news digest | Mar 22, 2022 |
Ralph Lauren Home inks a new deal, Material Bank makes an acquisition, and more

Supply chain issues continue to make lead times unbearable, but one startup is testing out a new way of shipping—bypassing the already-crowded land, sea and air routes and hoping to send goods straight into space orbit. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading and more.

Business News

Ralph Lauren Home signed an exclusive global license agreement for fabrics and wallcoverings with the London-based Designers Guild. Designers Guild will handle sales, distribution and manufacturing of the brand’s collections catered toward the high-end consumer and trade business. Through the new partnership, Designers Guild partner Osborne & Little will distribute an introductory assortment of 190 fabrics from Ralph Lauren Home’s collections and a forthcoming collection of wallcoverings through its corporate showrooms in New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as through its 23 agent showrooms in cities throughout North America.

Material Bank announced the acquisition of Amber Engine—a software development company with the goal of disrupting the product information management (PIM) industry. Following the acquisition, the latest version of Amber Engine’s software will be available to Material Bank’s members and brand partners. Material Bank, meanwhile, will invest in Amber Engine with plans to expand its capabilities globally.

Kuka Home purchased 90 acres in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where it plans to build four upholstery and mattress production facilities, Furniture Today reports. The decision to expand its manufacturing footprint was made to help the brand keep up with demand in the North American market. It’s a major scale-up for a company which previously produced its goods in facilities sized at 250,000 and 350,000 square feet—the new space will total 2.3 million square feet. “With high ocean freight costs and raw material shortages showing no sign of easing, we felt it was imperative to increase our production capacity in Mexico,” Matt Harrison, president of Kuka Home North America, told Furniture Today.

Studies conducted in recent years show home appraisers often undervalue homes—sometimes by amounts in the six figures—when the homeowner is Black or Latino. It's an issue that may have to do with appraisers themselves, the New York Times reports, as more than 85 percent are white. Now, in a move lawmakers and real estate professionals say might address pervasive racism in the industry, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are allowing fully remote desktop appraisals, where the appraiser never sets foot in a home or meets the previous homeowner. The strategy began out of necessity during the pandemic, though representatives from both government-sponsored entities say its extension could both alleviate the backlog of delayed closings in a tight housing market, and address concerns from both Black homeowners and the federal government.

In San Francisco, where the unsheltered population exceeds 8,000, the city is experimenting with design solutions to create low-cost transitional housing—a mission leading to the debut of a 70-unit tiny home complex located on a city-sanctioned tent encampment. According to Surface, the Dignity Moves project tapped Gensler and PAE Engineers to design the prefabricated duplexes. Each is equipped with insulation, electrical outlets, a bed, a desk and a chair, and two nearby communal dining areas provide meals from a local nonprofit. What’s more, each unit costs the city $30,000 to maintain, while it would otherwise spend twice as much per tent at homeless sites. The opening may mark the beginning of a trend in affordable housing, with similar programs finding success in Oakland and San Jose, California. Plans are set for new builds in Santa Barbara and Rohnert Park later this year.

Digital building design and documentation tool startup Arcol raised $3.6 million in seed funding, TechCrunch reports. Founded in January 2021 by Paul O’Carroll, the company aims to create web-based programs turning 2D sketches into 3D representations. Though still in development, Arcol plans to debut the product later this year. With the new injection of capital, the company says it will add to its leadership suite and expand its five-person team.

The Diversity in Design Collaborative held its first initiative last week with the launch of Designed By—the organization’s inaugural Youth Design Conference for public school students in Detroit. Held at the College for Creative Studies, the event invited local youth between the ages of 12 and 18 to explore programming centered on the five themes of form, space, language, culture and experience. Kicking off with a keynote address from architect Michael Ford, the event proceeded with a series of roundtable discussions hosted by 30 Black design leaders from a variety of disciplines. Led by DID’s new director Todd Palmer, the event marked the first in a series of initiatives designed to raise awareness among youth of design as a profession.

Launches and Collaborations

Fendi Casa debuted its latest collection of furniture, with the brand’s artistic director of menswear and accessories Silvia Venturini Fendi tapping leading designers such as Piero Lissoni, Marcel Wanders Studio and Chiara Andreatti to bring the vision to life, Wallpaper reports. The launch includes an assortment of eclectic home furnishings—sofas, dining tables, chairs, bedroom furniture and outdoor pieces—mixed with existing pieces from Fendi’s more experimental recent endeavors, such as its Design Miami collections.

Behr Paint Company ventured into the NFT space through a recent partnership with Doodles—a collection of 10,000 NFTs co-created by digital artist Burnt Toast and Web3 scions Evan Keast and Jordan Castro. At this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Behr provided paint colors such as periwinkle and lavender sky to Doodle's virtual painting wall, where attendees had the chance to collect the first-ever POAP (or Proof of Attendance Protocol, which links an asset to a specific event) NFT by both brands.

Recommended Reading

According to real estate agents and industry experts, a growing number of first-time home buyers are skipping their first house and going straight for vacation properties. As Candace Jackson reports for the New York Times, the combination of spiking home prices and remote work flexibility made it more appealing to browse homes in more affordable locations while maintaining a primary rent-based residence in pricey metro areas like New York and Los Angeles.

While sticking to a toned-down feel in most of the house, many homeowners are increasingly choosing to go bold in the bathroom, as Alina Dizik reports for the Wall Street Journal. From fuchsia sinks to sky blue toilets, vibrantly colored fixtures are fast becoming a go-to powder room statement.

Call for Entries

Dallas Market Center is now accepting entries for the ARTS Awards nominations, allowing home industry professionals to submit suggestions for manufacturers, retailers, designers and sales representatives demonstrating excellence in their field. To submit a nomination before the June 28 deadline, click here.

In Memoriam

Countess Tatiana Bobrinskoy, proprietor of Zina Studios for 50 years alongside her husband, has passed away at the age of 99. Along with leading the studio for half a century, Bobrinskoy was a mother, author, interpreter and professor of literature, and retired only in 2019 in order to spend more time on her charity work. “Her petite stature belied a will and determination unmatched by those a fraction of her age,” reads a statement posted on Zina Studios’s Instagram account. “With an encyclopedic knowledge of history, politics, art and eyes that sparkled with a joyful, razor sharp wit, Tania was a treasure and will be dearly missed.”

Homepage image: Pieces from the new Fendi Casa collection. | Andrea Ferrari

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