news digest | May 9, 2023 |
Ikea grapples with inflation, Bunny Williams makes a big change and more

The coronation of King Charles III drew global attention this weekend, but design lovers had their eyes on the once-in-a-lifetime event’s decor—including a textile screen that concealed the king during the ceremony, a wooden throne dating back to 1296 and the first glimpse of a centuries-old mosaic floor uncovered in the historic Westminster Abbey. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Avocado, a Hoboken, New Jersey–based direct-to-consumer mattress brand, is facing a class action complaint accusing the company of misleading consumers by claiming its products are made of “organic, natural and non-toxic materials,” Furniture Today reports. Filed by California residents Akeem Pina and Richard Roberts, the federal lawsuit accuses the company of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unfair and unlawful trade practices and false advertising, among other claims. Pina and Roberts separately purchased Avocado products online in 2018 and 2019, then sent materials this year to a University of Wisconsin–Madison rubber-formulation expert. They allege that accredited lab testing of Avocado’s Green Mattress revealed the presence of chemicals like Wingstay L—which may cause birth defects and reproductive harm—along with other substances associated with eye, skin and respiratory irritation. “We cannot comment specifically on the case, which we intend to contest,” the company said in a statement issued to Furniture Today. “That said, we stand by our third-party certifications and the organizations that audit, screen and test our products.”

Tempur Sealy International signed a deal to acquire retailer Mattress Firm in a $4 billion cash-and-stock deal expected to close in the second half of 2024, Reuters reports. The move comes just a few months after Mattress Firm withdrew its plans to go public, citing a slowdown in sales following the rapid growth it experienced during the early months of the pandemic. Following the purchase, Mattress Firm will continue to operate as an independent entity within Tempur Sealy, with the combined company set to operate a footprint of about 3,000 stores globally, 30 online platforms and 71 manufacturing facilities.

Airbnb is reintroducing the single-room rental concept the company debuted as its main offering when it launched in 2008, TechCrunch reports, in a move designed to assuage customer outcry about the platform’s rising costs. While customers have always been able to rent a room in a shared space, Airbnb has focused in recent years on renting out entire homes and apartments, along with testing bigger offerings like guided trips and hotels. Now, as a strained economy has curbed spending on travel—and with average prices on Airbnb up 36 percent since 2019—the company is promoting a new dedicated Rooms category. The initiative also comes as a growing number of U.S. cities pass new regulations that limit short-term rentals—policies from which one-room rentals are typically exempt.

A few months after filing for bankruptcy, Tuesday Morning is closing all stores and shutting down its business, CNN reports. The closure marks the end of several troubling years for the 49-year-old retailer, which first filed for bankruptcy in May 2020 before exiting the status a year later. In February, Tuesday Morning announced it was restructuring again to manage its debt, with intentions of downsizing. Instead, the company has decided to cease operations. Valuation and monetization firm Hilco Merchant Resources acquired the off-price home goods retailer’s assets for $32 million through a court-approved bankruptcy sale, with store closures expected in the coming weeks.

Bunny Williams Interior Design announced last week that the firm has changed its name to Williams Lawrence to better reflect the leadership role of Elizabeth Lawrence, Williams’s partner of more than six years. Lawrence’s journey with the firm began when she landed an internship with the company in 2006, before rising through the ranks and eventually joining Williams at the helm in 2017. “Elizabeth and I are true partners,” Williams wrote in a statement. “I think that’s especially evident to our clients, who get to see the creativity and magic of our process at every step.”

Home insurance premiums are rising across the country, The New York Times reports, and states that frequently experience climate-change-induced extreme weather are seeing the sharpest increases. The cost of the average homeowner’s property coverage has grown roughly 21 percent since 2015, though rates rose even higher in Florida and Texas—by 57 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Those states also saw the highest population gains last year, as Florida grew by more than 318,000 new residents in the country’s largest uptick, while Texas added more than 230,000 new residents.

When Bed Bath & Beyond went out of business last month, it immediately began the process of dissolving its retail locations—now, a newly launched enterprise is using the opportunity to kick off a home store chain in Canada. As Home Accents Today reports, Rooms+Spaces—a new home decor retailer founded by Canadian entrepreneur Doug Putman—has acquired 21 former Bed Bath & Beyond locations across Canada, where Rooms+Spaces will offer housewares, home textiles and decor. The venture will be led by Greg Dyer, former general manager of Bed Bath & Beyond Canada, with the first 10 locations set to debut in Ontario this summer.

