news digest | Jun 11, 2024 |
Carpenters Workshop Gallery is under fire, Mikel Welch’s show wins an Emmy, and more

This week in design, Ikea is recruiting candidates for a dream work-from-home gig: Get paid more than $16 an hour to assist customers with furniture selection—and serve up meatballs—at the retailer’s virtual Roblox store. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
For nearly two decades, London-based Carpenters Workshop Gallery has been a fixture in the world of high-end design, representing major names like Wendell Castle, Johanna Grawunder and Nacho Carbonell, and employing around 120 people across offices in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles. Now an exposé in Air Mail is alleging that the gallery has concealed a corrupt core for years. Interviews with former employees and artists suggest that Carpenters Workshop breached artists’ contracts and shorted them on commissions, leading to at least one known ongoing lawsuit. Former employees also told Air Mail that co-founders Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail frequently exhibited inappropriate behavior toward employees, including recruiting interns on the basis of physical appearance and engaging in affairs with junior staff. Among the gravest allegations made against the company is the claim that it failed to meet minimum housing standards for workers at its factory in Roissy, France—the site of one employee’s death in 2015. “We are of course deeply troubled by the content of the article. Right now, we are prioritising the welfare of our staff and artists and taking the time to consider our response with our internal teams,” read a statement from the gallery’s global marketing director, Mary Agnew, when reached for comment by ARTnews.

Furniture manufacturer Gabriella White—comprising the family of brands that includes Summer Classics, Gabby and Wendy Jane—has resolved a yearlong lawsuit against wholesale giant Costco for infringement of patent and intellectual property rights. Filed last April, the suit centered on two pieces in the Summer Classics Malta collection: a lounge chair that retails for $3,500 and a sofa that goes for $7,000. The brand alleged that Costco replicated the designs with its Austin four-piece seating set, which costs $2,999.99. “Costo has made a deliberate decision to copy Summer Classics premium product with a less expensive, inferior, imported knock off,” the original filing states. In April, the parties settled, with Costco agreeing to cease sale of its product and pay an undisclosed amount to Gabriella White.

Not long after Sotheby’s announced a round of layoffs at its London outpost, the Financial Times reported that its rival Christie’s plans to trim its own team. While sources from the auction house told FT that they could not confirm the number of redundancies, the job cuts resulted from a need to “remain commercially resilient and adaptable.” In other news, Christie’s is still facing challenges related to the cyberattack that brought down the auction house’s website last month. The Art Newspaper reports that a Dallas-based client named Efstathios Maroulis has filed a class action complaint in New York, claiming the auction house’s “failure to properly secure and safeguard sensitive information” impacted an estimated 500,000 registered bidders. In the filing, he alleges that the hackers “have already engaged in identity theft and fraud and can in the future commit a variety of crimes,” and requests damages of an amount to be determined at trial.

Missouri-based furniture component maker Leggett & Platt announced plans to close its High Point manufacturing operation and cut 158 jobs in the process. As the Triad Business Journal reports, the shutdown follows the company’s restructuring plan from January, in which it outlined a strategy to improve profitability by reducing its footprint from 50 to around 30 to 35 facilities. Leggett & Platt has already closed four distribution facilities and a specialty foam plant, along with consolidating two others and downsizing its operations in China. An April guidance document from the company projected that sales would be down 2 to 8 percent this year compared to 2023, thanks to a slowed housing market and low consumer confidence.

San Diego–based case goods manufacturer Oak Furniture West announced it is winding down operations after nearly 50 years in business as its owners enter retirement, Home News Now reports. Established in 1976 by CEO Frank Real, the company grew over the years to an operation spanning roughly 300,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse facilities in Tijuana, along with a headquarters in San Diego. The company declined to specify how many workers would be affected by the closing, but noted that the business will now focus on leasing out the industrial park that previously housed its operations.

Last week, Adobe users took to social media to voice their alarm after a software update revealed that the company “may access your content through both automated and manual methods, such as for content review.” As Slate reports, users immediately voiced concerns on X (formerly Twitter) about client confidentiality breaches, fearing that projects on Adobe platforms like Photoshop, InDesign or Premiere Pro could be analyzed using machine learning. Chief strategy officer Scott Belsky quickly made his own post explaining that the company does not train generative AI models on customer content. “Trust and transparency couldn’t be more crucial in these days, and we need to be clear when it comes to summarizing terms of service,” he wrote.

