A paint color that captures the perfect mood is hard to find—with a new voice-controlled tool, however, designers can speak their dream hues into existence. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading and more.
Vergo, a startup whose online banking tools aim to help designers manage financial tasks like estimates and invoicing, has completed a $4.1 million seed-funding round led by CRV and investors like interior designer Kelly Wearstler and Thumbtack co-founder Sander Daniels, Architectural Digest reports. Founded by interior designer Rich Kane and co-founder Einar Hohenstein in 2021, the company provides software that streamlines the project management and accounting processes for designers, architects and contractors through the addition of industry-specific banking features. With the new funding, the company plans to grow its team from 15 to more than 100 by the end of 2023; onboard more professionals (Vergo says it has a waitlist of 5,000); and enhance its offerings through partnerships with design-oriented retailers.
Material Bank has acquired digital architecture resource Architizer—the terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 2009 and currently led by CEO David Weber, Architizer serves architects, interior designers, landscape architects and other home professionals by cataloging design projects in an online database and showcasing the industry’s best buildings and professionals through content, competitions and prizes like the A+Awards. According to a release, Material Bank CEO Adam Sandow identified Architizer’s database as a key resource for building product information, making the partnership a match for the company’s sampling services. Following the acquisition, Weber will stay on to lead the company, which will continue to operate independently as a subsidiary of Material Bank.
New data suggests investors played a major role in accelerating the pandemic housing boom and driving up U.S. home prices, according to reports recently published by Redfin, Freddie Mac and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. As Fortune reports, investors made up a record 28 percent of single-family home sales in the first quarter of 2022—up from 19 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and 16 percent between 2017 and 2019. While the majority of home purchases were made by small or midsize investors with portfolios of less than 100 properties, the remaining quarter of purchases were made by large investors, including both massive rental companies like Invitation Homes and the Blackstone-backed Tricon Residential as well as iBuyers like Opendoor and Zillow Offers, which nearly doubled their share of purchases between 2020 and 2021. “By buying up single-family homes, investors have reduced the already limited supply available to potential owner-occupants, particularly first-time and moderate-income buyers,” reads the report from Harvard researchers.
The parent company of Southern Motion and Fusion Furniture has laid off roughly 280 workers, or nearly 15 percent of its workforce, Home News Now reports. The cuts affected employees at all eight Southern Motion and Fusion facilities across Mississippi. According to president and CEO Mark Weber, the layoffs were a response to slowing demand, a result of excess supply at retailers—even when consumer interest returns, he predicts, it could take several months or more for new orders to start coming in again and for hiring to subsequently resume.
Nemo Tile + Stone has purchased Tile Market of Delaware, marking the company’s second acquisition in a year following the November 2021 purchase of Modern Stone Consulting. Founded in 1996, Tile Market of Delaware operates a 73,000-square-foot warehouse and design showcase center in Wilmington, Delaware, from which it supplies goods to the surrounding mid-Atlantic region. With the new partnership, Nemo’s goal is to expand its retail footprint on the East Coast.
Launches & Collaborations
Actress Priyanka Chopra, together with business partner Maneesh Goyal, has debuted Sona Home, Vogue reports—a new home and entertaining arm of her Sona brand centered around a 45-piece tableware collection featuring items like dinner settings, textiles and bar accessories. Infused with aesthetics inspired by Indian culture, the line’s emerald-and-white color scheme harkens back to Jaipur’s rich jewelry tradition, while its geometric patterns nod to the grand palaces of Rajasthan.
San Francisco–based startup ALL3D—which uses technology to create 3D models and images for furniture manufacturers and retailers in marketing and product design—has launched a new subscription service for interior designers. The platform will allow designers to create and render client spaces as room images, 3D tours and 360-degree room views, with access to the company’s library of thousands of products and brand pages through four different subscription levels starting at $100 per month.
For Etsy’s newest Creator Collaboration, the platform has tapped fashion designer and influencer Aimee Song to curate a selection of decor and lifestyle pieces co-created alongside the fashion influencer’s favorite sellers. The resulting collection includes a variety of ceramics, decor pieces and nursery items informed by Song’s degree and background in interior architecture, and features wall sconces and lamps, sculptural vessels and checkered throw pillows.
Lowe’s has unveiled a series of features designed to help builders enter the metaverse, starting out by opening its 3D product library to make more than 500 assets available for free download at the retailer’s new online hub, Open Builder. The company also announced plans to release a limited NFT wearable collection for builders in the Decentraland virtual world, granting free digital boots, hardhats and accessories to the initiative’s first 1,000 participants.
Direct-to-consumer furniture brand Burrow has debuted a new partnership with circular commerce platform FloorFound, which allows brands to resell used merchandise. Burrow will now offer returned and open-box items such as sofas, loungers, armchairs and mattresses at a discount through the FloorFound store, accessible through a portal on Burrow’s flagship site.
Schumacher has announced a partnership with Scandinavian wallpaper company Boråstapeter and will carry the brand’s original designs as its exclusive distributor across North America. Boråstapeter’s wallpaper selection is sustainably made—incorporating raw materials sourced from responsibly managed forests and water-based dyes, with final products produced in facilities powered entirely by renewable energy.
Norfolk, Virginia–based furniture manufacturer and design company Mantra Inspired Furniture has partnered with two new representative firms in new territory and will now be available through The Work/Life Group in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming; as well as through Design Lines in Washington, D.C.; Maryland and northern Virginia.
Homebuyers are increasingly feeling drawn to nature, and as a result are pushing up home prices in states like Montana, Utah and Colorado. As Robyn A. Friedman reports for The Wall Street Journal, developers are responding by creating new-home communities designed around abundant natural surroundings and outdoor activities—spaces they’re marketing not as neighborhoods but as “naturehoods.”
It’s no secret that rents are on the rise. In Manhattan, the median rent reached a record-breaking $4,000 in May, while nationwide asking rents rose 15 percent the same month compared to a year earlier, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. As Anna P. Kambhampaty reports for The New York Times, desperate times often call for desperate measures—for some renters, that means moving in with a significant other sooner than expected or under less-than-ideal conditions, all for the sake of securing a place to stay.
While most late night talk shows feature fairly similar sets, William Shatner’s former interview program Raw Nerve (which aired from 2008 to 2011) positioned the host and his guests eye-to-eye on a tête-à-tête sofa—an unusual choice for the format and one that produced a surprisingly good effect, prompting celebrities to unspool vulnerabilities and intimate personal details. For the Dirt newsletter, Lisa Kwon expounds upon the history and hidden power of the tête-à-tête, and sources a few pieces that might be suitable for current talk show stars.
Call for Entries
In response to some of Airbnb’s most uniquely designed listings—including rentals housed within shoe-shaped tiny homes, UFO replicas and even a giant potato—the platform has announced the launch of the $10,000,000 OMG! Fund. Geared toward designers, architects and DIYers, the program will grant 100 people $100,000 each to turn their craziest property ideas into actual listings on the site. To apply before the July 22 deadline, click here.
Homepage image: ALL3D launched a subscription service geared towards interior designers. | Courtesy of ALL3D