news digest | Mar 15, 2022 |
Russian sanctions hit the supply chain, Chilewich is sold, and more

This week in design, sports fans with an eye for interiors may soon be in for a treat—NFL quarterback Tom Brady recently filed more than two dozen patent applications, with furniture making the list among branding opportunities for retail boutiques, restaurants and gym equipment. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading and more.

Business News

After starting to bounce back from the omicron wave, the global supply chain is now taking a hit from international sanctions on Russia. According to The New York Times, the situation is at its worst near the war zone in the Black Sea, where more than 100 ships and their crews have been stranded at Ukrainian ports since the conflict began two weeks ago, and several commercial vessels have been hit by missiles. Disruptions have rippled through the rest of the logistics industry, as some European terminal operators have refused ships carrying cargo for Russia, with Britain going a step further to ban Russian vessels from its ports entirely. Air freight is also facing setbacks, with Russian airspace unavailable to most carriers and Russian aircrafts banned from the U.S., European Union and Canada. The bans are causing flights between Europe and Asia to be rerouted, adding up to four hours on some routes and demanding more fuel, just as oil prices continue to reach record highs.

In related news, Russia responded to Western sanctions with its own bans on exports of certain goods and agricultural commodities, including wood and forestry products and equipment, as well as telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electric and tech products, Reuters reports. The ban on exports of wood and forestry products in particular could post a risk to the home construction industry, Furniture Today points out, as the U.S. sources at least 10 percent of its hardwood plywood from Russia, which also serves as the world’s largest exporter of softwood lumber—a material used primarily in home building.

Magazine publishers Hearst and Condé Nast announced last week that they were suspending operations in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, MediaPost reports. A statement from Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch on Wednesday pointed to the Russian government’s recently passed censorship laws, which he says have made it impossible for the company to produce content without posing a risk to its staff’s security and safety. At Hearst Magazines, president Debi Chirichella notified its two Russian publishing partners, Shkulev Media and Fashion Press, that the company was terminating its involvement in the ventures and turning its equity over to them—a decision that affects Elle Russia through Shkulev Media and Russian editions of Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health through Fashion Press.

Berkley Capital, the private equity investment arm of W.R. Berkley Corporation, has acquired a majority interest in textile brand Chilewich. Founder Sandy Chilewich and CEO Joe Sultan will stay on with Chilewich in advisory roles and remain on Chilewich’s board of directors, in addition to new members including former CEO of Design Within Reach John Edelman and Berkley Capital’s president Frank Medici and managing director Thomas Ghegan. With the investment and new leadership, the company plans to expand its national and global reach along with developing new product innovations. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 49th China Home Expo, originally scheduled for March 18 to 21, has been postponed indefinitely, Furniture Today reports. The decision comes after an announcement from the regional Guangzhou government suspending all exhibition events effective March 11 in response to a rising wave of coronavirus infections. The restriction also impacts the China International Furniture Machinery & Furniture Raw Materials Fair 2022, which was slated for March 28 to 31 and is now also postponed.

A growing number of Californians are going off the grid, The New York Times reports. In an effort to avoid blackouts induced by climate-related natural disasters, wildfires caused by utilities and rising electricity costs, individuals are increasingly building houses fueled by energy they produce themselves. The transition has been made easier in the past two decades as the costs of solar panels and batteries have drastically decreased, with the cost of solar panels in particular falling from $11.40 a watt in 2000 to less than $4 a watt today. Experts say the switch may be most appealing to those building new homes, as the installation of a fully off-grid system now runs anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000—installing power lines underground, meanwhile, runs about $78,000 per 100 feet.

In London, Sketch’s restaurant, the Gallery, has long been known for its iconic pink interiors and egg-shaped bathroom stalls, made recognizable as a favorite Instagram photo-op. Now, as Time Out reports, the space is switching things up with a vibrant redesign by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare and architect India Mahdavi, complete with bright yellow furniture and copper walls, as well as 14 site-specific artworks celebrating African culture that together form an installation called “Modern Magic.”

Launches and Collaborations

Marcin Rusak Studio in Poland teamed up with Polish NGO Fundacja Ocalenie to organize a charity auction in support of Ukrainian refugees. More than 50 designers globally have joined in providing items for the sale, which will take place on the studio’s Instagram page until March 31, offering furniture, decor and designed objects from creatives like Formafantasma, Faye Toogood, Bethan Laura Wood and Martino Gamper. Proceeds will benefit refugees and migrants by providing support in the distribution of housing, food and essentials, along with paperwork assistance and integration into local communities.

1stdibs launched new features expanding its NFT marketplace, now allowing a curated group of more than 200 designers to upload their work to the platform and list it for sale autonomously. Additionally, the company is introducing a secondary market for collectors on the site, allowing any owner of an NFT purchased on the platform to list and sell the work through 1stdibs—an effort, the brand says, to match the fast-paced, trading-driven atmosphere central to the NFT community.

