news digest | Jan 11, 2022 |
More furniture price hikes, Sotheby’s faces a lawsuit, and more

Thanks to online real estate listing sites like Zillow, an internet connection is all you need to view homes for sale the world over—as a result, a variety of social media accounts have cropped up with the purpose of spotlighting the wackiest interiors left behind by former owners, featuring everything from indoor water slides to extensive taxidermy collections. Whatever comes next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

British prime minister Boris Johnson received a rebuke from his ethics adviser last week after failing to disclose certain text messages related to a costly makeover of the leader’s Downing Street apartment, The New York Times reports. The refurbishment project, overseen by Johnson’s wife and executed by interior designer Lulu Lytle, landed the U.K. leader in hot water after he petitioned a prominent Conservative Party donor to arrange financing for the redesign—a process documented in messages previously undisclosed to Christopher Geidt, the prime minister’s independent adviser on ministerial standards. Lytle has described her displeasure with being caught up in the project’s backlash, especially the media coverage that misconstrued her aesthetic, inspired by the Middle East and Africa, as “colonial boho” and exaggerated the cost of her services. “I hated every minute,” she told the Financial Times. “I found it incredibly disquieting to be caught up in a political storm.”

Sotheby’s is facing a class action lawsuit, The Art Newspaper reports. A complaint filed last spring by Francis Fenwick, a former accountant for the auction house, alleges that it misclassified workers as independent contractors as opposed to full employees, therefore denying them benefits and violating New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act. The Sotheby’s legal team filed a motion in November to dismiss the case, calling it “devoid of factual allegations.” The plaintiff’s lawyer has now asked the court to decide whether Fenwick was an employee or an independent contractor; if they find that he was an employee, more than 40 additional individuals who work at the auction house may have also been denied benefits. Fenwick’s lawyer and Sotheby’s both declined multiple requests for comment from The Art Newspaper, and a motion hearing for the suit will be held on January 17 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Case goods and upholstery importers and manufacturers are implementing price hikes this month, which means retailers and customers will soon be paying more for products shipped in 2022, Home News Now reports. Companies like Martin Furniture, Manwah USA and Hooker Furnishings are instating increased freight surcharges, while other businesses are raising prices in response to double-digit increases on materials like fabric, metal and wood frames, as well as the higher rate of pay needed to attract employees. As costs of shipping, materials and labor continue to rise, some companies are considering altering their pricing structure more in the months ahead.

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is moving into the residential realm, reports The Wall Street Journal, as the billionaire and entities tied to him have purchased stakes in more than 4,000 apartments across the U.S. Though Neumann was ousted from co-working company in 2019, he explored the residential space during his time there with the short-lived WeLive, which operated several communal apartments before being shuttered when the company faced financial troubles.

The first ever “MetaReal” mansion, which combines a real-world home and a virtual counterpart in the metaverse, will soon hit the market, Forbes reports. The home was created by ONE Sotheby’s International Realty and Voxel Architects, along with general contractor and NFT collector Gabe Sierra. The buyer will receive both a virtual home in the Sandbox metaverse and a physical home in Miami, scheduled for completion later this year. The 11,000-square-foot house will have seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms in both its physical and virtual iterations, and will be auctioned off in 2022 for a reserve price that has not yet been disclosed.

In the latest supply chain news, last year’s surge in homebuying coupled with a shortage of building products has forced some new owners to move into unfinished houses. According to The Wall Street Journal, as the flow of goods and materials needed to produce windows, garage doors, appliances and paint remain stymied, homebuilders are now limiting options for floor plans or design features. In Sacramento, California, city officials have even established a provisional policy allowing builders to finish homes with temporary garage doors, while builder Epcon Communities has been forced to install gutters and downspouts after buyers have already moved in.

Business-to-business sourcing platform Geniemode, which offers home furnishings sourced from India and surrounding countries, has announced the completion of a $7 million financing round led by Info Edge Ventures, Home News Now reports. The company currently partners with more than 100 furniture and home decor suppliers, and with the new funding plans to scale up its technology in order to onboard more buyers and sellers and expand its offerings to new geographic regions.

Launches and Collaborations

Chairish is now offering European goods on its e-commerce marketplace, adding 200,000 products sourced from the continent to its site. The expansion follows the company’s August 2021 acquisition of Pamono, the leading European online marketplace for vintage and antique furniture and art, and means that Chairish shoppers can now access new furniture, art, rugs, lighting, decor and more from locales including Barcelona, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Vienna and Rome.

E-commerce marketplace The Nopo (short for Nomad Pop-up) has partnered with three designers to create curated shops on its site. In celebration of the launch of its new designer trade program, The Nopo Designer Society, the company has tapped designers Kathy Kuo, Ginger Curtis and Karen Wolf to each gather a unique shoppable selection of tableware, accessories and home decor items.

Showhouses

The designer lineup for the fifth annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach has been announced on the organization’s Instagram account. This year’s cohort, who will reimagine an estate at 3001 Spruce Avenue in West Palm Beach, features 25 designers, including Beth Diana Smith, Amanda Reynal, Noz Nozawa and Chris Goddard.

Recommended Reading

The estate sale occupies a unique place within the world of antiquing, driving interior designers, high-level dealers and amateur treasure hunters to descend in fierce competition on the homes of the recently deceased. For The New Yorker, Lizzie Feidelson takes a deep dive into how the phenomenon came to be, and where it's headed in the pandemic era—meanwhile setting the scene, translating the lingo (“wall pockets,” Hummels and Lladrós galore), and introducing the typical cast of characters who attend the sales.

In the world of video game series Animal Crossing, users have the opportunity to customize their virtual house with an extensive selection of furnishings—precisely, 436 different options when the series debuted, a number that has skyrocketed to a whopping 1,900 over the course of several updates. In fact, many of the furniture items closely resemble iconic pieces in the design canon—blogger Nate Pfeiffer has singled out a variety of examples from the game along with their real-life counterparts, drawing parallels to Charles and Ray Eames, Le Corbusier and Isamu Noguchi.

Orlando Soria, interior designer, home influencer and star of HGTV’s Build Me Up, is well aware that his life seems nearly perfect onscreen—it’s exactly why he decided to chronicle the high-highs and crashing lows of the past two years of his professional and personal life in a sprawling post on his site. Between poor working conditions, tumultuous home projects and health issues, Soria gets honest about the not-so-pretty side of being a public figure in the industry. “If you’re going through a similar set of career and financial woes, just know someone who might seem “successful” because of his TV show and social media presence, someone who has experienced a vast amount of privilege and opportunity, is also floundering, gasping for air, trying to stay above the surface of the water,” he writes.

Cue the Applause

The New York Product Design Award winners have been announced, honoring the efforts of product designers, design teams and manufacturers from around the world whose designs have improved daily living. For the full list of winners, click here.

Dallas Market Center has announced the winners of the 32nd annual ARTS Awards, selecting regional manufacturers, retailers, sales representatives and other professionals for their industry excellence. Among this year’s honorees are Jan Showers of Jan Showers & Associates, who took home the sole award in the interior designer category, and Barry Goralnick of Barry Goralnick Architecture and Design, the winner of the product designer award. For the full list of winners, click here.

Homepage image: To celebrate the launch of The Nopo Designer Society, the platform selected designers to curate pop-up shops on the site. | Courtesy of The Nopo

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