news digest | Jul 2, 2024 |
Why celebrities are tearing down historic homes, Ikea is coming to Fifth Avenue, and more

This week in design, one 1980s-era design feature is making a comeback thanks to a viral Instagram Reel, ushering in what could be the “glass block renaissance.” Stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business News
The Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to block the $4 billion deal that would have seen Tempur Sealy International acquire Mattress Firm. According to the FTC’s 5-0 vote against the merger, the acquisition would have allowed Tempur Sealy to suppress competition and raise mattress prices for consumers. The agency alleges that the merger would have potentially led to the closure of competing suppliers and manufacturing layoffs in nearly a dozen states. The commission’s vote means that a complaint and request for preliminary relief will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to halt the transaction following an administrative proceeding. While Tempur Sealy previously expected to close the deal in mid to late 2024, the merger’s future now remains uncertain—according to MarketWatch, Tempur Sealy CEO Scott Thompson has said that the company would consider share repurchases if the deal fell through.

Ingka Investments, part of Ikea parent company Ingka Group, purchased a stake in 570 Fifth Avenue, a new tower being built by Extell Development and scheduled for completion in 2028, The Real Deal reports. The deal will give Ingka 80,000 square feet of retail space and a one-third stake in the remainder of the building. According to a statement from Ingka Group, the purchase marks the latest step in the home giant’s long-term plan to develop its “city center retail presence,” following the introduction of smaller-format downtown stores in cities like San Francisco, London and Paris.

Last week, RH chairman and CEO Gary Friedman purchased $10 million of the company’s stock at an average price of $216.10 per share. Friedman was already RH’s largest individual shareholder—now he owns more than 25 percent of outstanding shares. In other RH news, animal rights group PETA pulled off an act of surprise activism at RH’s in-person shareholder meeting last week, with a supporter of the organization confronting Friedman and other executives over RH’s use of down and feather in its products. The PETA representative screened footage of bird mistreatment sourced from investigations into down suppliers, many of which the group alleges are sold under the Responsible Down Standard label. After purchasing RH stock in 2012, PETA has been calling on the company to stop selling down, often attending annual meetings to place added pressure on the retailer. While RH now offers a down alternative for nearly all bedding and upholstery, the group has continued to petition the company to extend its alternative insert offerings to decorative pillow covers as well.

Mellow River—a division of Asia-based furniture manufacturer Green River Group— acquired full line furniture resource Hillsdale Furniture, Home News Now reports. Following the acquisition, the company’s name will be changed to HH2 Home, and Green River Group executive vice president Angela Hsu will step into the CEO role formerly held by Brian Hendricks. According to HH2 senior vice president John Elting, who will remain in his current role, the acquisition has provided a move-forward strategy after a “firestorm of unfortunate circumstances” forced the company to seek new ownership or face liquidation.

Lumber prices—typically an indicator of housing market health—are falling to lows not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reports. Lumber futures have declined 27 percent since mid-March, despite entering what is typically peak building season. According to trade publication and pricing service Random Lengths, its composite on-the-spot sale price for framing lumber (or the current going rate) fell to $366 per thousand board feet this past week—the lowest since May 2020. Despite surging sales during the height of the pandemic building and remodeling boom, the last two years have seen the housing market slow, leading several major sawmills to close or reduce their operations. Industry experts expect the sector to rebound when more mills close—bringing supply in line with dampened demand—and when interest rates begin to come down, boosting the market for repairs and renovations.

Doug Diemoz, a former executive of several top home industry brands, acquired antique reproduction company GJ Styles from GJ Styles Holdings, Home News Now reports. Founded in 1985 by Glyn and Jill Styles in Herefordshire, England, the company later relocated to High Point, North Carolina, in order to meet demand for antique reproductions in the U.S. Diemoz was previously CEO and co-founder of the now-closed upholstery manufacturer Made and Modern; before that, he served as president of Pier 1, CEO of Crate & Barrel and chief development officer of RH. Following the purchase of GJ Styles, Diemoz will continue operating the company out of its current distribution center, showroom and corporate office, with staff remaining in their existing roles.

Ohio-based Amish furniture manufacturer VW Woodcraft was acquired by husband-and-wife duo Norman and Mary Yoder, Furniture Today reports; the terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The 32-year-old company was founded by Vernon Weaver, who built the enterprise into a producer of solid wood case goods, including benches, tables, dressers and chests, among other items. Under new ownership, the company will be renamed Sunrise Wood and continue with its current catalog and pricing for the immediate future.

Launches & Collaborations
RH expanded further into the hospitality realm last week with the debut of RH Three: a 130-foot luxury explorer yacht now available for charter. As Forbes reports, the yacht serves as a reflection of RH’s design ethos, complete with four guest cabins featuring glossy lacquered walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and a bathroom decked out with Italian Carrara marble. The ship officially set sail this spring with initial promotional stops at the Cannes Film Festival and the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.

Kohler has teamed up with contemporary artist and sculptor Daniel Arsham for a multipart collaboration that includes the introduction of a private luxury retreat called the Arsham Cabin. Designed with elements of the artist’s work integrated throughout, the space is available to accommodate four guests and located a short drive from the Kohler-owned American Club resort in Wisconsin—which will soon house six large-scale sculptures, also created in collaboration with Arsham. The partnership will also include the debut of Landshapes: a new bathroom collection featuring a hand-carved freestanding tub, a vessel sink, decorative glass faucet handles and organically shaped mirrors, set to debut later this year.

Showroom Representation
Ralph Pucci is now representing Los Angeles–based sculptor and furniture designer Stefan Bishop. Working primarily with materials including timber and Ralph Pucci’s proprietary Plasterglass, Bishop balances function with rugged beauty in his hand-crafted design catalog.

Why celebrities are tearing down historic homes, Ikea is coming to Fifth Avenue, and more
Stefan Bishop in his LA StudioCourtesy of Ralph Pucci

Recommended Reading
Climate change is making summers of record-breaking heat a regular occurrence, which means that air-conditioning units aren’t going anywhere—but they are getting a face-lift.
For The New York Times, Callie Holtermann explores the new wave of aesthetically pleasing AC window unit purveyors, representing the latest appliance makers—joining refrigerator, vacuum and television producers—to transform an unfashionable necessity into a status symbol (even if the difference in quality is questionable).

From Marilyn Monroe’s final residence to abodes designed by famed architects like Craig Ellwood and Tadao Ando, a familiar pattern is playing out across the country: High-end buyers are looking to demolish historic homes in favor of luxury new-builds. For Town & Country, Andrew Zucker dives into the trend, investigating the buyers who are willing to court controversy to raze culturally significant homes—and the contingent of sellers prioritizing new owners who can promise preservation.

Cue the Applause
The ADI Design Museum in Milan awarded this year’s Compasso d’Oro Career Award to architect, art director and designer Piero Lissoni—founder and principal of interdisciplinary design studio Lissoni & Partners—for his contributions to Italian design culture. According to the prize’s jury, Lissoni was selected for his enduring commitment to modernism, demonstrated throughout a variety of project disciplines over the course of his career.

The International Furnishings and Design Association’s Educational Foundation announced the 2024 winners of its design student scholarships. This year, judges granted nine scholarship recipients a total of $20,500—winners include Anna Goodman of Virginia Tech, Olivia White of the New York School of Interior Design, Analiese Narum of the University of Idaho, Hamed Yekita of Texas Tech University, Lindsey Molitor of Kansas State University, Estella Loudon of Central Michigan University, Joshua Archer of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Michaela Simon of the Moore College of Art & Design, and Elisabeth Velasquez of Indiana University Bloomington.

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