news digest | Mar 1, 2022 |
Reese Witherspoon snaps up The Home Edit, a first look at the Ikea mall and more

This week in design, there may soon be a solution for those who dread at-home furniture assembly: A line of flat-packed wooden furniture that slowly grows from a slab of material into a solid chair over the course of 8 to 12 hours is expected to hit shelves this spring. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading, and more.

Business News

Hello Sunshine, the media and entertainment company founded by Reese Witherspoon, acquired lifestyle brand and home organization company The Home Edit. Founded by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, The Home Edit operates a full-service home organizing business in nine U.S. cities, in addition to books and product lines in retail stores like Walmart. The purchase marks the second time the organizations have worked together, after Witherspoon’s company produced the Netflix series Get Organized With The Home Edit in 2020. In other company news, the brand announced the debut of a special edition magazine published by Dotdash Meredith. Titled The Home Edit: Feel-Good Organizing, the issue will cover tips and tricks for home organizing, alongside real-life projects and behind-the-scenes glimpses of Shearer’s own home.

Though the opening date for the Ikea “mall” in San Francisco was pushed back at least one year from its original fall 2021 debut, new details emerged on what the space might look like after the first European site of the city retail concept opened in London last week. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the company’s urban vision includes pop-ups, expanded food options and meeting spaces, with product offerings going beyond home items to include clothing and grocery outlets—a new store experience that Ikea is calling Livat, Swedish for “lively gathering.” Construction for the concept’s U.S. edition is underway at 945 Market in San Francisco, where 250,000 square feet have been set aside for the new space. An Ikea store will occupy 70,000 feet of the total complex.

Real estate proptech company Ember announced a $17.4 million round of financing led by Paypal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Founded by CEO Kurt Avarell, CRO James Sukhan and CXO Jeff Lyman, Ember was created as a streamlined technology platform for buying and owning luxury vacation properties, allowing vetted homebuyers to engage in collective ownership by each obtaining a one-eighth share of a single property, or up to 45 nights per year. The company is expanding with a focus on 20 markets in 10 states, with listings now available in places like Bend, Oregon; St. George, Utah; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Leko Labs, a construction startup developing sustainable wood-based building materials as an alternative to steel and concrete, announced the completion of a $21 million Series A funding round led by urban sustainability-focused fund 2150 with participation from Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, among others. According to TechCrunch, the Luxembourg–based company developed a sustainably forested wood composite product built to withstand high compression loads, which it claims can replace up to 75 percent of concrete and steel currently used in constructing a single building. Leko Labs plans to use the funding to scale the software and robotics construction arm of the business.

Lease-to-own furniture retailer Aaron’s entered into an agreement to acquire regional appliance and consumer electronics retailer BrandsMart USA, Furniture Today reports. The transaction, valued at approximately $230 million, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022, and will result in a combined entity with annual revenues expected to exceed $2.5 billion.

Home furnishings brand Plank & Hide acquired outdoor furniture brand 300 South Main, Casual News Now reports. Following the acquisition, 300 South Main will roll into the Plank & Hide organization under the rebranded name P&H Elements, with co-owners Ken Salm and Gary Zuckerman remaining with the company. By offering its customers access to much of BrandsMart’s product catalog, Aaron’s plans to create a direct-to-consumer, lease-to-own marketplace.

The design industry reacts to Ukraine

In the days since Russia’s invasion, members of Ukraine’s art and design community have been sharing their stories. As Dezeen reports, countless architects and designers have closed their studios and paused projects in order to seek shelter or flee the country. Architectural studio Balbek Bureau gave its workers first aid instruction to help those who are injured, while several members of the team have joined their country’s armed defenses—elsewhere, other firms and designers have sought shelter in basements, metro stations and bomb shelters. “I hate all of this. I planned my life, I wanted to study, to design, to meet my clients, to attend lectures about architecture,” designer Katerina Kovalenko told Dezeen. “But instead, the lives of the whole country have been put on pause and hidden underground.” The creative community in Russia has also begun to speak out against the war, with several key artists and the curator of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale pulling out of the event in protest, while other institutions have paused programming or signed petitions in opposition, despite fear of retaliation from the Kremlin, which has called such actions a “betrayal,” The New York Times reports.

