news digest | Apr 23, 2024 |
Former HGTV star sentenced to jail time for fraud, mortgage rates are back above 7 percent and more

This week in design, a proliferation of Facebook Marketplace listings indicate that every household in New York has an identical West Elm coffee table—but exactly why they’re selling the same style en masse may reveal something else about the piece. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Wayfair announced plans to open its first large-scale brick-and-mortar store next month. Located in Wilmette, Illinois, the 150,000-square-foot space is the company’s first location of its size—previous stores were smaller-format and dedicated to specialty brands like Birch Lane, AllModern and Joss & Main. As Wayfair CFO and CAO Kate Gulliver recently explained during investor events, the new all-encompassing store offers the company a “lower-cost, lower-risk way” of moving further into omnichannel retailing.

Charles “Todd” Hill—the former star of HGTV’s 2014 series Flip It to Win It—has been sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay $9.4 million in restitution after being convicted on charges of real estate and financial fraud. As The Daily Beast reports, Hill was first arrested in early 2018 following a criminal fraud investigation by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office in California, which found that the onetime reality star had been accepting large sums from investors on the premise of funding house-flipping projects. In reality, Hill spent the capital on his own luxury lifestyle, involving a total of 11 victims in the scheme.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage surpassed 7 percent for the first time this year, The New York Times reports. While still not as lofty as November 2023’s high of nearly 8 percent—a level not seen since 2000—the increase is a disappointing sign for prospective home buyers, many of whom have postponed purchases until interest rates come down. Higher borrowing costs have consequently hurt home sellers, with sales of existing homes down by 4.3 percent in March from the month before. As the Federal Reserve aims to combat inflation, interest rates may remain higher for longer, with the benchmark borrowing costs currently at a 22-year high.

Home sellers at the luxury end of the market are increasingly being forced to cut their asking prices, The Wall Street Journal reports. In March, 7.8 percent of homes priced over $5 million had their cost reduced—the highest level of price cuts recorded since Realtor.com began collecting such data in 2017. March’s data marks a 1 percent increase from the year before, and a 3 percent increase from 2022, representing a reversal of the seller’s market that dominated during the pandemic’s early days. Markets that saw a boom in sales activity due to Covid-era migration trends have faced the largest shares of price reductions among luxury homes: 18.7 percent of such sales in Austin; 13.6 percent in Phoenix; and 12.8 percent in Tampa, Florida. The trend follows an overall decline in sales of luxury homes priced at $1 million or more across the country, with a 24.2 percent decrease throughout last year.

Real estate information company CoStar Group has entered into an agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of spatial data company Matterport—a cash and stock transaction valued at $5.50 per share, representing $2.1 billion in equity value and $1.6 billion in enterprise value, Yahoo Finance reports. Founded in 2011, Matterport’s technology creates photorealistic 3D virtual tours for any type of property—a service utilized by partners like CoStar itself, which features Matterport “digital twins” of property listings on its online real estate marketplaces.

Macon, Georgia–based retailer Union Furniture is closing after 112 years in business, Furniture Today reports. The store was founded in 1912 by owner Simon Becker, who passed ownership down to his sons, Buddy and David Becker, and eventually his grandson, also named Simon Becker. The store will begin its closing sale this week, and will remain open until all inventory is gone. According to local TV station WMAZ, Union Furniture is the second Macon-based, family-owned furniture business to close in recent years, following the shutdown of Blair’s Discount Furniture in 2020 after 45 years in operation.

Launches and Collaborations
Furniture rental company Everset has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity for a pop-up event in New York’s Washington Square Park on April 26. In honor of Earth Month, attendees can stop by a seating area to engage in conversations on sustainability and interior design, while also participating in a donation drive for Habitat for Humanity NYC and Westchester.

The Chasing Paper collaboration with Frameology
The Chasing Paper collaboration with Frameology Courtesy of Chasing Paper

Chasing Paper is partnering with direct-to-consumer framing service Frameology for a collaboration released in time for Mother’s Day. The collection will see prints from Chasing Paper’s Heritage Collection—including Floral Trellis, Heritage Stripe, Samara and Kent Street—available on Frameology’s 212 Wood Frame in brown, natural and white finishes.

WallPops tapped Rachel Antonoff for a wallpaper collection that extends the New York fashion designer’s whimsical eye into the world of interior design. The resulting assortment features five styles with a blend of inspiration source material—ranging from food, television and animals to design classics like French toiles, portraiture and architectural motifs.

Recommended Reading
Last year, South Carolina surpassed Florida as the fastest-growing state in the country—and for some new residents, the move is purely political. For The New York Times, Eduardo Medina takes a deep dive into one group feeding off of the migration: a Texas-based real estate company called Conservative Move, which caters to clients who are seeking to leave behind their liberal-leaning blue states to relocate to majority conservative communities.

It’s been a bright few years for Etsy, which has hit record revenue numbers and increased its seller population by 21 percent in 2023. But for some, it feels as though that success has been brokered at the cost of the platform’s artisanal ethos. For Modern Retail, Julia Waldow consults a group of Etsy sellers who not only fear the platform is going the way of Amazon—with a proliferation of drop-shippers hawking mass-produced items—but also find that complicated new SEO strategies and increased site fees have made the platform less friendly to craft-focused sellers.

Cue the Applause
Four outstanding talents were recognized as part of this year’s 13th annual SaloneSatellite Awards, which recognizes exceptional work from participants in Salone del Mobile’s under-35 cohort. Top honors went to China-based Studio Ololoo for its Deformation Under Pressure lamp; Italian-Danish designer Filippo Andrighetto’s Veliero bookcase took second place; third place went to Italian firm Egoundesign for its Voronoi brass cups; and special mention went to Tunisian design firm Collectif for its Onat lamp.

The International Society of Furniture Designers has announced the winners of the 2024 Innovation+Design competition for professional custom wood craftsmen and students. In the professional category, honorees include Penina Bernstein, John Brogan, Stephen Thrasher and Hasan Zaidi; in the student category, winners include Aidan Gough, Sirvats Srinivasan, Ruihan (North) Sun and Jinquan Zhu.

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