news digest | Apr 30, 2024 |
Warren Buffett–owned brokerage agrees to a $250 million settlement, Room & Board embraces an ESOP model, and more

This week in design, Kim Kardashian may have landed in legal trouble recently for claiming her look-alike table was an original Donald Judd piece—but how many of us really could tell the difference at first glance? Now there’s a quiz to help you find out. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
HomeServices of America—the nation’s largest residential real estate brokerage, owned by Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway Energy—has agreed to pay $250 million to settle claims that the group conspired to force home sellers to pay inflated commissions. As The New York Times reports, the brokerage was the last remaining defendant in the landmark Missouri case, which experts say could drive down fees for home buyers, effectively reducing home prices across the board. With HomeServices of America’s settlement, which followed similar multimillion dollar payouts from the National Association of Realtors and brokerages like Anywhere Real Estate, Re/Max and Keller Williams, the case’s total damages so far now amount to more than $1 billion.

Last week, the Biden Administration signed off on new minimum energy standards for federally funded houses and apartments, Bloomberg reports. The regulations will set new efficiency targets for insulation, windows, HVAC and other systems, updating building codes that have been out of compliance since 2015. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the new standards will translate to lower energy costs for those who need it most: On average, low-income households currently spend 8 percent of their earnings, compared with the 3 percent national average. The department estimates that the updated rules will affect 150,000 new units per year, with annual savings of $963 per household and $73 million in total.

Wichita, Kansas–based retailer Horton’s Furniture is closing after 78 years in business, Furniture Today reports. Established by Frank and Frances Horton in 1946, the business grew to become one of the largest furniture showrooms in the area, and was purchased by current owners Steve Elpers and Dilman Morris in 1997. Following the completion of a going-out-of-business sale and liquidation, Elpers and Morris plan to retire.

Room & Board announced last week that it is transitioning to an employee stock ownership plan, giving its 1,100 employees an annual allocation of shares based on each worker’s salary and tenure. The ESOP bought out the company’s former investors—including founder and majority shareholder John Gabbert and his family and staff members—and secured debt through the company’s shareholders. The size of the transaction and the debt were not disclosed.

WeWork announced this week that it raised $450 million in equity funding, which it aims to use to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy status, Business Insider reports. The restructuring would make Yardi Systems—a real estate technology provider and current WeWork creditor—the company’s biggest backer through a $337 million infusion of capital, with former majority owner SoftBank holding 20 percent of the venture. According to WeWork, the exit strategy would eliminate its $4 billion in outstanding debt, with a finalizing vote scheduled for May 30. Notably, the new deal rebuffs former leader Adam Neumann’s attempt to buy back the company in a $650 million offer. Meanwhile, the market for office buildings is nearing historic lows, the Wall Street Journal reports, with the highest amount of defaults, foreclosures or other forms of distress since 2012.

The MacKenzie-Childs x Pencil & Paper Co. ceramic capsule collection
The MacKenzie-Childs x Pencil & Paper Co. ceramic capsule collectionCourtesy of MacKenzie-Childs x Pencil & Paper Co.

Launches and Collaborations
Interior design studio Light and Dwell launched a new lighting collection in partnership with Huey Lightshop. The nine-piece assortment features sconces, lamps and pendants, each inspired by the studio’s Scandinavian-inspired design approach.

Hand-crafted ceramics brand MacKenzie-Childs teamed up with Southern lifestyle tastemaker Gen Sohr—founder of Pencil & Paper Co. blog—for a capsule collection. The resulting serveware assortment includes platters, bowls and cake stands, each designed with a blend of Sohr’s personal style and classic MacKenzie-Childs patterns and motifs in mind.

Ruggable partnered with Morris & Co., mining its historic patterns to debut an array of 14 indoor rugs and one doormat, each available in Ruggable’s two-piece machine-washable rug system. The collection draws influence from the gardens of the English countryside, referencing vintage botanical designs in spring-centered hues.

Warren Buffett–owned brokerage agrees to a $250 million settlement, Room & Board embraces an ESOP model, and more
The Strawberry Thief rug from the Ruggable x Morris & Co. collectionCourtesy of Ruggable x Morris & Co.

The 2024 Pasadena Showcase House of Design has debuted to the public in an English Tudor Revival–style home originally built in 1902 by architect Joseph J. Blick. Reimaged by a cohort of 23 designers—including Rachel Duarte, Amy Peltier and Frank Sleskinski—the space will remain open until May 21, with proceeds to benefit music programs produced by the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts.

The 45th annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase, open to the public until May 27, is housed in a transformed Pacific Heights home built in 1899 by architect Walter D. Bliss. A group of 37 designers were selected to design the space, including Nancy Evars, Jay Jeffers and Tineke Triggs. Proceeds from the showcase will benefit the San Francisco University High School’s financial aid program.

A bedroom by Ashi Waliany of Cusp Interiors for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2024
A bedroom by Ashi Waliany of Cusp Interiors for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2024R. Brad Knipstein Photography

Recommended Reading
More than a decade ago, real estate agents advertised their services on bus-stop benches. Today, the biggest names in real estate feature front-and-center in television shows tracking their professional and personal exploits. For The New York Times, Debra Kamin spends a night among the industry’s reigning and rising stars in an effort to uncover why viewers can’t get enough of the real estate business.

During the height of the pandemic, an Instagram account called Zillow Gone Wild became a social media phenomenon, spotlighting the craziest home listings the internet had to offer—everything from mushroom-inspired abodes to music-themed retreats. Four years later, the account spawned its own HGTV show, debuting next month with Samir Mezrahi—the mastermind behind the original account—serving as executive producer. For The Washington Post, Rachel Kurzius sits down with Mezrahi to discuss how his innate talent for tapping into the social media zeitgeist landed him in the home world.

Cue the Applause
The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, in partnership with Veranda, announced the winners of the 2024 Southeast Designers and Architect of the Year Awards. This year’s honorees include West Point, Georgia–based David Frazier in the residential design category; Tampa, Florida–based Tate Casper and Jordan Winston in the contract designer category; and Atlanta-based T.S. Adams Studio Architects in the architect category.

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