Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
For the first time in two decades, mortgage rates topped 7 percent, NPR reports, with the weekly average for a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 7.08 percent—the highest level since April 2002. According to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, the surging rates (which have more than doubled since the start of the year) are contributing to stagnation in the housing market, with sales on a steady decline for the past eight months. Still, most analysts believe that an ongoing housing shortage, as well as the fact that most homeowners are currently locked into fixed-rate loans, will protect the market from a more serious crash.

Made terminated its formal sale process, Dezeen reports. The U.K.–based online furniture and homewares retailer was unable to find a buyer after inviting a number of companies to submit offers by the end of October, and stated late last week that it had no reasonable prospects. The news comes a little more than a year after Made reported record results in the first half of 2021, when revenue grew by 61 percent. Just a year later, the company’s success had taken a turn, as it saw a “significant reduction in demand” during the first half of 2022. Along with last week’s announcement, the company said it plans to issue a further update when necessary, and in the meantime has stopped taking new orders. According to TechCrunch, the company has lined up New York–based consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrators to prepare for insolvency.

Online real estate marketplace Zillow laid off about 300 employees, TechCrunch reports, citing an internal shift toward technology-related positions. The Seattle-based company issued the news to employees early last week, with the job cuts impacting Zillow Offers advisors, professional association sales and back-end staff at Zillow Home Loans and Zillow Closing Services, along with other teams. Though the move is not quite as impactful as Zillow’s decision to lay off a quarter of its staff last year, the new round is estimated to affect around 5 percent of employees.

Buy-now, pay-later providers found sudden popularity during the early days of the pandemic, as consumers were drawn to a short-term loan system with no interest and few to no fees. Now, Bloomberg reports, many such companies are facing higher rates of delinquency as inflation curbs spending habits—and younger borrowers in particular are facing balances they cannot pay off. According to a Federal Reserve report, 18 percent of consumers aged 18 to 29 fell behind on payments in 2021, with some users claiming that BNPL targets borrowers who are new to managing their own finances. While leading firms Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm all told Bloomberg that they offer more consumer safeguards than credit cards, it is also true that BNPL companies have reached Gen Z consumers in particular by partnering with social media influencers and offering BNPL services at online checkouts.

Furniture giant Flexsteel Industries agreed to pay a $9.8 million settlement to the Lane Street Ground Water Contamination Superfund Site in Elkhart, Indiana, where a district court found the company’s former manufacturing facility liable for contributing to the site’s contamination. As Furniture Today reports, the payout will also reimburse the Environmental Protection Agency for a portion of its past costs incurred at the site, where roughly 65 acres of residential and industrial properties were impacted when a groundwater plume was contaminated with solvents and degreasers from Flexsteel and allegedly two other parties. Flexsteel declined Furniture Today’s request for comment but stated that it plans to make its position public in an upcoming document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Amazon recalled 11,400 executive desk chairs after receiving more than a dozen complaints of the chair leg bases breaking under the weight of users, Home News Now reports. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued last week’s recall, which involved the Amazon Basics executive desk chair. The commission has advised consumers to stop using the product immediately and to contact Amazon for disposal instructions and a full refund.

Launches & Collaborations
Lulu and Georgia tapped Los Angeles interior designer Jake Arnold for a new collection of rugs. Featured in nine different styles, pieces from the selection—available in neutral earth tones—are designed to be layered together in a space, taking a note from Arnold’s own interior style.

Luxury online marketplace Chairish announced a new partnership with The Kairos Collection, a U.K.–based platform for vintage and antique furniture and art. The move will bring a new group of U.K. and European dealers to Chairish’s selling community, whose wares will now be accessible through Chairish’s Pamono site.

Designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent teamed up with PetSmart for a new collection of pet habitats and decor—not geared toward cats and dogs, but instead, the overlooked category of small pets such as fish, reptiles and rodents, Fast Company reports. The new collaboration will offer items like mini faux leather couches for guinea pigs, stone water bowls for reptiles and aquatic ornaments to be placed inside fish tanks.

Recommended Reading
Americans went on a furniture-buying frenzy during the pandemic, boosting sales on desks, chairs and patio equipment by more than $4 billion from 2019 to 2021—though much of those new items will end up in a landfill in just a few years. As Debra Kamin writes for The New York Times, many pieces of decor and home furnishings produced by brands like Ikea and Wayfair were designed to last only about five years, ushering in an era of “fast furniture” that has dangerous implications for the environment.

Victorian homes have come to occupy a starring role in many horror flicks, serving as the central location of spooky activity in everything from The Addams Family to Psycho—but why exactly is the 19th-century style so often typecast as a haunted house? For The Washington Post, Rachel Kurzius explains the architectural and historical factors—including labyrinthine rooms, darkness-inducing draperies and cultural influences from the era—that contribute to an overall feeling of eeriness inside such properties.

Cue the Applause
The Black Artists + Designers Guild debuted its first awards ceremony, BADG of Honor, last week, presenting five awards to Black creatives from the realm of art and design. The Collective Circle Award, which honors organizations that provide space for Black artists and designers, went to Mashonda Tifrere, the founder of ArtLeadHer, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides opportunities for women in the visual arts; the Founder Award went to landscape designer Walter Hood of Oakland, California–based Hood Design Studio; the Education Award went to Dori Tunstall, dean of design at Ontario College of Art & Design University; the Legacy Award went to Franklin Sirmans, the director of Perez Art Museum Miami; and the final award, the BADG Maker Award, went to Jomo Tariku. The organization also plans to commission a different maker each year to design and create the awards themselves—this year’s maker was glass artist Leo Tecosky, who made five one-of-a-kind glass sculptures for each honoree, with an additional piece also granted to Tiffany Farney for her contributions to the organization and for the realization of the event.

Thermador announced the winners of the fourth annual Kitchen Design Challenge, which welcomes designers, builders, architects and students to submit designs in exchange for cash prizes totaling $110,000. Honorees were selected in the categories of exceptional kitchen design, compact kitchen suite, original innovator/out-of-the-box space, student concept kitchen and more. For the full list of winners, click here.

Homepage image: Lulu and Georgia’s new rug collaboration with Los Angeles interior designer Jake Arnold | Courtesy of Lulu and Georgia

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