news digest | Dec 5, 2023 |
Small-space living is on the rise, the Dyson vacuum cleaner is now a status symbol and more

The new year is weeks away, and top cultural voices have already cast their votes for trends arriving in 2024—including “meatball brown.” Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News

Small-space design and apartment living continue to be on the rise, according to a new report from freelance labor marketplace Taskrabbit. After studying 2.5 million bookings on the platform over the last year, the site saw an 87 percent surge in apartment moving jobs compared to house move-ins, along with a 64 percent rise in clients seeking help for renter-friendly upgrades—including 20 percent more flex-wall installation requests and 40 percent more orders for putting up peel-and-stick wallpaper. The company attributes the shifts to cost-of-living increases, residents migrating to new cities and a desire for more practical living arrangements.

“House hacking”—the practice of renting out a portion of your home or an entire property as an additional income stream—is becoming more popular among Gen Z and millennials looking for a path to homeownership in the face of high prices and interest rates, CNBC reports. According to a new report by Zillow, 39 percent of recent homebuyers describe house hacking as a “very” or “extremely” important opportunity, marking an increase of eight percentage points over the last two years. The study, which polled more than 6,500 homebuyers between April 2023 and July 2023, found that the strategy was particularly popular among younger generations, with 55 percent of millennials and 51 percent of Gen Z respondents expressing a positive view on the subject. Still, the window of opportunity to take advantage of house hacking may be closing, as new inventory in the rental market—which recently hit the highest vacancy rate since early 2021—increases the availability and affordability of rentals.

The Sustainable Furnishings Council announced plans to shift its focus to providing sustainability education for members of the design community—tying in with its recently obtained 501(c)(3) status. Along with unveiling a new logo and website, the organization will debut a virtual learning academy in early 2024. Through the program, members will be able to obtain continuing education credits and pursue general education courses on sustainability in the home furnishings industry.

Home services startup Craftwork announced the completion of a $6 million seed funding round led by the San Francisco–based Forerunner Ventures, Forbes reports. The Charlotte, North Carolina–based company launched in January 2023, combining an online platform and in-house home contractors (who function as full-time employees of the company) to make tasks like home repairs and painting easier to plan and order. Moving forward, Craftwork plans to expand its services across the country.

When TikTok announced it would sunset its $2 billion Creator Fund in early November, it began to encourage users to switch over to the newly established Creativity Fund—which requires them to create videos longer than 60 seconds in order to receive direct compensation. As Fortune reports, many influencers are now expressing their frustration with the platform’s changes, particularly with the sudden push away from short-form video content that drove the app when it originally launched. Plus, many are wary of the new program, as the Creator Fund saw users who produced millions of monthly views making as little as a few hundred dollars a month—compared to much higher direct payouts on platforms like YouTube and Snapchat.

Launches and Collaborations

Samsung is bringing a collection of 12 works by the artist Keith Haring to its Art Store, allowing owners of the brand’s Frame TV to display the digital replicas in their homes. The launch includes iconic works such as Radiant Baby and Retrospect, adding to the more than 2,300 pieces of digital art currently available on the platform.

The Waldorf-Astoria announced a new partnership with B&B Italia, which will see the furniture maker provide curated furnishings and accessories for the landmark New York hotel’s new residences, scheduled to open in late 2024. Residential buyers will have the option of purchasing fully furnished spaces available in two different styles: the cool-toned Chiaro or the warm-toned Scuro.

Recommended Reading

Since Laura Alber became CEO of Williams-Sonoma in 2010, the company’s annual revenue has more than doubled—and as Fortune reports, she plans to double it again, despite challenges like lower consumer spending on big-ticket items. To achieve her goal, Alber is leaning into the brand’s business-to-business division, eyeing franchise-first global expansion and exploring AI as a tool to improve customer service.

In today’s economic climate, household status symbols of the past—a Le Creuset set, high-end furniture, and of course, an actual house—are increasingly out of reach for Gen Z. That may account for the rise of the younger generation’s hottest home accessory: a Dyson vacuum cleaner, which functions as a steppingstone to bigger investments. For The New York Times, Wilson Wong explores the appliance’s hold on the Gen Z cohort.

The kind of rooms Robert Off creates often sell for $100,000 and up, with features such as complex wainscoting and molding, hand-crafted furnishings and detailed architectural features—and they’re only slightly bigger than a shoebox. That’s because Off belongs to the growing community of miniaturists, who painstakingly craft spaces derived from history, fantasy and their own memories. For Esquire, Scott Huler unravels the cultural phenomenon that’s spawned a recent TV series, a growing annual convention and 2.6 billion TikTok views.

Cue the Applause

The International Society of Furniture Designers announced the first-ever recipient of the Tom Conley Student Scholarship: Penina Bernstein of Rhode Island School of Design’s MFA furniture design program. In her work, Bernstein, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts program, explores the sculptural elements of furniture design, earning her such accolades as the 2022 Maker of the Year award from Australian Wood Review for a walnut and brass dining room table she designed and built. As the recipient of the Conley Student Scholarship, she will receive $2,500 toward tuition for her fall semester.

In Memoriam

Interior designer and philanthropist Mica Ertegun has passed away at the age of 97. As The New York Times reports, the Romanian-born designer fled the postwar Communist regime in her home country at the age of 16, traveling throughout Europe and Canada before landing in New York in the late 1950s. There, she met Atlantic Records co-founder and her soon-to-be husband, Ahmet Ertegun. By 1967, Ertegun and socialite Chessy Rayner founded interior designer firm MAC II (the name stood for Mica and Chessy), embarking on an illustrious career designing high-end homes for celebrity clientele across North and South America, Europe and the Middle East. Beyond design, Ertegun’s generosity was far-reaching—including a $9 million gift to create the atrium in Jazz at Lincoln Center; a $1.4 million pledge to restore part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; and a $41 million gift for humanities scholarships at the University of Oxford—part of the reason Queen Elizabeth II made her an honorary commander of the Order of the British Empire. “I believe it is tremendously important to support those things that endure across time and make the world a more humane place,” Ertegun said at the time.

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