news digest | Apr 9, 2024 |
D&D Building landlord faces $966 million debt lawsuit, layoffs at MillerKnoll, and more

This week in design, second-home owners often leave their properties alone and exposed to the elements in the off-season—but with the help of home watchers, they can put their minds at ease. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
The Justice Department is reopening an antitrust investigation into the National Association of Realtors, The New York Times reports. The federal inquiry will allow the agency to shed light on the fees and other NAR rules that landed the trade group in recent legal trouble. According to a statement the organization shared with the Times, it is reviewing the decision and “evaluating next steps.” If it chooses to appeal the current ruling, it will have to take its case to the Supreme Court.

In its third-quarter earnings report, MillerKnoll recorded an 11.4 percent sales decline from last year and subsequently issued a series of restructuring efforts that included a workforce reduction, according to Furniture Today. The office and contract furniture giant didn’t specify how many employees were let go but noted that the layoffs affected its management workforce, with the goal of improving efficiency across the company. Other cost-reduction efforts included showroom consolidations, though MillerKnoll did not mention which locations were affected. According to the report, the company’s consolidated operating expenses for the quarter were $294.2 million, compared with $314.4 million the year prior.

Home Depot acquired roofing materials company SRS Distribution from private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners and Berkshire Partners in a deal valued at $18.3 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. SRS currently owns 760 distribution locations across the country, along with a fleet of 4,000 trucks that bring materials to job sites—an operation that garnered about $10 billion in revenue last year. The purchase marks the latest step in Home Depot’s mission of developing its business with contractors working on larger-scale projects—an effort to rally slumping sales following the DIY-fueled boom during the pandemic—and it follows its acquisition of stone and porcelain tile retailer and distributor Construction Resources.

Charles Cohen, whose company Cohen Brothers Realty owns design centers in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and Dania Beach, is facing a $544 million lawsuit from lender Fortress Investment Group. The suit alleges that the real estate executive defaulted on debt tied to seven properties, including the Design Center of the Americas in Florida. As The Real Deal reports, the new litigation could bring his debt up to at least $966 million after his firm fell delinquent last summer on $635 million in loans backed by its New York properties, including the Decoration & Design Building. “We want to take the high road—we don’t litigate in the papers and we intend to defend,” Dave Cohen, senior vice president at Cohen Brothers, told TRD.

Regional home furnishings retailer Wallaroo’s Furniture & Mattresses filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late last month, Furniture Today reports. The company—which operates nine locations across Utah, Idaho, Montana and Washington—reported assets between $10 million and $50 million, along with liabilities estimated at $3 million to between one and 20 creditors. According to Wallaroo co-owner Nathan Chetrit, the company will continue operating as usual as it embarks on a reorganization effort.

The U.S. Green Building Council has opened the first public comment phase for the fifth version of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building rating system. LEED v5 will focus on driving improvements in three key areas: decarbonization (the reduction of sources of emissions), quality of life, and ecological conservation and restoration. Among the proposals is a framework for new buildings to reach near-zero carbon emissions by 2050, along with new guidelines for project teams to assess goal setting and project delivery. The public comment period will remain open through May 20. Find feedback forms and current drafts of the rating system here.

Better Homes & Gardens has debuted its first virtual showhouse. Created by interior designer Nathan Turner, architectural designer Suzanne Stern and landscape designer Leslie Bennett—with the help of insights from real estate agents surveyed across the country—the final digital space includes elements like vibrant green kitchen appliances, double-hung wood windows for improved energy efficiency, and a microlawn featuring a diverse array of flora and fauna, along with “edible landscape” elements. To view the showhouse, click here.

The St. Margaret’s Hospital Guild Decorators’ Showhouse & Gardens in Indianapolis returns for its 63rd anniversary. Built in 1927, the site of this year’s showhouse is based in the city’s Northern Estates neighborhood, and will be re-imagined by a team of more than 20 architects and designers, including Sallie Lord, Demetrius Robinson and Matthew Harris. The space will be open to the public from April 27 to May 12, with proceeds to benefit Eskenazi Health.

