news digest | Oct 17, 2023 |
Home sales are headed for a slowdown, Walmart preps an AI interior design tool and more

This week in design, Mickey Mouse–shaped topiaries and Epcot dome–inspired wallpaper are just a few of the design choices favored by the grown-up Disney superfans—also known as “Disney adults”—who choose to deck out their homes in decor inspired by the fantasy franchise.

Business News

Sales of previously owned homes are on track to record their slowest year since 2008, The Wall Street Journal reports. The most conservative projections, from real estate brokerage Redfin, estimate existing-home sales will reach around 4.1 million in 2023, which would mark the lowest number of sales since the subprime mortgage crisis and following recession. While the current slowdown is different —this time spurred on by rising interest rates, record-high home prices and a limited inventory of homes for sale—it could still produce a ripple effect throughout the economy, boosting rental costs, reducing new construction and limiting spending on housing-related items such as appliances and furniture.

Ikea is cutting the average retail cost of its furniture worldwide, Financial Times reports. The Swedish retailer is returning to its long-term practice of lowering prices after temporarily pausing the strategy during the pandemic, when it passed the increased cost of raw materials and transport on to customers. Jesper Brodin, chief executive of parent company Ingka Group, told FT that the change in pricing strategy came in anticipation of a challenging period for consumers over the next few years, as increased interest rates are expected to cut into discretionary spending.

The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement to ban greenwashing and provide consumers with more transparent information on product durability. The new agreement will update the existing EU list of banned commercial practices by prohibiting brands from making generic environmental claims—through phrases such as “environmentally friendly,” “eco” or “climate neutral”—without proof of recognized environmental performance relevant to the claim.

Walmart is experimenting with bringing AI tools to customers, TechCrunch reports, starting with three key features: a shopping assistant, AI-powered search and an interior design function. The latter will utilize a combination of AI and AR technology, allowing customers to take a photo of their space, consult the chat assistant for advice on redecorating and selecting new items, and submit a budget for the AI program to work within. The new features build off the company’s initial exploration into AI, which kicked off in August with a generative AI tool rolled out to corporate employees, and will become available to customers in the coming weeks.

Philadelphia-based secondhand-furniture retailer Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles announced that it will be closing both its original location and its sister store in Oakland, California, on October 31, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Located in North Philadelphia, the Black-owned business served local residents searching for affordable home furnishings and household items with an inventory that was entirely donated. Managed and operated by the civil rights nonprofit African People’s Education & Defense Fund since the 1990s, the retailer’s profits supported economic development programs such as job training, community gardens and women’s health centers. According to a statement from the nonprofit, economic conditions such as rising rent have made it impossible for the store to continue operating sustainably.

The city of Stockholm has decided to sell and demolish Stockholmsmässan—the venue and organization behind the annual Stockholm Furniture Fair—with plans to create a new city district on its fairgrounds, Dezeen reports. Originally constructed in 1971, the venue will be demolished to create space for up to 2,500 homes and 10,000 workplaces, while the fair itself will likely be sold to a private buyer, according to Hanna Nova Beatrice, director of the fair and Stockholm Design Week. Stockholm mayor Karin Wanngård told Dezeen that the decision to raze the fairgrounds was partially due to reduced demand for trade shows and trade fair venues following the pandemic.

Canadian foam and fiber manufacturer VPC Group has completed a $7 million deal to purchase foam and fabrication producer Prestige Fabricators, a former subsidiary of Klaussner Furniture Industries before the parent company’s abrupt closure in early August, FurnitureToday reports. Before its closure, Prestige produced foam materials for upholstery out of two plants located in Randolph County, North Carolina, which employed roughly 50 people. According to court documents related to the purchase, VPC Group plans to rehire a substantial number of former employees as it seeks to resume operations within the manufacturing center.

Launches and Collaborations

Calico Wallpaper collaborated with Brooklyn-based ceramist Cody Hoyt on a new bespoke wallpaper collection, Botanica. Showcasing the inverted forms of Hoyt’s artworks—which are inspired by the Japanese technique of Nerikomi, where colored pieces of clay are stacked—the new line features floral compositions rendered in large-scale murals available in eight different styles.

