news digest | Aug 23, 2022 |
Wayfair cuts 5 percent of workforce, Brad Pitt pays up for faulty homes and more

This week in design, ruffles are having a comeback, and chintz aficionados are weighing in on why exactly they get a “thrill from frills.” Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Wayfair announced last week that it would be cutting 5 percent of its global workforce—a total of 870 jobs—in an effort to reduce operating expenses. As CNN reports, CEO Niraj Shah attributed the layoffs to the company’s internal growth in response to the pandemic’s e-commerce boom—activity that has stalled in recent months as online buying has waned. The news comes off the back of a rough quarter for the retailer, which saw sales decline 15 percent year over year for the second quarter as the platform also lost 24 percent of its active customers. Meanwhile, other major retailers have also been pushed to downsize as a result of declining consumer spending, with Walmart eliminating roughly 200 management jobs recently and Best Buy cutting positions in stores across the U.S.

Actor Brad Pitt has agreed to pay a $20.5 million settlement after homes constructed by his now defunct Make It Right Foundation housing charity were found to have water leaks, black mold and foundation issues, Dezeen reports. The foundation was established in 2005 by Pitt, architect William McDonough and Los Angeles–based studio Graft Architects with the goal of creating 150 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A variety of prominent architects were tapped to design the structures, including Frank Gehry, David Adjaye and Shigeru Ban, though reports of health hazards and structural issues came flooding in soon after residents began moving into the homes in 2009. Legal proceedings against the nonprofit began in 2018 and will conclude as money from the settlement is distributed through the California-based nonprofit Global Green, which also has ties to Pitt.

Furniture companies Ethan Allen, House of Markor and Rowe (a division of House of Markor) have been named on a recently published list of global corporations believed to be utilizing the forced labor of the Uyghur population in the manufacturing of their products. As reported by Home News Now, the list was created by the human rights organization Jewish World Watch and cites 800 different companies, including name brands like Goodyear, Tesla, Nike, Coca-Cola and General Electric, along with House of Markor and Ethan Allen (neither responded to HNN’s request for comment). JWW compiled its research based on company supplier lists, government documents and independent investigative efforts—its findings claim that 45 percent of the world’s supply of polysilicon (used in solar panels) is made by Uyghur forced labor. Meanwhile, the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in China where the Uyghur population is based produces 85 percent of the world’s cotton, causing human rights organizations to voice concerns over the industry’s use of forced labor in the region.

Vestaboard, the messaging display brand, has completed a $5 million seed funding round with participation from Shopify’s vice president of engineering Farhan Thawar and Houzz board observer Hany Nada, among others. The company creates a wall-mounted board displaying nostalgic train-station-style flip tiles that spell out customizable messages—to date, it’s raised $10 million in capital and earned a 2021 Red Dot Award and a 2022 IIDA/HD Expo Product Design Award. With the new funding, the brand plans to shift from a preorder to an inventory-based model, and begin research and development on a second display.

Global freight booking platform Freightos has announced plans to go public on the Nasdaq in 2022 or early 2023 by combining with the publicly traded special purpose acquisition corporation Gesher Acquisition Corp. Established in 2012, Freightos was created to provide on-demand information around freight pricing, booking and available capacity to carriers, global freight forwarders, importers and exporters. As volatile consumer buying habits have made the global supply chain increasingly unpredictable since the onset of the pandemic, the demand for Freightos’s services has increased accordingly—based on its second quarter results for 2022, the company has seen transactions grow 163 percent year over year.

Launches & Collaborations
Hooker Furnishings’s HMI Group segment—which includes Accentrics Home, PRI, Pulaski and Samuel Lawrence—has announced the debut of a warehouse stocking program called Portfolio. The program is designed to provide retailers and designers with stocked inventory, products and customer service out of a new 10,000-square-foot pavilion in the HMI Group showroom at High Point, where clients can choose from more than 1,000 SKUs across the HMI Group’s four brands with no order minimums.

Modern maker fair Field + Supply—the brainchild of interior designer Brad Ford—has announced the debut of a new holiday market in Charleston, South Carolina. Held at the Charleston Visitors Center from December 9 to 11, the event will feature live music, food and cocktails, interactive workshops, additional programming and a curated assortment of artisans showcasing products in the categories of home design, tabletop, fashion, beauty and wellness, kids, pets and more.

