news digest | Nov 9, 2021 |
Ikea is raising prices, a Herman Miller lawsuit and more

This week, Americans are concerned over economic inflation—the design world, meanwhile, is busy with a different kind of inflation. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

A recent lawsuit alleges that Herman Miller Inc. and the nonprofit George Nelson Foundation conspired to fraudulently obtain intellectual property rights for the late designer’s Bubble Lamp, MiBiz reports. Filed by the estate of Nelson’s wife Jacqueline Nelson and son Georges Mico Nelson against Herman Miller, the George Nelson Foundation and the foundation’s executive director Karen Stein, the suit alleges that Herman Miller used the foundation to dupe Jacqueline Nelson into turning over the intellectual property, though she was in her 90s with “severely diminished mental and physical capacity” at the time. Herman Miller and the foundation have until November 22 to file formal responses to the claims. A spokesperson from Herman Miller declined to respond to questions from MiBiz, citing the company’s policy to not comment on pending litigation.

Ikea has announced plans to raise prices for the first time since 2019, Furniture Today reports, after profits fell 16 percent for the year ending in August despite record demand and increased online and retail sales. The furniture giant attributes the issue to global supply chain challenges and the subsequent rise in the cost of transport and raw materials, which led to a drop in the availability of products—a problem the retailer expects will continue well into fiscal year 2022.

Abound, a wholesale marketplace for independent retailers, has raised $36.7 million in a Series B funding round led by D.E. Shaw Group, bringing the company’s total funding up to $59.6 million. The new injection of capital comes just eight months after the completion of a $22.9 million Series A funding round and year of growth for Abound, in which its gross merchandise value increased by four times that of 2020.

Modern Matter has announced the completion of a $1.2 million seed funding round, led by entrepreneur-focused nonprofit TiE DC, Virginia-based investor network 757 Angels, Bassett Furniture CEO Rob Spillman and Samir Behl, the former regional president of Europe, Africa and India for multi-level marketing company Amway. The design company and manufacturer of decorative and architectural hardware will use the funds to develop its e-commerce platform, build out omnichannel distribution, grow its team and open a new headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, complete with a fulfillment center and design studio.

Block Renovation, an online platform for homeowners and contractors, has completed a $50 million Series C funding round led by Softbank Vision Fund 2. Led by co-founders T. Luke Sherwin (a co-founder of Casper) and Koda Wang (a former Rent the Runway executive), Block offers an automated end-to-end home renovation process for homeowners and contractors. With the new capital, the company plans to invest in its team, platform, user experience, and continued national expansion. To date, the company has raised $104 million in venture funding.

Nemo Tile + Stone has made its first acquisition with the purchase of Modern Stone Consulting, a specialist in the sourcing, project management and quality control of natural stone. Modern Stone Consulting founders Robert McArdle and Alvaro Torrecilla will lead a new initiative for the combined businesses, developing an education program for Nemo employees.

Sampling marketplace Material Bank and commercial flooring installation provider Diverzify have formed a partnership to offer each company’s existing services to the other’s client base, developing project planning tools and resources for industry professionals nationwide in the process. Through the collaboration, Material Bank’s users will have access to Diverzify’s digital platform, which provides expertise in the selection, installation and maintenance of interior surfaces. Diverzify’s base, meanwhile, will be able to take advantage of Material Bank’s sample ordering platform, which connects material brands with specifiers and buyers for overnight ordering.

The field of autonomous trucking has made multiple advancements this week, Morning Brew reports, starting with the San Diego–based self-driving truck startup TuSimple, which has announced plans to remove human drivers from its vehicles for test drives along 80-mile journeys in Arizona. In other news, Aurora, an autonomous-vehicle startup founded by Google alumni, became the first company of its kind to go public via SPAC, just a week after launching its tech platform in beta mode. Finally, Gatik has announced plans to dispatch its first fleet of driverless vehicles to transport goods between a Walmart facility and neighborhood market in Arkansas, though its trucks will still contain human passengers monitoring the journey. Advancements in the field could significantly impact the global supply chain—one of the biggest issues plaguing the system now is a massive shortage of qualified truck drivers, The New York Times reports.

Launches and Collaborations

Baccarat has tapped Japanese artist Hiroshi Fujiwara for its latest collaboration—a limited-edition 25-piece collection inspired by the Pokémon franchise and designed for collectors and fans of the show. Celebrating Pokémon’s 25-year anniversary, the selection of pieces includes a crystal Poké Ball replica as well as two versions of the popular cartoon character Pikachu, designed as both a crystalline fragment and as a figurine.

A selection of artist Julian Lennon’s fine art photography, curated by Portia de Rossi and her fine art publishing company General Public, has debuted for viewing and purchase at RH’s site. The collection of 18 black-and-white and color photographs depict Lennon’s world travels, and a portion of the proceeds from each sale will be donated to The White Feather Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental and humanitarian causes.

Recommended Reading

At the University of California Santa Barbara, 97-year-old billionaire Charles Munger—an executive at Berkshire Hathaway and very much not a licensed architect—is causing a stir after donating $200 million to design a dormitory named after himself. Plans for the space include cramming more than 4,500 students into an 11-story building in which nearly all units lack natural light or fresh air. The Los Angeles Times describes the now-viral controversy, which prompted one member of the university’s design review committee to resign in protest. “The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being,” wrote Los Angeles architect Dennis McFadden, a design principal at Leo A. Daly, in his resignation letter.

Cue the Applause

Instagram’s official design account @design has announced the recipients of its inaugural $205,000 #BlackDesignVisionaries grant program, presented in partnership with the Brooklyn Museum. Winners include fashion house Head of State, led by designer Taofeek Abijako, for the visionary small business grant; graphic design studio Morcos Key, founded by Jon Key and Wael Morcos, for the impact grant; and aspiring design grants for spatial designer and Limbo Accra founder Dominique Petit-Frère, Vocal Type founder Tré Seals, and multidisciplinary designer and art director Sablā Stays.

Call for Entries

Cosentino has announced the 16th edition of its International Cosentino Design Challenge. This year, the competition will be split into the two categories of design and architecture, with submissions to be judged across various subcategories, including environmental friendliness, conceptual and technical quality, and creativity and innovation. For more information or to apply before June 1, 2022, click here.

To celebrate the launch of Woman Made, a book celebrating great women designers, Kering and Phaidon have announced the inaugural Women In Motion Design Scholarship, awarding up to $25,000 to one outstanding undergraduate woman designer for their college tuition and fees for the 2022-2023 academic year. For more information or to apply, click here.

Jeremiah Program, a nonprofit dedicated to disrupting intergenerational poverty, has partnered with Roarke Design Studio to launch a fellowship to address talent pipeline and diversity issues in the interior design industry. The paid 10-month program will allow one individual to work on commercial interior design and development projects throughout Europe and the United States. For more information or to apply before November 25, click here.

Homepage image: Courtesy of Modern Matter

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