news digest | Oct 5, 2021 |
Furniture buying cools off, House Beautiful is haunted and more

Thanks to advancements in toy technology, toddlers’ play kitchens are no longer operating only in their imagination—many are now incorporating working faucets, mini-fridges and kid-friendly utensils. As the future generation of homeowners gets their feet wet (literally) in the realm of functional design, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

Facebook and its subsidiary social platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, experienced a nearly six-hour outage starting around noon Eastern time on Monday—the latest in a recent series of blows to the tech giant, which has faced intense scrutiny following a Wall Street Journal multi-installment exposé first published on September 13. Called “The Facebook Files,” the investigative reporting exposes evidence detailing the company’s profit-over-people tactics. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose contends that the offenses mark a “slow, steady decline” for Facebook, which is failing to capture the attention of younger consumers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, lost out on more than $6 billion in the span of a few hours, Bloomberg reports, and has been knocked down a few pegs on the list of wealthiest people in the world.

In response to rising production, manufacturing and shipping costs—consequences of the ongoing global supply chain crisis—appliance companies are prioritizing higher-priced models and making cheaper alternatives harder to find, The Wall Street Journal reports. In the home sector, that shift has already manifested for companies like Whirlpool, which announced it would shift toward upscale products, including washing machines, mixers and other home appliances, to make up for the added costs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, customers are paying up accordingly, as demonstrated by the 5.3 percent year-over-year increase in the consumer price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services.

New orders of residential furniture were down 11 percent compared to the same month in 2020, Home News Now reports, marking the first monthly decline since June 2020. According to consulting firm Smith Leonard’s recently published “September Furniture Insights,” the numbers aren’t necessarily cause for concern—orders were still up 24 percent from July 2019, with year-to-date orders through July up 39 percent compared to the same period last year. Additionally, the survey signaled some release in supply chain blockage, with year-over-year shipments up 21 percent.

To counter money laundering within the antiquities trade, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced plans to write new regulations in the coming months to increase transparency around ownership of pieces bought and sold, The Art Newspaper reports—and the art trade might be next. The announcement follows an initial step taken last year, when Congress voted to revisit the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act and begin regulating antiquities dealers by categorizing them as financial institutions. While the terms of the new rules are still being researched—including the determination of a minimum dollar amount on items requiring regulation—the Treasury Department says the art market will likely receive a similar treatment within the next year.

Gwyneth Paltrow–helmed wellness brand Goop experienced a meteoric rise, transforming from a homemade lifestyle blog into a booming e-commerce company with a $430 million valuation in just a decade. Recent internal shifts, however, may signal a downturn—and some former staffers point to flawed leadership, low salaries and employee burnout as sources of the problem, Business Insider reports. A review revealed that 140 employees have exited since September 2019, including chief financial officer (and former One Kings Lane vice president) Erica Moore, editor in chief (and former Allure executive editor) Danielle Pergament, and chief content officer (and Condé Nast veteran) Elise Loehnen.

Twitter has begun rolling out new features geared toward professionals in a format already adopted by apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, TechCrunch reports. Through the Twitter for Professionals program, users can opt to access a variety of tools unavailable to general users, including advertising abilities and customizable profile modules featuring shoppable products or newsletter content.

Launches and Collaborations

Alongside the debut of its inaugural textile collection, 78-year-old New York rug brand Patterson Flynn Martin has announced a rebrand under the new name Patterson Flynn. The company’s new textile line, Patterson Flynn Wovens I, released in collaboration with Schumacher, features woven blends in earth-inspired tones.

Just in time for Halloween, House Beautiful has unveiled its first-ever podcast, Dark House—a series centered on some of the most haunted homes in American history. Hosted by HB director of brand strategy and audience development Alyssa Fiorentino and senior editor Hadley Mendelsohn, the show dives into the tales behind four particularly spooky properties: the S.K. Pierce Mansion in Gardner, Massachusetts; the Mercer-Williams House Museum in Savannah, Georgia; the Jean Harlow House in Los Angeles; and the Villisca Axe Murder House in Iowa. Along the way, Mendelsohn and Fiorentino are consulting anthropological experts, set decorators, paranormal investigators and psychic mediums—and sharing a few of their own ghost stories—to better understand these houses and their stories. The show’s first episode debuted on September 29, with subsequent installments set to come out every Wednesday through the month of October.

Discount home decor retailer HomeGoods has announced its first foray into e-commerce, Home Accents Today reports. The site debuted with a selection of bedding, bath, decorative pillows, kitchen goods, seasonal decor, pet accessories, and storage/organization. The company plans to further expand its online offerings ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

Sotheby’s Auction House has announced plans to open a public exhibition space in Beverly Hills on October 14, moving into a 4,300-square-foot building on Camden Drive, near its new neighbors the Christie’s and Gagosian galleries. Built in 1941, the location will debut with a showcase of nine works from an upcoming auction of the Macklowe Collection, followed by a “mirrored-room installation” by The Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti. “Our locations have never been on a street front, where you could drive by and see what’s in the window of Sotheby’s. This is an exciting way to engage the public in a much more open way in the middle of Beverly Hills,” Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Sotheby’s chairman, managing director, and worldwide head of business development and global fine arts, tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Online artisan marketplace Society6 has announced a new interior designer and influencer program called Society6 by Design, in which industry tastemakers will curate collections of home decor, accessories and wall art reflecting their own aesthetics. Each month, a different designer will showcase their selection, starting with Bobby Berk of Queer Eye, HGTV’s Breegan Jane and Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

Direct-to-consumer furniture brand Castlery has partnered with FloorFound to launch a program allowing shoppers to purchase open-box and returned pieces at up to 50 percent off while reducing environmental footprint. As part of the Casterly Renew initiative, 20 to 30 additional product options will be added each month, including sofas, tables and benches.

Recommended Reading

When “knowledge work” rose to prominence in the 20th century, companies largely maintained the working conditions adopted by industrial workplaces, including the nine-to-five schedule and managers monitoring employees in a shared space. This office-as-factory model dominated for years—that is, until the pandemic forced employers to move toward alternative setups. It’s a step toward what one tech entrepreneur, in a New Yorker article, is calling “office death”—a vision that cuts down on operating costs while increasing a company’s pool of candidates, relegating in-person work only for the circumstances to which it’s best suited.

Cue the Applause

Norwalk Furniture president Caroline Hipple will receive the Academy of Achievement honor at the 32nd ARTS Awards on January 7, 2022. Presented annually during the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, the award is the highest accolade recognizing extraordinary individual industry contributions. Hipple began her career as a sales associate with furniture retailer This End Up before eventually advancing to executive vice president of sales, marketing and merchandising, and soon moving to other industry leadership positions as co-founder of HB2 Resources and president of Storehouse Furniture Co., along with supporting related nonprofits, professional organizations and educational causes.

Homepage image: A sofa by Castlery, which recently partnered with FloorFound for a discount furniture program | Courtesy of Castlery

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