year in review | Dec 19, 2023 |
The year’s biggest takeaways from The Business of Home Podcast

Forty-seven episodes of The Business of Home Podcast later, 2023 has come to a close. This year, experts from all over the industry chatted with host Dennis Scully about topics ranging from the AI boom to what’s trending on showroom floors. Here, we’ve collected eight insights from a year of can’t-miss conversations.

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No more beige boxes
The acclaimed Los Angeles–based designer and writer David Netto came on the podcast this November and expressed his disdain for the “beige box” designs popping up everywhere. Netto discussed how he hopes to mentor younger designers to keep the respect for antiques alive and shared the story of how he accidentally fell into the industry. “I by no means felt that this was my destiny,” he says. “It just kept happening to me.”

Glass half full
London-based designer Beata Heuman is known for colorful, joyful spaces. Surprising, then, that she thinks about death almost 30 times a day. “It’s not necessarily in a negative way,” she told Scully. “It’s more that I need to make the most of each day.” And make the most of it she has, because in only 10 years, she built a successful design firm, launched a product line under the brand Shoppa and published a book called Every Room Should Sing.

Thinking outside the box
John Gabbert grew up in the furniture industry, working for his family’s retail chain, Gabbert’s, before founding Room & Board in 1980. The company was built on a simple yet radical idea: “I want to sell product I’m really proud of, and I want to do it in a way that’s fair to everyone—I want to sell [to] everyone just like they’re my best friend,” he said. An offshoot of that concept? Room & Board does not pay its sales team on commission, which allows employees to prioritize customers’ needs instead of competing to sell the most.

Shifting power dynamics
Rock House Farm CEO Alex Shuford returned to the podcast this year and shared an update on the furniture industry. The upshot: Lead times are good, demand is bad. “The best way to begin to wash that bad taste out of the mouths of our customers is with some new and exciting product,” he said. “That will make a difference in my business in 2024. In 2021 and early 2022, if you had furniture, you could sell it and make money. Now, it’s: Do you have the right furniture?” He also talked about how the balance of power is continually shifting away from retailers and toward designers. “If you’re a great furniture store, you better also have a designer that can provide the service one-to-one at the home of the consumer,” he said.

A path to a sustainable future
Sustainability motivates Jonsara Ruth in her current venture, the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design, where she ushers designers and the industry toward better choices for the environment. Ruth’s prior career in industrial design led her to oversee the production of a Martha Stewart line until a trip to China opened her eyes to how environmentally damaging that process was. One noteworthy tip is that a switch from artificial to more natural materials can make all the difference.

Not-so-overnight success
Jean Stoffer has over three decades of interior design experience, yet the last five years has seen a big jump in her success. The Michigan designer launched a cabinetry business, a store, and licensing deals and received a Daytime Emmy nomination for her show The Established Home on the Magnolia Network. “You work really hard for a long time, and something like this might never happen. … The fact that it’s become well-known in my case is quite unusual, and isn’t something that I think anyone should assume is normal,” said Stoffer. “It’s not possible to engineer it. What you can engineer is doing a good job, making sure every project is done with integrity and excellence.”

Great power, great responsibility
Elle Decor editor in chief Asad Syrkett talked about the power his magazine’s A-List holds in the industry and the importance of having a diverse lineup. Syrkett began his position at the magazine in 2020, just months after George Floyd was killed, at a time when race was at the forefront of discussions around the country. He kept this in mind when creating the list for that year. “[These] lists across the industry were established to entrench a certain message about who is important in the industry, and everybody has their own agenda in terms of who they discuss as important or not,” he said. “My agenda happens to be exposure for diverse talent working in places that don’t generally get the spotlight and celebrating the people who really engage with us.”

Creativity trumps business
Yes, French fabric house Pierre Frey is a successful business—to the degree that it’s now acquiring other companies (most recently Bernard Thorp and Zuber). But to think of the company as purely a business enterprise is a mistake, said chairman and creative director Patrick Frey. “It’s a complete mistake to think you can have great finance and marketing departments and creation can be on the side, and you don’t spend any money on it because it’s more important to do good marketing or have good distribution. For me, that’s totally wrong. In a creation business, if the creation is not good, you’re gone in three years.”

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