Cabinetry brand Semihandmade has teamed up with Shelfology for a curated selection of customizable shelving and storage solutions. The collaboration includes seven styles of shelves, 10 hook options, 12 steel colors and six wood finishes—plus, eight new colors exclusive to the Semihandmade collection.

Showhouses
House Beautiful has announced that its fifth annual Whole Home will return to Atlanta for its 2022 edition. In partnership with Ladisic Fine Homes and Pak Heydt & Associates, the showhouse will reimagine a historic two-story Chastain Park Tudor with more than 11,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor spaces. The roster of 12 interior designers transforming the space includes Ariene Bethea, Ashley Gilbreath, Brynn Olson, DuVäl Reynolds, Jonathan Savage, Keia McSwain, Leanne Ford, Lisa Adams, Mark Williams, Niki Papadopoulos, Whittney Parkinson and Zoë Feldman.

Wayfair cuts 5 percent of workforce, Brad Pitt pays up for faulty homes and more
House Beautiful has announced the lineup for its 2022 Whole Home showhouseCourtesy of House Beautiful

Recommended Reading
Classic blue-and-white Delft tiles are steeped in history—the earliest forms can be traced back to the mid-17th century, where the ceramics were made in former breweries -turned factories in the sleepy town of Delft in the Netherlands, and often featured mild images of milkmaids, windmills and dogs. For The New York Times, Max Norman explores how today’s makers of Delft tiles have placed a racier spin on the form, rendering nude figures and subversive scenes designed to call attention to the Netherlands’s history of imperialism.

In recent years, Airbnb has been attempting to cut down on raucous events held at properties listed on its platform, first through a 2019 ban on “party houses” (homes listed specifically to host events) and then by enacting a full ban on parties across the board in 2020. For Fast Company, Jessica Bursztynsky explores the company’s latest effort to curtail large, unapproved gatherings—the rollout of a pilot anti-party technology initiative, designed to flag “potentially high-risk reservations” based on a user’s reviews and history with the service.

Call for Entries
The National Kitchen & Bath Association is now accepting nominations for inductees into the 2023 Kitchen & Bath Industry Hall of Fame. Honorees will be recognized for their significant and enduring contributions to the development of the kitchen and bath industry, and will be celebrated during the NKBA Design & Industry Awards on January 30, 2023, in Las Vegas. To submit a nomination by September 30, click here.

In Memoriam
Interior designer Robert Kime, who decorated the high society homes of clients like socialite Daphne Guinness, the Duke of Beaufort and even the Prince of Wales, has passed away at the age of 76. According to Tatler, Kime studied ancient history at Cambridge before kicking off his career working as the operator of an antiques shop. In the early 1980s, the Prince of Wales called upon Kime to transform his Highgrove home and later to lead a complete renovation of his London residence, Clarence House, as well as the Queen’s Birkhall estate on the royal family’s Balmoral property in Scotland. Beyond his royal design endeavors (which helped earn him the distinction of Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order), Kime was lauded for his comfortable, soulful aesthetic. In recent years, his style caught the eye of fashion designer Tory Burch, who collaborated with Kime on the redesign of her French country house as well as on a fabric and wallpaper collection inspired by Japanese documents. Kime is survived by his two children, Hannah Kime and Tom Kime.

Former Veranda design director Suzanne Noli has passed away at the age of 62. According to the Society of Publication Designers, Noli graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1984 before moving on to a successful first career designing book covers for publishers like G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Warner Books and HarperCollins. Soon enough, she found even greater success during a second career in magazine design, serving as art director for O, The Oprah Magazine; creative director for Fitness; and most recently as design director at Veranda. “This is how I always want to remember her,” wrote former Veranda editor Catherine Lee Davis in a tribute post on Instagram alongside a photo of the two. “Sarcastically witty, effortlessly cool, talented, funny, and oh that amazing laugh.”

Homepage image: Shelfology and Semihandmade have teamed up for a customizable shelf collection | Courtesy of Semihandmade

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