Ikea grapples with inflation, Bunny Williams makes a big change and more
Los Angeles designer Sarah Sherman Samuel has debuted a new collection of textiles, decor and wallpaper in partnership with Lulu and GeorgiaCourtesy of Lulu and Georgia

Launches & Collaborations
Los Angeles designer Sarah Sherman Samuel has debuted a new collection of textiles, decor and wallpaper in partnership with Lulu and Georgia. The collaboration blends earth tones and organic shapes with striking patterns—including Tiger Grasscloth, featured on new wallpaper and pillow styles—for a wide-ranging assortment of kitchenware, furniture, curtains and fabric by the yard.

Ikea U.S. has launched a new loyalty program designed to provide small businesses with free support services and benefits. Through the Ikea Business Network, participants can access online training programs focused on spaces, people and business—as well as benefits such as in-store savings, discounted delivery, receipt tracking, workplace interior design services and more.

Recommended Reading
Alys Beach, a planned community on the Florida Panhandle, has attracted new residents with a distinctive mix of all-white houses, cobblestone streets and striking architecture that blends Bermudian, Mediterranean and Moorish influences—an aesthetic that dominates every home and street in the village, thanks to strict building guidelines set by designated town architects. As Libertina Brandt writes for The Wall Street Journal, despite tight aesthetic restrictions (which extend to interiors; homeowners seeking to rent their spaces must have specific glasses, linen and serveware), the community has seen booming success in recent years, with the average sale price in Alys Beach up 25 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year.

In the design world, overuse of the color gray has proven to be a particularly polarizing topic in recent years—and floors seem to be the issue’s biggest battleground. For The New York Times, Anna Kodé traces the gray flooring trend from its early appearances at Salone del Mobile design fairs in the 2010s to its current ubiquity, explaining why today’s high-end homeowners are seeking bolder flooring choices, like black or sandy tones.

In an effort to dodge issues like supply-chain bottlenecks and inflation, Ikea is making design changes to some of its most popular pieces, swapping out thick contact paper for wood veneer on the Billy bookcase, aluminum for zinc in its bathroom hooks and plastic for wood in its cabinet doors and drawers. As Diana Budds writes for Curbed, homeowners send 12 million tons of furniture to landfills each year in America—and with pieces that will likely deteriorate even faster, that trend isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Call for Entries
The American Society of Interior Designers is now accepting submissions for its 2023 National Awards. The program honors design practitioners for projects that demonstrate an impact on the human experience; this year, special categories focus on spaces that improve wellness, diversity, community and climate. To make a submission before the May 15 deadline, click here.

Apartment Therapy is now accepting entries for its 2023 Small/Cool Contest. In order to be considered, entries must be submitted by anyone over the age of 18 who lives in a home that’s 1,000 square feet or smaller, and they will be judged on criteria including vibes, cleverness, creativity and functionality. Entrants will have the chance to win up to $1,000, along with a video feature on the magazine’s site. To submit an entry before the May 22 deadline, click here.

Cue the Applause
Galerie magazine announced its 2023 Creative Minds issue and signature list, honoring innovative individuals in fields ranging from architecture and design to fashion and cuisine. This year’s honorees include British architect Norman Foster; French interior designer Jordane Arrivetz; and American furniture-maker, artist and architect Germane Barnes. For the full list of winners, click here.

The Metaverse Architecture and Design Awards—presented by Sandow Design Group in partnership with Tessa Bain and Andrew Lane, co-founders of digital design consultancy Digby—announced the winners of its first annual ceremony, recognizing excellence in the categories of AI-generated designs, built and unbuilt architecture projects, best use of NFTs, immersive digital art and more. Awardees include Nathan Anthony Furniture for its creation of a living digital extension of a real-world furniture collection and Wuhan Dazheng Jingchen Space Art Design Consulting Co.’s Cloud House for best unbuilt residential project. For the full list of winners, click here.

The Fashion Institute of Technology announced the winners of its Ralph Saltzman Prize, a new $18,000 award celebrating emerging textile designers. The prize’s inaugural recipients include Rebecca Dillenberger in first place, Jonathan Bowman in second place and Emily Hubbard in third place. All finalists are currently majoring in textile development and marketing at FIT, and will present their work at an upcoming show at The Museum at FIT.

Homepage image: The Metaverse Architecture and Design Awards celebrated Wuhan Dazheng Jingchen Space Art Design Consulting Co.’s Cloud House for best unbuilt residential project | Courtesy of The Metaverse Architecture and Design Awards

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