news digest | Aug 31, 2021 |
Vietnam shuts down manufacturing, ‘Dropbox for designers’ raises $4 million, and more

In recent months, homeowners have increasingly turned their attention to dormant garages as the next home site for remodeling and reuse—creating everything from home offices and gyms to paint studios and ceramics workshops. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

In Vietnam—a primary source for casegoods and upholstery coming into the U.S.—manufacturing has largely ground to a halt following a recent stay-at-home order issued in response to a rise in cases of COVID-19, Furniture Today reports. Though some plants have on-site housing, the shutdown will disrupt the transportation of materials into factories as well as the exporting of finished goods, while factories without housing face a complete shutdown. According to FT, the product flow out of Vietnam likely won’t be made up before the year’s end, prompting many vendors to begin shifting production back to China.

International travel to upcoming design shows like Salone del Mobile and Maison&Objet just got a little bit more complicated. In response to the growing threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the European Union has recommended halting nonessential travel from the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The decision comes a few weeks after the EU surpassed the U.S. in vaccination rates, with 60 percent of residents there having received one dose compared with 58 percent in the U.S. as of August 9, the AP reports. According to the bloc’s official recommendations, countries should be removed from the list if they’ve reported more than 75 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days—the U.S. has documented more than 620 new cases per 100,000 people as recently as this past weekend. The EU’s safe list is subject to change and reviewed every two weeks (the U.S. had been added back to the safe list in June following the pandemic’s initial waves). Despite the decision, member states still have the option to lift the temporary restriction for fully vaccinated travelers.

Art fairs and other expositions have begun to return to in-person festivities following a pandemic-enforced hiatus, The New York Times reports, though the Delta variant has threatened to reverse that progress in recent weeks. Events like the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, the New York International Auto Show and PAD London all decided to forgo their 2021 editions earlier this month, while the Armory Show scheduled for September 9 has begun to experience setbacks—nearly a quarter of its more than 200 exhibitors have deferred participation in the physical fair due to travel restrictions, opting to exhibit online only. Though it’s still unclear how this year’s event season will play out, the cancellations had a large impact on the industry last year: In 2019, sales from the world’s art fairs reached $16.6 billion in 2019, representing 43 percent of annual sales for dealers—a percent that was cut in half during the pandemic, when 60 percent of shows canceled in-person events and moved online.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association has released its quarterly report on the industry’s health, finding that despite material shortages and rising labor costs, the kitchen and bath market has experienced an estimated 11 percent growth in sales from the first to second quarter of 2021. As the demand for remodeling services remains strong, with 60 percent of designers reporting a backlog of at least three months, customers also appear to be veering toward luxury materials, with 89 percent of retailers reporting that customers have shifted to pricier, higher-end finishes. On the other hand, extended lead times may be here to stay, as 80 percent of companies report increasing labor rates to retain employees in a shrinking labor pool.

San Francisco–based startup Playbook has raised $4 million in a seed funding round led by Founders Fund, TechCrunch reports. The company bills itself as “Dropbox for designers,” offering the ability to import, tag and categorize an organization’s entire media library in minutes while allowing collaborators to share assets in a centralized place. With the new injection of capital, Playbook plans to build out its software by expanding into image scanning, content detection and long-term cloud storage options.

New York has narrowly surpassed San Francisco as the most expensive U.S. city to live in, House Beautiful reports. The average apartment in New York is $2,810 to the Bay Area’s $2,800, according to a report recently released by rental listings website Zumper. Though rental rates in both cities took a hit during the pandemic, New York bounced back by 19.6 percent in recent months, alongside rising vaccination rates and eased pandemic restrictions. Across the country, rental rates have jumped between the first and second quarter of 2021—up 9.2 percent for one-bedrooms and 11 percent for two-bedrooms.

Launches, Partnerships and Collaborations

Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels has teamed up with former WeWork executive Roni Bahar and former Sidewalk Labs head Nick Chim to launch a new residential design company called Nabr. According to Dezeen, the Silicon Valley–based business will incorporate a custom design philosophy, enabling clients to co-design homes according to their specific needs. Through a series of mass-produced modular building elements, clients will be able to assemble a space to fit their needs—from there, homes will be outfitted with smart home technology to allow residents to control light, sound and temperature from a centralized app.

Buy now, pay later” took one step closer to online shopping ubiquity with payment network Affirm’s partnership with Amazon, which offers its pay-over-time services to users on the shopping platform. For purchases exceeding $50, customers will have the option to split the total cost into monthly payments at checkout and not be charged late or hidden fees. Though the program began last week with select customers, a broader release is scheduled in the coming months.

Home and decor brand Yellowpop has teamed up with Los Angeles–based artist Gregory Siff to launch a limited-edition collection of neon art. The 10-piece series is imbued with Siff’s signature style: a blend of pop art and abstract expressionism. The designs feature a smiley mushroom, a geometric diamond and words like “Life,” “Happy” and “Magic.”

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

Recommended Reading

Between shipping container blockages and port bottlenecks, the home industry has heard enough about supply chain issues over the past year. As the COVID-19 Delta variant throws fresh uncertainty onto global production processes, the problems will likely continue. In the meantime, how are manufacturers managing? Using a single hot tub as an example, WSJ takes readers on a journey through the complicated network of processes that comprise a supply chain.

From mummified falcons to Egyptian sarcophagus masks priced in the tens of thousands of dollars, New York’s Sadigh Gallery, located blocks away from the Empire State Building, had long been a purveyor of ancient artifacts. Unfortunately, they were all fake. As NYT reports, owner Merhdad Sadigh was charged this week with scheming to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery and criminal simulation after years spent allegedly operating a phony antiquity workshop in the back of his highly trafficked gallery while swindling unsophisticated customers out front.

The rooftop bar is a fairly common, albeit extremely popular, feature in many cities—in Rotterdam, however, urban planners are thinking bigger. Fast Company explores the Danish city’s innovative uses of rooftop spaces, including a fruit orchard, a park with grazing goats, tiny homes and an annual citywide festival.

In 1978, a 28-year-old Bew White left the family business to start his own enterprise—a sales representative company called Vista Enterprise, specializing in selling outdoor furniture. In the years to come, the company would evolve into a national brand, spawning companies like Summer Classics, Gabby and Wendy Jane. A new biography by Christopher Taunton called A Summer Classic: The Bew White Story takes readers through the life of the International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) Lifetime Achievement Award winner, chronicling his childhood, college years and early professional life, right up through the experiences that got him where he is today.

Cue the applause

The Interior Design Society has announced the recipients of its 2021-2022 scholarships. Chosen from a pool of candidates from across the country, the winners include Emily Voight of High Point University, Nhat-Quynh Pham of Kansas State University, and Vuong Nguyen of Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

Homepage image: The Yellowpop and Gregory Siff collection | Courtesy of Yellowpop

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.