Terry products from the Katie Ridder x Weezie collection
Towels from the Katie Ridder x Weezie collectionCourtesy of Katie Ridder x Weezie

Launches & Collaborations
The Citizenry has opened up an outpost within an Interior Define storefront in Denver, Retail Dive reports. The direct-to-consumer home decor brand will be housed in a 665-square-foot section of the space, which will be filled with the brand’s hand-crafted rugs, pillows and bedding, with a selection of rugs and larger art pieces available to order. The shop-in-shop merging of the two brands follows The Citizenry’s acquisition earlier this year by e-commerce platform Havenly, which purchased Interior Define in 2023.

In a departure from celebrating its annual color of the year, Sherwin-Williams has instead shifted the spotlight to its least popular hue for an upcoming collaboration. With the help of Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, the brand is auctioning off a collection of eight pieces—ranging from hats and jackets to sneakers—rendered in The Loneliest Color: Kingdom Gold. The items are available for bidding until April 14, and proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Weezie tapped interior designer Katie Ridder to create a collection of terry products. The resulting assortment includes three nature-inspired patterns—Beetlecat, Leaf and Peony—available on robes, towels and picnic blankets. The debut marks the latest in a string of designer collaborations introduced by the brand, including recent partnerships with Peter Dunham and Heather Chadduck.

Recommended Reading
Pop culture might tell you that smart homes are synonymous with the future, but a growing number of high-end homeowners are allowing their spaces to age gracefully—without any cutting-edge technology. In Town & Country, Kristen Bateman dubs the phenomenon “The Dawn of the Dumb House,” and consults interior designers who have adopted the approach to determine what the trend reveals about homeowners’ changing relationship with technology.

There are homes that could use a little love (a fresh coat of paint, updated appliances and refreshed furnishings) and then there are abandoned properties—homes that are dilapidated, condemned or simply suffering from years of neglect. In recent years, these overlooked spaces have received extra attention from ambitious renovators drawn in by the challenge of a property that needs to be revitalized from top to bottom. For House Beautiful, Kate McGregor offers a guide to these extreme fixer-uppers, including where to find them and what to expect when they land in your possession.

Cue the Applause
The seventh annual 1stDibs 50 list has been announced, honoring some of the most visionary designers working today. This year’s cohort includes newcomers like Monica Fried, Vicky Charles of Charles & Co., and Andrew Kotchen and Matt Berman of Workshop/APD. For the full list of winners, click here.

The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame will honor five of the industry’s rising stars with the Paul Broyhill Future Leader award during a reception at the upcoming Spring High Point Market. This year’s honorees include Andrew Bernard, senior director of supply chain and customer service at Glen Raven; Renae Brown, senior vice president of customer insights at Andmore; Eric Nyman, Surya/Global Views vice president of sales—retail and design; Gerardo Ornelas, vice president and general manager of Joybird; and Shannon Williams, chief operating officer at the Home Furnishings Association.

In Memoriam
Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce passed away last week at the age of 84. Over the course of his lifetime, Pesce produced a diverse array of work, from brightly colored and sometimes surrealist art and furniture to homes, buildings and offices across the world. As The New York Times reports, he got his start as a young architecture student researching the use of plastics in design—an endeavor that soon caught the attention of furniture magnate Cesare Cassina, who in 1964 employed the designer to create a series of foam chairs and ottomans that could be vacuum-sealed and shipped flat. In the years to follow, Pesce became known for works both whimsical and political, from the iconic ball-and-chain-style Up chair that portrayed the subjugation of women (and has been produced by B&B Italia since 1969) to a sofa based on the New York skyline, meant to represent the city’s decline. As his career progressed, so did the scope of his work, leading to buildings ranging from an office block in Osaka, Japan, to two side-by-side holiday homes in Puglia, Italy, made from polyurethane. “I believe that the treasure of the world is diversity,” he told the Times style magazine T in 2022. “If we are the same, we cannot talk, because there is nothing to say. But if you and I are different, there’s a lot to exchange.”

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