news digest | Apr 2, 2024 |
Ikea faces a class action lawsuit, Gen Z turns to the skilled trades, and more

This week in design, a great housing deal just hit the market in Kalamazoo, Michigan: a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home listed on the National Register of Historic Places, selling for well under a million dollars. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Houzz released a new report this week, surveying more than 30,000 users on their home renovations in 2023 and plans for the year ahead. Although the share of homeowners undertaking renovations decreased by 2 percent last year, the median amount spent continued its yearly increase since 2020, reaching $24,000 in 2023. The top 10 percent of spending also continued to climb, hitting $150,000 in 2023. Budgets for home renovation projects also ticked up, with the share of homeowners spending $25,000 or more increasing to 51 percent last year—up from 44 percent in 2021. On the other hand, the report also found that product purchasing slowed slightly over the last year, with items like major kitchen appliances and paint taking the largest hit, meaning that services and construction costs are swallowing up a bigger slice of renovation budgets.

The American Society of Interior Designers, alongside the Chemical Insights Research Institute, released its first collaborative research report exploring the topic of extreme weather in interior design, with a second report on the effects of heat to follow in the coming months. Key findings homed in on poor indoor air quality, which puts nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population at risk for serious health problems, as levels of indoor chemical pollutants exceed those of the outdoor environment by at least twofold. Climate change only worsens the situation: Longer and warmer summers, for example, can increase chemical emissions from synthetic materials, and more frequent storms can produce excess moisture and mold. The full report includes strategies for designers to mitigate negative climate-related outcomes for their clients, by identifying risks early and prioritizing materials that reduce indoor pollution.

The city of Berkeley, California, agreed to repeal its ban on natural gas hookups in new construction, The New York Times reports. The decision follows a legal challenge from the California Restaurant Association, which saw the rule struck down in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last week. When the measure was passed in 2019, it was the first of its kind, and has since inspired more than 140 cities and local governments—including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco—to seek their own bans on natural gas in new buildings. Whether other gas bans could be overturned following the Berkeley decision remains unclear, as other ordinances may be structured differently and thus more protected from legal challenges, though some cities have recently shifted their strategy to using building efficiency standards to promote less use of natural gas. The effects of the energy source on climate change are significant: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes and buildings are responsible for 14 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, largely from natural gas used in furnaces, hot water heaters, dryers, ovens and stoves.

Ikea is facing a class action lawsuit alleging that some of its furniture items aren’t as sturdy as advertised, Designers Today reports. Filed by Bo Zhang in the federal court system’s Northern District of California, the suit focuses on Ikea’s Hemnes and Brimnes daybeds. According to Zhang, the brand’s catalogs, floor model and website descriptions present the beds as made of solid wood, though the items customers receive feature comb or finger joints, which “do not offer the same structural support as solid wood.” Claiming that Ikea violated California’s consumer protection laws, Zhang is seeking a jury trial, along with injunctive relief and monetary damages, on behalf of a nationwide class and a subclass of California consumers who purchased either of the beds.

Ardmore Home Design acquired California-based upholstery manufacturer Burton James. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The 40-year-old company joins Made Goods, Pigeon & Poodle and Blue Pheasant in the Ardmore family of wholesale brands. Following the purchase, the brand will show this year at High Point Market in its existing showroom at 310 North Hamilton Street.

As overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions falls, the number of students enrolled in trade schools is rising—up 16 percent last year, at its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the number of students studying construction trades rose 23 percent during that time. For many, the skilled trades offer an alternative to the increasingly costly college education, with rising pay and new technologies (like robotic equipment that lessens the physical toll of the profession) in recent years offering an additional set of incentives. Over the past four years, median annual pay for new construction hires has outpaced that of knowledge workers—last year rising 5.1 percent to $48,089, while the average salary in professional services and information sectors only increased 2.7 percent to $39,520.

Last week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis passed the Resiliency and Safe Structures Act, allowing local officials to sign off on the demolition of buildings in high-risk coastal flood zones if the structures are deemed unsafe, or if they don’t meet the base flood elevation requirements set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As The New York Times reports, the legislation—which comes partly in response to the Surfside condo collapse in 2022—is causing controversy among the state’s preservationists, who fear that few of its historical buildings meet those standards. While their camp argues that the bill puts iconic modernist structures in cities like Miami at risk, paving the way for more high-rise luxury condos, legislators see the new guidelines as a crucial response to rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms in the region.

Ikea faces a class action lawsuit, Gen Z turns to the skilled trades, and more
Hudson Valley design shop and gallery Available Items has debuted a group show titled Silence of the LampsCourtesy of Available Items

Launches & Collaborations
Hudson Valley design shop and gallery Available Items has debuted a group show titled Silence of the Lamps, in which each participant was asked to work within the simple premise of creating a functioning lamp containing three elements: a base, a shade and a light source. The shoppable exhibition features new work from 19 New York–based artists and designers—including Katie Stout, Joseph Algieri and Charles Brill—with specialties ranging from ceramics and woodworking to fine art and furniture.

Housing Works announced the designer lineup for its annual Design on a Dime event in New York City, which hosts shoppable vignettes created by design professionals with the goal of raising funds to fight HIV/AIDS and homelessness. This year’s 60-person designer cohort includes Ghislaine Viñas, Beth Diana Smith, Georgia Zikas and more, who will curate an assortment of luxury home decor, furnishings and art open to the public from April 26 to 27. For more information, click here.

Recommended Reading
A collection containing works by James Turrell, Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat might take center stage at any major art museum, but at Tiffany’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, they’re simply set dressing for a new kind of luxury shopping experience. For The New York Times, Andrew Russeth steps inside the Peter Marino–designed space, offering a sneak peek at the store’s new exhibit (curated by the architect himself) and reflecting on the long-standing relationship between contemporary art and consumerism along the way.

From the humble monobloc chair to the heights of Le Corbusier masterworks, the rapidly changing field of furniture design has transformed the way we live—and some pieces simply deserve a lasting place in the design canon. For T Magazine, a jury of design experts united to distill the last century of furniture history down to 25 of the era’s most defining pieces.

With the current state of the housing market, many renters are pushing dreams of bigger spaces further down the line—or uncovering underutilized spaces right beneath their noses. For Curbed, L’Oreal Thompson Payton speaks to five New Yorkers who have cleared out their closets and converted the spaces into an extra room: for a home office, a nursery or even a podcast studio.

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