news digest | Sep 27, 2022 |
Luxury home sales are sliding, Pattern Brands continues its acquisition spree and more

The art world is always looking for the next young talent to hit the scene—though that search may have now reached a new low (literally) as the paintings of a 10-year-old have been fetching six figures at market. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Following a pandemic-induced bull run on the luxury housing market, activity in the sector has cooled amid rising interest rates and fears of an impending recession, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to real estate brokerage Redfin, luxury property sales are experiencing their biggest decline since the firm’s records began in 2012, sliding 28.1 percent in the three months ending August 31 compared to the same period last year. High-end markets in California have been hit the hardest, with home sales plunging by nearly 64 percent in Oakland, while San Jose and San Diego saw decreases of more than 55 percent. Meanwhile, sales of nonluxury homes also fell 19.5 percent during the same period.

Meanwhile, demand for land has never been higher, The Wall Street Journal reports, especially in cities like Austin, Phoenix and Tampa, Florida, where an influx of new residents since the pandemic has led to a shortage of space. Across the Sunbelt, the average price of vacant property per acre has more than doubled in the past two years, according to Land, a land-listing website owned by real estate firm CoStar Group. The trend extends across the U.S.—for homeowners, that means land now accounts for 47 percent of home values, up from 38 percent in 2012.

Pattern Brands, the New York–based holding company for digital-first home and design brands, announced the acquisition of soft goods brand Onsen. Founded by Shane Monson and Connor MacArthur in 2017, Onsen is best known for its cotton towel products, which are modeled on fast-drying waffle weave towels from Japan. For Pattern, the purchase marks the group’s seventh in total, adding to a family of brands that includes Open Spaces, Equal Parts, GIR, Letterfolk, Poketo and Yield. The acquisition adds to a busy 12 months for the company, following a $25 million Series B funding round over the summer and now four acquisitions (including Onsen) in the past year alone.

Earlier this month, employees at the New York–based firm Bernheimer Architecture, which specializes in affordable-housing and residential projects, formed what is purported to be the country’s first union in the field of private-sector architecture, The New York Times reports. Members of the 22-person company will join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers after the firm voluntarily recognized the union. The move follows last year’s ultimately unsuccessful unionization campaign at SHoP Architects, where employees rescinded their paperwork to hold an election after citing a “powerful anti-union campaign” within the firm. Despite the loss, the SHoP campaign reportedly fueled union interest at Bernheimer, where the newly unionized team hopes their effort inspires a broader industry conversation about pay and working conditions.

Corsicana Mattress was acquired by private equity firm Blue Torch Capital, Furniture Today reports, through a court-supervised auction that took place after the mattress company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 25th. Back in June, when Corsicana initially filed for bankruptcy, the company had $151 million in assets and $260 million in liabilities, and owed unsecured creditors $45 million along with holding $145 million in funded debt. The recent deal has allowed Blue Torch to acquire Corsicana in exchange for $125 million in debt forgiveness and $200,000 in cash for the company’s assets.

A fire decimated the North Carolina headquarters of the family-owned and -operated upholstery company Morgan Chair last week, Designers Today reports. A supplier for residential and commercial designers and homeowners, the company was working through the process of filling an 800-order backlog when the blaze overwhelmed the structure from an unknown source. No one was injured. While the company’s building, materials and machinery were destroyed, a community crowdsourcing effort has allowed Morgan Chair’s team to resume operations this week as local residents have donated a workspace as well as spare fabric-cutting tools and supplies.

Launches & Collaborations
Artist Shantell Martin lent her signature black-and-white line drawings to a new collection created in partnership with Brooklyn-based furniture brand Hoek. The product line includes coasters, coffee tables and wall art decked out in Martin’s playful style.

Designer Ken Fulk collaborated with 1stDibs for a curated storefront. The selection includes a variety of pieces previously for sale only through Fulk’s San Francisco boutique Peep Show, including items collected at flea markets and auctions. Standouts include an antler chandelier commissioned from artist Alexandra Randall, an Aldo Tura cocktail table and a leather-wrapped Jacques Adnet bed.