Benjamin Moore debuted color of the year: Blue Nova 825, a midtone blend of blue and violet. The hue headlines the company’s greater Color Trends 2024 palette, which features 10 colors selected to blend traditional and modern styles, including White Dove, Pristine, Topaz, Teacup Rose, Honeybee, Regent Green, Antique Pewter, Polar Sky and Hazy Lilac.

Home sales are headed for a slowdown, Walmart preps an AI interior design tool and more
Maman teamed up with Replacements.com for a tableware collectionCourtesy of Replacements.com

New York–based French bakery Maman teamed up with tableware supplier Replacements.com to introduce its first-ever tableware collection. With inspiration drawn from the blue-and-white dishes handed down from Maman co-founder Elisa Marshall’s in-laws—the same pieces found in Maman’s cafes—the new line includes vintage-inspired plate sets, teacups and serving platters.


Architectural Digest and Black Interior Designers, Inc., have announced the third installment of its Iconic Home virtual showhouse, slated for October 26, which will focus on the theme of accessible design for all generations. Lagos, Nigeria–based architect and designer Tosin Oshinowo will serve as lead architect; architectural visualization company The Boundary will create the virtual property; and its interiors will be transformed by a team of eight Black designers, including Nikki Chu, Linda Hayslett, Laura Hodges, June Reese, NeKeia McSwain, Byron Risdon, Ron Woodson and Michael London.

Showroom Representation

Invisible Collection is now representing French Cliche within its Upper East Side gallery. The French brand, founded in 2019 by Emily Marant and Hugo Matha, will showcase an assortment of hand-crafted collectible design objects at the New York gallery, ranging from bronze candleholders to glass-blown vases.

New York–based paint and color studio and showroom InColour is now carrying London-based hand-made tile brand Bert & May. For the brand’s debut in the United States, the Tribeca space will carry its tile collections, which range from encaustic cement and porcelain to zellige and reclaimed pieces, available in a variety of natural pigments.

Recommended Reading

In early August, The Home Depot discovered that it was the victim of an organized retail-crime ring. The scheme centered on an unlikely Florida pastor, who directed a team of petty criminals to steal tools like drills and pin nailers—items he resold on eBay, netting a total of $3 million within a few short years. As Inti Pacheco writes for The Wall Street Journal, the home improvement retailer isn’t alone: retailers like Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods have recently blamed criminal networks for causing problems with their inventory, joining a broader trend of increasingly complex retail crime made easier by online resale platforms.

When New York officially enacted a new law banning most short-term rental listings, the consequences were swift: The number of short-term listings on Airbnb fell by more than 80 percent—from 22,434 to just 3,227—between late August and October 1. But as Amanda Hoover writes for Wired, those illegal listings didn’t just disappear. According to local housing experts, the ban has created a “black market” for temporary rentals in the city, pushing droves of hosts and guests to sites like Facebook, Craigslist and Houfy in order to secure an agreement for a short-term stay, bypassing all regulations (and safeguards) in the process.

Call for Entries

The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show is now accepting submissions for its 2024 Best of KBIS Awards. The organization is seeking brands that highlight both function and design, with categories including kitchen, bathroom, sustainability, wellness, innovation, functionality and best in show. To submit an entry before the December 1 deadline, click here.

Cue the Applause

New England Home announced this year’s inductees to the New England Design Hall of Fame. The winners include Jim Cappuccino of Hutker Architects and Frank Shirley of Frank Shirley Architects in the architecture category; Paula Daher of Daher Interior Design and Nicole Hogarty of Nicole Hogarty Designs in the interior design category; and Sea-Dar Construction in the builder category.

The Créateurs Design Association announced Gaetano Pesce as the winner of the 2024 Andrée Putman Lifetime Achievement Award. With a career spanning 60 years, Pesce is responsible for a portfolio spanning architecture, urban planning, interior design, exhibition and industrial design, and has earned international recognition for his ability to experiment with new materials and shapes to create renowned works.

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