news digest | Jan 2, 2024 |
The Bouroullec brothers are breaking up, Z Gallerie eyes a buyer post-bankruptcy and more

This week in design, the lines between homes for people and pets are becoming even more blurred with the sudden popularity of high-end dog beds for humans. Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah says the company is profitable once again, according to an email sent to employees and obtained by Business Insider. The furniture boom in early 2020 brought the company its first profitable quarter since going public in 2014, but the home furnishings company soon faced economic headwinds that prompted cost-cutting measures, including multiple rounds of layoffs. Wayfair’s most recent earnings report included a $163 million loss in the third quarter—which still marked an improvement from the $283 million loss in the same quarter of 2022. In his letter to employees, Shah stressed that hard work—he predicted long hours and “blending work and life” in the weeks and months ahead—would be necessary if Wayfair is to maintain profitability.

Karat Home, a Texas-based textile and furniture e-commerce company, has been identified as the preferred bidder for the assets of Z Gallerie in the wake of the company’s recent Chapter 11 filing. As Home News Now reports, Karat Home is looking to purchase the home decor brand’s e-commerce platform, along with the intellectual property, inventory, distribution facilities and employees tied to it. The deal would not include the leases to Z Gallerie’s two dozen brick-and-mortar stores, which several other parties have expressed an interest in taking over. According to court documents, the two companies are still negotiating terms for the agreement.

Private-equity firm Kingswood Capital Management has entered into an agreement to purchase 117-year-old residential lighting brand Progress Lighting from electric products manufacturer Hubbell Incorporated in a $131 million cash purchase, Home Accents Today reports. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024. Responsible for offering indoor and outdoor lighting solutions, Progress generated approximately $190 million in sales in 2023.

A selection of 122 vintage Ikea furnishings sold for over $40,000 last month after hitting the block at Stockholms Auktionsverk, the world’s oldest auction house. The Guardian reports that the sale includes many items dating back to the 1950s, when Ikea’s manufacturing was based solely in Sweden, as well as several pieces from the 1970s and the retailer’s collaboration with the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm during the 1990s. As the company reaches its 80th anniversary this year, a growing number of lucrative sales for its trademark affordable furnishings—including a record-high $18,987 auction price for a chair that sold for $29 in 1958—are ushering its product portfolio into the realm of collector’s items.

Real estate site Zillow has revealed some of the top kitchen and bath trends predicted for 2024 based on the most popular searches on its website, Designers Today reports. In the kitchen, expect a renewed interest in dual fuel ranges, flat-front cabinets (in place of Shaker-style fixtures), and bold checkerboard floors in unexpected color combinations (like slate blue and oxblood). As for the bathroom, smart toilets are already appearing 11 percent more often in listings on Zillow—thanks to the increased desire for and availability of bacteria-free features—while traditional painted moldings are predicted to be swapped out for stone baseboards and trim.

Launches & Collaborations
JoJo Fletcher, former star of ABC’s The Bachelorette, has partnered with California-based furniture supplier Abbyson on a new upholstery collection, Furniture Today reports. The 39-piece line includes upholstered furniture items and an array of pillows and rugs designed to straddle the line between decoration and functionality.

The San Francisco Decorator Showcase has announced the site of its 2024 location: an 11,155-square-foot Dutch Colonial mansion on Billionaire’s Row in Pacific Heights. The historic five-floor home (which was also the showhouse’s venue in 1989) was built in 1899 by renowned architects Walter D. Bliss and William Faville for Bliss’s parents. The space will be reimaged by a group of designers to be revealed later this winter, and will be open to the public from April 27 to May 27, with proceeds to benefit the San Francisco University High School financial aid program.

Recommended Reading
French designers and brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec—once described by a Kvadrat executive as “The Charles and Ray Eames of our time”—soared to success in the furniture and industrial design realm off the force of their partnership. They were frequent collaborators with brands like Vitra, Cappellini and Ligne Roset, and produced work that’s now in the permanent collections of the Pompidou Center in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Design Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now, the band is breaking up. As Julie Lasky writes for The New York Times, the brothers have decided to part ways professionally, leaving behind an era of creative collaboration (and a fast-corroding working relationship) as they embrace new paths of independent design expression.

When German botanist Siegfried Fink set out to view the inner workings of trees more than 30 years ago, his solution was simple: bleach away the pigments in plant cells. The result was a see-through wood, not to mention a revelatory new technique for the world of botany. As Jude Coleman writes for Smithsonian Magazine, materials scientists are now revisiting the method as an alternative to transparent plastic and glass, and could soon use the organic matter in smartphone screens, light fixtures and new structural features such as color-changing windows.

It’s been nearly two centuries since artists and critics first launched the debate around what exactly qualifies as a photograph, and with each new technological advancement (and AI now firmly planted in the spotlight), the question deepens. For The New York Times, Gideon Jacobs consults four artists who work with AI-generated images—Alejandro Cartagena, Charlie Engman, Trevor Paglen and Laurie Simmons—for their perspectives on how the new technology may affect the future of photography.

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