news digest | Aug 24, 2021 |
New snags in the global supply chain, Amazon’s department store debut, and more

This week in design, online video game Minecraft has teamed up with Reporters Without Borders for a dramatic pivot—a virtual library (constructed in the neoclassical style) through which users around the world can access censored books and articles. As the industry continues to push boundaries, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

The global supply chain faces another snag this week as a major container terminal in China, the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan, remains closed a week after first suspending operations due to a single COVID-19 case. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the terminal isn’t expected to resume operations before the end of the month, causing a ripple effect as congestion builds along the Asia-to-Europe and trans-Pacific routes. The setback has slowed the flow of goods for larger retailers and small business owners alike, though Walmart announced it had begun chartering its own vessels—a strategy that Home Depot first picked up in June—to avoid paying freight rates that have quadrupled since the start of the year.

Ikea will offer renewable energy to households, Reuters reports, starting with the home market in Sweden. Homeowners will be able to purchase renewable electricity from solar and wind parks and track their usage through an app, paying a fixed monthly fee and variable rate for the service. According to Jonas Carlehed, head of sustainability at Ikea Sweden, the brand plans to make the offer available to all markets in the future—a move toward the company’s goal of being “climate positive” by 2030. "It will contribute indirectly (to the target),” Carlehed told Reuters. “The link is that our customers’ use of our products account for around 20 percent of Ikea’s total climate footprint from appliances, lighting and electronics such as speakers and so on.”

Amazon has announced plans to open several large retail locations in the U.S., BBC reports. Operating similarly to department stores, the spaces will offer clothing, household items, electronics and other goods, in locations clocking in around 30,000 square feet (which is slightly more compact than the typical 100,000-square-foot department store). The retailer is starting with stores in Ohio and California, adding to its existing brick-and-mortar presence nationwide, which includes more than 20 bookstores and two dozen Amazon 4-star stores for electronics and kitchen products.

Mediapost reports that the latest quarterly results from Lowe's and Home Depot indicate a possible cooling in the home renovation sector, which saw a major boom for much of 2020. According to research from business analytics and consulting company Global Data, the number of consumers doing at least one home or garden project dropped from 73 percent to 66 percent in the second quarter—a reduction that’s still above the 56 percent pre-pandemic levels. According to experts, the DIY home trend has begun to fade as consumers return to in-person work and social routines, while unusually high housing sales have neared a peak, with forecasts projecting only minimal increases in 2022.

In June, we reported on the furniture brand Dims’s search for new investors (and passionate customers) on the crowdsourced investment platform Republic. Since then, the company has raised more than $500,000—launching a stream of new products and securing its first showroom in Los Angeles with the new injection of capital. On the heels of that success, the company is now concluding its campaign on the site to pursue institutional investors.

Airbnb has announced plans to provide temporary free housing globally for 20,000 refugees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, The New York Times reports. The company will cover the accommodations with help from its charitable arm, Airbnb.org, and through funds from chief executive Brian Chesky, and is working with resettlement agencies to offer short- and long-term stays through its platform. The process began last weekend, as 165 refugees were placed in housing across the U.S.

Launches and Collaborations

Design Star: Next Gen winner Carmeon Hamilton will hit the silver screen again with her own series, Reno My Rental, debuting this month on the Discovery+ streaming service. During the six-episode run, the designer returns to her hometown of Memphis to redecorate the homes of renters without carrying out renovations that would forfeit their security deposit, according to People. Featuring local artisans and vendors, the show will find Hamilton employing creative solutions to transform spaces with treatments that won’t permanently alter the home, and with pieces clients can take with them when they go.

Christine Cachot, a veteran of the luxury goods sector, has announced the launch of Lustare—an e-commerce platform offering international artisans and brands with exclusive representation in the U.S. through the site. From both antique and contemporary pieces to commissioned installations, the platform has debuted with the Italian ceramics brand Bitossi, Carlo Moretti glassware, Milanese artist Jacopo Foggini, Italian lighting brand Pollice Illuminazione, French furniture curator Pouenat, Italian glassware brand Vetrerie di Empoli, wood artisan duo Zelouf & Bell, and the Bokja textile collective, comprising artisans from Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, Egypt and Lebanon.