Launches & Collaborations
Roughly two years after launching Brooklyn home store The Six Bells, Audrey Gelman—the founder of the now-defunct women’s co-working space The Wing—has announced that the brand is moving into hospitality. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the expansion centers on the debut of a Six Bells hotel located in the Hudson Valley hamlet of Rosendale. Scheduled to open in spring 2025, the space—to be designed by Adam Greco—will feature 11 guest rooms starting at $400 a night, along with a cafe and an on-site shop.

Affordable online art purveyor Desenio tapped Dani Klarić to create an assortment of playful prints inspired by the Miami-based interior designer and content creator’s vibrant, eclectic style. The 12-piece collection features a variety of illustrated motifs, nodding to Klarić’s love of design with depictions of colorful furniture and living spaces.

Carpenters Workshop Gallery is under fire, Mikel Welch’s show wins an Emmy, and more
Airbnb invites guests to celebrate the 2024 Paris Olympics on the Musée d’Orsay terraceWendy Huynh

In time for the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics, Airbnb is hosting a viewing event for a select number of attendees on the historic Musée d’Orsay’s fifth-floor terrace. The space has been reimagined by multidisciplinary designer Mathieu Lehanneur—who also designed this year’s Olympic torch—and features a tasting bar, an edible-garden wall, and a full view of the opening ceremony, which will take place on the Seine River below. The space will accommodate up to 30 guests, with bookings set to open June 13.

Custom sofa brand BenchMade Modern teamed up with actor-turned-content-creator Eva Amurri for a new collection of sofas and sectionals. With a focus on durability, the assortment of 19 pieces includes a selection of modular pieces that can be reconfigured in a variety of custom layouts.

Ruggable partnered with mother-daughter duo Kathy and Nicky Hilton for a collection of 10 flat-woven and tufted rugs featuring lavish art-deco-style motifs. Each piece in the assortment is named for a place that holds special importance to the family—the Brooklawn takes its name from Nicky’s grandfather’s Bel-Air estate, while the Astoria nods to the Hilton residence at The Waldorf-Astoria.

Recommended Reading
RH CEO Gary Friedman is gearing up to lead the brand through an ambitious expansion, in spite of strong headwinds—including a steep dropoff in the company’s market value over the last few years and a slump in the housing market. In The New York Times, David Segal’s profile of the executive covers everything from the brand’s next frontier to the inner workings of a company set on “climbing the luxury mountain.”

In 2021, Kanye West purchased an architectural gem—a $57.3 million Malibu home designed by one of his heroes, the 82-year-old Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Today, the structure has been largely demolished. For The New Yorker, Ian Parker uncovers the outrageous story, as told by the local handyman who found himself swept up into West’s tumultuous—and ultimately, destructive—creative vision.

As an electrician based in Cornwall, New York, 27-year-old Lexis Czumak-Abreu spends her days as most electricians do: adding utility outlets to power poles, fixing electric panels in water-damaged basements and troubleshooting sparking outlets. Unlike other electricians, she streams her work to an audience of roughly 2.2 million people on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. As Te-Ping Chen reports for The Wall Street Journal, Czumak-Abreu is part of a growing movement of Gen Z skilled tradespeople who are also influencers, and who are playing into a growing interest among the demographic for a career path that offers less student debt and more independence.

During the pandemic, it seemed like an anomaly when consumers went on a candle-buying frenzy. While overall spending on the accessory has come down from those heights, demand continues to increase for the highest-end segment of the market: Sales of candles that cost more than $75 have increased 25 percent year-over-year. For The Washington Post, Rachel Kurzius explores why candles have captivated consumers, and how to invest in a high-quality choice without burning money.

Cue the Applause
The Netflix series Hack My Home won this year’s Daytime Emmy award for the Instructional/How-To Program category. The series follows interior designer Mikel Welch, innovation expert Brooks Atwood, construction lead Ati Williams and engineering expert Jessica Banks as they execute space-saving renovations for families in need.

The Rhode Island School of Design has awarded Marva Griffin Wilshire, founder and curator of Salone del Mobile’s SaloneSatellite international design event, with an honorary Doctor of Fine Art degree. Wilshire earned the distinction for her long-standing commitment to uplifting young talents through SaloneSatellite, which has served as a launching pad for more than 14,000 emerging voices in design over the last 25 years.

Call for Entries
Fantini USA is now accepting applications for the fifth annual Fantini Design Awards, which judges the best residential and commercial project submissions that utilize the brand’s fixtures and faucets. Three winners will be selected to receive a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Casa Fantini/Lake Time resort at the company’s headquarters in Pella, Italy. To send a submission before the August 9 deadline, click here.

The International Furnishings and Design Association’s Educational Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2024 professional development grants. The awards are open to professionals working in the interior design or home furnishings fields, as well as design educators and design programs. For more information, or to apply before the June 30 deadline, click here.

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