Online Canadian home decor and furniture store Fülhaus partnered with interior designer Brady Tolbert for the brand’s first-ever designer collaboration. Together, the duo has curated a 600-piece collection centered on three concepts—Sinuous Forms: An Ode to Vladimir Kagan; Residency in Marfa; and The New Victorian—each containing an assortment of furniture and accessories imbued with Tolbert’s clean and eclectic style.

British architecture studio Zaha Hadid Architects is the latest to make waves in the metaverse, announcing the debut of a “cyber-urban” city called Liberland Metaverse—a virtual city based on the Free Republic of Liberland, a micronation claimed by Czech politician Vít Jedlička and situated on the disputed land between Croatia and Serbia. Dezeen reports that people can buy plots of land with cryptocurrency and enter digital buildings as an avatar in the new space, which is accessible via the cloud-based platform Mytaverse. Inside, the city features buildings designed by the firm, including a city hall, plaza and exhibition center. According to principal Patrik Schumacher, the firm hopes the virtual location may promote the development of the real-life Republic of Liberland, which is currently an unofficial state not yet recognized by the United Nations.

Recommended Reading

T Magazine’s spring Design issue centers on an exploration of artist’s homes—surveying everything from writer Anaïs Nin’s Modernist Los Angeles abode designed by a descendant of Frank Lloyd Wright, to the childhood home of singer and activist Nina Simone, now being preserved by four Black visual artists. For the first piece to debut online, T Magazine’s Gisela Williams takes readers through visual artist Danh Vo’s German farmhouse—a former G.D.R. agricultural collective that’s been repurposed as a commune for artists.

While cooking over an open fire is undoubtedly a stylish affair, the consequences of cooking with gas are less appealing—the process emits a catastrophic amount of greenhouse gasses, harmful to the environment and to the health of those living in the vicinity. Increasingly, homeowners are turning to induction cooking systems—not to be confused with electric stoves—which use electromagnets to heat cookware without natural gas. For The New York Times, Melissa Clark takes readers on a tour through the merits of induction cooking.

Showroom Representation

Designer Brian Persico joined the roster of the New York-based maker showroom Fair, founded and curated by interior designer Brad Ford. Based in the Catskills, Persico’s one-of-a-kind pieces are handcrafted only from natural materials, with wood frequently sourced from a 20-mile radius around his home and forged with organic finishes and glues produced by the designer himself.

Mantra Inspired Furniture is now represented by Tio-esse Contract Group for territory in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, as well as The Long Group throughout the six-state New England region. Founded in 2018, the Norfolk, Virginia–based brand offers a collection of sustainably made home and office furniture created by Amish craftsmen based locally.

Cue the Applause

West African architect Francis Kéré is the recipient of this year’s Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor. A native of Burkina Faso and founder of the Munich-based practice Kéré Architecture, Kéré is lauded for his ability to utilize limited resources and root his designs in West African traditions—principles he’s applied to the creation of schools, libraries, health care centers and public spaces concentrated in African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique and Sudan. In one such example, Kéré employed cement-fortified bricks and an overhanging roof in the absence of air-conditioning at the Gando Primary School in his home country—a redesign that allowed for an increase in the school’s student body from 120 to 700 students. “His buildings, for and with communities, are directly of those communities—in their making, their materials, their programs and their unique characters,” the jury said in its citation. “They are tied to the ground on which they sit and to the people who sit within them. They have presence without pretense and an impact shaped by grace.”

The Bienenstock Furniture Library named the winners of its annual student design competition for furniture and interior design, awarding a total of $15,000 in prizes to the top contenders. Boya Zhang from Kendall College of Art and Design landed first place for her Breezy chair, designed with nursing mothers and early-phase parents in mind. Oliver McCarthy, also from Kendall College, secured second place and Pedro Sandoval from University of Houston received an honorable mention.

The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation has announced the five winners of the Paul Broyhill Future Leaders Award. Granted to emerging leaders under the age of 40, the distinction is given to individuals selected for their leadership, personal growth, communication skills and commitment to the greater home furnishings industry—this year’s recipients include Lindsay Cathers, senior behavioral marketing and customer data activation manager at La-Z-Boy, Inc.; Alex Cihak, vice president of business development at Elements International; Andrew Crone, chief executive officer at Chaddock Furniture Workroom; Travis Wagner, senior vice president of global manufacturing at Ashley HomeStore; and Laura White, vice president of marketing and creative at Vanguard Furniture.

Homepage image: A collaboration between interior designer Brady Tolbert and innovative online Canadian home decor and furniture store Fülhaus | Courtesy of Fülhaus

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