news digest | May 16, 2023 |
Warren Buffet dumps RH stock, top home brands ditch mohair and more

This week in design, home and lifestyle maven Martha Stewart is trading the pages of shelter magazines for the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News

Chinese furniture giant Man Wah Holdings was ordered to pay $15.1 million to Wisconsin manufacturer Raffel Systems—the culmination of a patent infringement case filed last June, in which a jury found that Man Wah infringed on Raffel System’s intellectual property by duplicating the cupholder design used in its motion home theater seating. As Home News Now reports, the settlement comes after Man Wah challenged the jury’s original verdict, which awarded nearly $107 million to Raffel Systems, exceeding the state’s $2 million cap on punitive damages. Both parties are expected to negotiate a final settlement in the coming weeks.

Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway sold its entire stake in RH last quarter, as revealed today by the conglomerate’s 13F filing—news that sent the home furnishing company’s stock plunging 8 percent, Insider reports. Berkshire Hathaway first purchased its shares of RH in the third quarter of 2019 and went on to amass 2.36 million shares of the company, worth $575 million at the end of the first quarter. Though RH’s shares skyrocketed more than 400% during the pandemic to a peak of nearly $750, they’ve since dropped 67 percent to today’s price of about $244.

New York became the first state in the U.S. to ban natural gas in most new buildings earlier this month, CNN reports, thanks to a new provision in the $229 billion state budget approved by Governor Kathy Hochul two weeks ago. The guideline requires all-electric heating and cooking systems in new buildings shorter than seven stories by 2026, and for remaining taller buildings by 2029. While the ban mainly applies to new residential buildings—leaving commercial and industrial developments exempt—it could still reduce the state’s environmental footprint, as buildings account for 32 percent of New York’s climate-warming emissions.

Online retail services platform Shopify sold two arms of its business last week, laying off 20 percent of its workforce in the process, The Wall Street Journal reports. Freight company Flexport acquired the company’s logistics-fulfillment operations (which includes U.S. e-commerce platform Deliverr), while U.K.-based automated grocery-fulfillment provider Ocado Group purchased the platform’s 6 River Systems warehouse robotics operation—the terms of the deal were not disclosed. The move comes nearly a year after Shopify announced plans to lay off 10 percent of its global workforce in the wake of a downturn in e-commerce activity after a pandemic-induced boom.

Furniture retailers Room & Board, Lulu and Georgia, and Nathan Anthony joined more than 150 other major brands in pledging to stop using mohair in their products after a Peta investigation revealed that harmful practices were involved in obtaining the fiber from Angora goats. The organization revealed that workers in South Africa—the world’s top mohair producer—mishandled the animals and sheared them in a way that caused injury. The home brands join retailers including Anthropologie, Overstock and Zara in boycotting products that incorporate the fiber.

The live-shopping market in the U.S. is on track to bring in an estimated $32 billion in sales this year, The New York Times reports, as platforms like Poshmark, QVC, YouTube and eBay seek to capture the same purchasing power as China’s live-shopping market, which is projected to bring in $647 billion this year. In addition to major retailers and tech companies, startups like Whatnot and Ntwrk have also sought to break into the market, as U.S.-based live-stream e-commerce companies received more than $380 million in investments last year—up from $36 million in 2020, according to PitchBook. Still, previous attempts at implementing live shopping in the U.S. have been middling: After debuting such features on Instagram and Facebook during the pandemic, Meta shut down both programs over the past few months, while TikTok’s live shopping rollout (already available in part of Southeast Asia) has faced delays in the U.S. amid recent criticism of the app in general from lawmakers and regulators.

Workers at the New York branch of Oslo, Norway–based global design and architecture firm Snøhetta filed to form a union, Dezeen reports—if successful, they will become the second private architecture firm to unionize in the U.S. in the last century, following last fall’s union formation by staff at Brooklyn-based Bernheimer Architecture. In response to Dezeen’s request for comment, Snøhetta’s leadership said they supported the decision to unionize and believed that the announcement was directed toward broader industry issues rather than the studio itself.

Launches & Collaborations

Left: Pernille Rosenkilde partnered with Anthropologie to debut an assortment of fashion and homeware pieces Courtesy of Anthropologie | Right: The assortment includes playful details like colored glass and ruffled textures Courtesy of Anthropologie

Copenhagen-based designer, stylist and influencer Pernille Rosenkilde partnered with Anthropologie to debut an assortment of fashion and homeware pieces rendered in pastel hues. The collection spans dinnerware, candles, throws and more, along with apparel—all united by shared whimsical design elements like ruffles, stripes and bows.

The Inside By Havenly teamed up with Recess Pickleball for a limited-edition pickleball paddle release. The collaboration features the botanical bird pattern in the home furnishing brand’s Jade Cherry Blossom fabric, along with the fiberglass surface and honeycomb core signature to all of Recess’s paddles.

Crate & Barrel tapped cookbook author Molly Baz to create a collection of kitchenware, tabletop pieces and bar accessories that would fit into the chef’s own at-home cooking routine. Drawing inspiration from 20th century modernist Italian design along with parties thrown by Baz and her husband at their home in Los Angeles, the assortment includes striking and simple pieces featuring bold primary colors, organic curves and playful colored glass.

Recommended Reading

After Kristin Batykefer lost her job and went through a divorce in quick succession, she moved in with two family friends (both single mothers themselves) to get back on her feet. Before long, a fellow mom and friend experienced the same thing, and was invited to join the group’s co-living situation—and suddenly, a “mommune” was born. As Debra Kamin writes for The New York Times, a growing number of single moms are joining forces for a living arrangement that allows them to pool resources and finances. In parallel, a cottage industry is sprouting up to serve single parents seeking living arrangements, including services like a house-sharing platform for single mothers and new planned residential communities in France designed specifically for single-parent households.

While plants are often touted as having air-purifying qualities, there’s only so much vegetation can do when it comes to cleansing chemicals from interior spaces. As Alex Chun writes for Smithsonian Magazine, a new Parisian startup called Neoplants is working to enhance the power of plants with a bioengineered version of the pothos houseplant—a special breed designed to specifically filter out indoor air pollutants known as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which are often found in paints and wood preservatives.

Cue the Applause

The American Society of Interior Designers announced the winners of the organization’s annual Student Portfolio Competition, which honors the brightest new minds entering the design industry. This year’s winners include Corinne Smith of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Elizabeth Perry Turner of Texas Tech University and Cece Witherspoon of The George Washington University—all of whom will present their work at the Gather 2023 conference and receive scholarships to advance their careers.

The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center has announced its 2023 Southeast Designers & Architect of the Year Awards, recognizing firms and individuals across the region who demonstrate talent in the fields of design and architecture. This year’s winners include Charlotte, North Carolina–based Bronwyn Ford of Pursley Dixon Ford Interior Design in the residential interior design category, Atlanta-based Square Feet Studio in the contract interior design category and Birmingham, Alabama–based Chris Reebals of Christopher Architecture & Interiors in the architecture category.

Homepage image: Molly Baz partnered with Crate & Barrel for a cookware collection. | Courtesy of Crate & Barrel

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