A new collaboration between Mattel and Joybird celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Barbie Dreamhouse with a collection inspired by the toy’s interior design. The limited-edition furniture collection includes a bed, dresser, dining chair and fabric selection in bright shades of trademark Barbie pink. The partnership marks the latest in a swath of fashion and home brands building off the rising “Barbiecore” momentum, including a recent launch from paint and wallcoverings brand Backdrop featuring three new shades—pink, purple and blue—created in collaboration with the toy brand and inspired by the iconic Dreamhouse.

Legacy paint brand Dunn-Edwards announced the launch of a national direct-to-consumer paint brand called Dura. The new brand features a curated 210-color palette chosen from Dunn-Edwards’s own 2,000-plus collection of hues, and offers online tools and support from a team of interior designers to help with color selection.

West Elm and Finnish design house Marimekko teamed up for a holiday-inspired product collection. The collaboration includes stockings, ornaments, tree toppers and skirts printed with a curated selection of archival Marimekko prints, including Maija Louekari’s Kuusikossa and Vellamo designs from 2012 and 2009, respectively.

Luxury home sales are sliding, Pattern Brands continues its acquisition spree and more
Artist Shantell Martin collaborated with Hoek on a line of furniture, wall art and coastersCourtesy of Hoek

Recommended Reading
Today, about 8 percent of new single-family homes in the U.S. clock in at 1,400 square feet or less—in the 1940s, however, the number of homes at that size made up nearly 70 percent of the housing market. It is a shift that demonstrates the disappearance of the “starter home,” an affordable property purchase that once allowed first-time homebuyers the chance to build equity. As Emily Badger writes for The New York Times, the lack of such homes is a key factor in the American housing crisis, due largely in part to booming land costs and increasingly restrictive community design requirements.

While Compass has long attracted ire (and legal disputes) from other brokerages for poaching agents with over-the-top incentives, that tide seems to be reversing as the firm has faced financial challenges in recent months. As Kim Velsey writes for Curbed, a slew of former top brokers at Compass left the company, with many heading to Douglas Elliman in particular or returning to firms where they worked before. Former agents have also shed light on the deteriorating perks Compass employees once enjoyed, pointing to ongoing layoffs, the recent loss of equity or cash incentives and a support staff perennially stretched too thin.

The Instagram account @JerryGogosian—one of the most popular art world meme-makers online—is stepping outside of its satirical social media sphere and into one of the industry’s most established arenas with the debut of a new partnership with Sotheby’s. As Dorian Batycka writes for ArtNet, the account’s owner, Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, has curated a sale for the auction house featuring the work of 20 artists. As a nod to her primary platform, Helphenstein has utilized Instagram’s algorithm to conduct a large part of the actual curation for the upcoming sale.

Call for Entries
The James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2023 Fitch fellowships. Applicants may apply for funding through one of the program’s three available grants, including the Fitch mid-career fellowship, the Robert Silman award and the Samuel H. Kress mid-career fellowship. For more information or to apply before the October 27, 2022, deadline, click here.

Cue the Applause
The American Society of Interior Designers named the honorees of its annual Outcome of Design Awards, which highlight professionals and projects that have excelled in innovative design benefitting “people, place and planet.” The top Outcome of Design award went to the Little Charlotte Office, designed by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, while additional honors went to the Sheltering Arms Institute, designed by HDR, and the UC San Diego North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, designed by HKS.

The southeast chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art announced the winners of its 16th annual Shutze Awards, which honor excellence in the fields of residential and institutional architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, restoration and artisanship. For the interior design category, top prizes went to designer Caroline Gidiere for a Georgian residence in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as designer Tammy Connor for estates in Atlanta and Kiawah Island, South Carolina. For the full list of winners, click here.

Homepage image: Joybird is bringing the Barbie dreamhouse to life in a new collaboration with Mattel | Courtesy of Joybird

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