British graphic designer Peter Saville—who, as former art director of Factory Records, is responsible for iconic album covers like that of Joy Division’s 1979 Unknown Pleasures—has recently turned his attention to the home furnishings world for a range of rugs, curtains and fabrics created with Danish textile company Kvadrat. Called “Technicolor,” the textile-based collection draws inspiration from the neon spray marks used by farmers in North Wales to identify sheep, resulting in a colorful series of natural wool products.

Kravet Inc. has announced the debut of a mobile shopping shuttle designed to bring its products to interior designers. The new Kravet Workspace Mobile showroom contains 5,700 color-coordinated fabrics, a library of sample books, including wall covering and upholstery and a selection of 100 carpet samples. Once inside, designers can digitally scan samples to check stock, pricing and color ways and place orders with sales representatives on hand. This month, the shuttle begins its journey in the northeast and will make its way down to south Florida before the year’s end, stopping at High Point Market along the way.

For the latest product news, check out BOH’s new weekly digest of collection debuts, Product Preview.

Showroom Representation

Design Holdings has announced a new distribution partnership with the Belgium-based furniture manufacturer Vincent Sheppard. The newly formed Vincent Sheppard USA will distribute to furniture retailers nationwide as well as serve contract and hospitality markets, while also launching a new website tailored to the U.S. market.

Recommended Reading

As Taliban forces conquered major cities across Afghanistan in recent weeks, the nation’s museum curators and archaeologists are racing to secure sites and artifacts that have not yet been seized. As National Geographic reports, the country has a particularly rich heritage, once serving as a major stop along the Silk Road, a location where Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism flourished before and after the arrival of Islam in the seventh century A.D., and home to countless ancient cities and monasteries. Curators in Kabul are currently working to export objects to a museum exhibit in Paris while working to find a secure location for the National Museum’s 80,000 artifact collection. The quick work is with the hopes of avoiding a potential rampage similar to the one the Taliban conducted in 2001 when many pre-Islamic objects and statues were destroyed.

First invented in 1997, Sabbath mode is a special setting on some kitchen appliances that allows observant Jews to follow the religious law which prohibits work (and cooking) from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday by pre-setting their gadget ahead of time. Today it’s available in about 85 percent of built-in ranges and nearly two-thirds of wall ovens, as many non-Jewish users have discovered by surprise when accidentally enabling the tool. As WSJ reports, the feature is part of a pattern in appliance technology in recent years as manufacturers develop software for increasingly niche users—including washers and dryers with audio guidance for the visually impaired and laundry machines that send out notifications about “over-sudsing.”

Artist and architect Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins began an architectural project in 1998 with a modest goal: to reverse destiny through design. The resulting structure, located in East Hampton, features bumpy, sloping floors and light switches at different heights in a living space designed to physically and mentally challenge its inhabitants in their daily lives in order to promote health and wellbeing. The greater challenge, it turns out, has been finding a long-term tenant to serve as steward of the Bioscleave House, as Diana Budds explores for Curbed.

Call for Entries

In collaboration with Dwell magazine, Anderson Fabrics has announced its first annual Bright Ideas awards. The contest will recognize architects for projects showcasing outstanding fenestration made with solar-oriented materials in single and multi-family categories, plus an honorary mention for one unbuilt project of note. For more info, click here.

The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame has announced the launch of its Home Furnishings Leadership Institute at High Point University, in which 25 individuals will be selected annually for a seminar of peer learning based on the practice of successful industry leadership. In February 2022, faculty from the Phillips School of Business and the Nido R. Quebin School of Communications will lead participants in a combination of lectures and discussions, culminating in students receiving a graduation certificate and digital badge. Nominations open on September 7 and close on October 21. For more info, click here.

Cue the Applause

LightFair has announced the 11 mentees chosen for its first annual mentorship initiative, a six-month program connecting emerging lighting professionals with experts in the industry to learn about lighting design and architecture. The inaugural class of 2021 includes Daphne Agosin, Tyler Dellea, Mark Ekberg, Elizabeth Kline, Justin Kobayashi, Elaine Liang, Grace Mennell, LeeAnne Osborn, Nathalie Quadrio, Ryan Seffinger and Nishat Tasnim.

Homepage image: Glassware by the Italian brand Vetrerie di Empoli, available on the Lustare boutique e-commerce site | Courtesy of Lustare

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