Experts are also looking ahead toward impacts the conflict may have on the global supply chain, Forbes reports, including rising transportation costs and electricity prices along with the possibility of increased cyberattacks. Oil prices jumped last week following Russia’s initial attacks, and the invasion is expected to place new stress on the cost of shipping—real-time transportation visibility solutions provider FourKites has predicted that ocean transportation rates will increase two to three times from $10,000 to $30,000 per container, with lead times multiplying by three to four times. For the construction industry specifically, the pause of Ukraine’s manufacturing centers could pose a major problem for developers in the U.S.—along with Belarus, Poland and Germany, as the nation is one of the principal producers of window systems, steel and iron ore in the world, BisNow reports.

As a response to Russia’s aggression, The Atlantic reports that Western governments have begun targeting the luxury assets Russian elites hold abroad, including real estate. France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire announced that the country was conducting a survey of the “financial assets, real estate, yachts and luxury vehicles (in France) which belong to Russian personalities targeted by European sanctions,” reports The Local FR. Meanwhile, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week he would advance legislation on a register of overseas property ownership—a decision coming after the U.K. sanctioned more than 100 Russian individuals and entities in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Stateside, Manhattan borough president Mark Levine called upon New York to seize properties belonging to Russian oligarchs, according to the Independent.

For a list of nonprofits accepting donations for Ukraine, click here.

Launches and Collaborations

In honor of Women’s History Month, 1stDibs tapped fashion designer Tory Burch to curate a selection of works by female artists and makers for a collaboration supporting the Tory Burch Foundation, which provides women entrepreneurs access to capital, education and digital resources. For the assortment, Burch aims to mix traditional and modern, vintage and current, and high and low selections, and has chosen artists and designers such as Clementine Hunter, Lucie Rie and Line Vautrin.

West Elm has announced the launch of its Artist in Residence initiative, giving New York–based BIPOC artists an opportunity to explore the ceramics medium at the retailer’s design facility in Brooklyn. Throughout the year, eight selected artists will each have 12 weeks to create new work at West Elm’s 750-square-foot ceramics studio, with an on-site technician available to assist in the process. For the first residency, the program will host Reverend Joyce McDonald—a multidisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture and painting, who also serves as a chaplain, advocate and 36-year AIDS survivor.

Showroom Representation

New York-based digital multiline showroom Somerselle announced the representation of ceramicist and textile designer Helen Prior in the New York tri-state area. Prior’s creative process includes using carved and handglazed clay pieces as a “manuscript” for her textile designs, with visual inspiration drawn from the ‘70s-era patterns featured on the fabrics and wallpapers in her English childhood home.

Recommended Reading

If you’ve ever walked into Ikea with one item in mind and walked out with an armful, you’re not alone—an estimated 60 percent of purchases made at the Swedish home retailer are impulse buys, with Ikea’s own creative director once saying that only 20 percent of its offerings are based on logic and need. As it turns out, the company’s success at guiding shoppers to unplanned purchases hinges on a variety of unorthodox business strategies. From the store’s maze-like layout, decoy pricing strategies and required DIY furniture assembly, The Hustle’s Zachary Crockett explains why Ikea is engineered to keep customers coming back for more.

While the design industry continues to make stunning product innovations, one item in particular remains largely unchanged from its midcentury iterations. For The Atlantic, Amanda Mull documents her search for the perfect floor lamp, and along the way, happens upon a series of surprising discoveries accounting for the lack; factors include the engineering problems posed by tall, skinny objects and the steady trend towards less formal home environments since the postwar era.

A midcentury modern house in Illinois has been on the market at no cost since November, The New York Times reports, though there’s one catch—its next owner must arrange to move it. The home, built in 1967 by local Modernist architect John Schmidtke, was formerly a designated historic landmark, but lost its status last year when the city of Elgin annexed the property. Now, the building’s site is slated for industrial development, and the property has gone viral via the Instagram account called Cheap Old Houses, where users are hoping to find a new caretaker by the April 1 deadline.

Call for Entries

The International Furnishings and Design Association is now accepting applications for nine scholarships from its Educational Foundation, open to currently enrolled design students in a variety of disciplines. For more information, or to apply by March 31, click here.

Apartment Therapy is now accepting entries for its Small/Cool Contest hosted in partnership with Behr Paint. The competition honors the smallest and coolest spaces from around the globe, with applicants entering for the chance to win $3,000 and a feature on Apartment Therapy’s site. To apply by March 15, click here.

Homepage photo: Fabrics designed by ceramicist and textile designer Helen Prior, now represented by the Somerselle digital multiline showroom. | Courtesy of Somerselle

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