news digest | Mar 29, 2022 |
The Queen needs a decorator, $36 million for a used-furniture platform and more

Fashion and streetwear brands like Supreme once dominated the art of the limited-edition drop—now, the realm of small-batch ceramics is the latest battlefield for online buyers vying for limited quantities of mugs and decorative items. Whatever happens next, stay in the know with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches and events, recommended reading and more.

Business News

At Condé Nast, employees of the media conglomerate’s editorial brands and entertainment division have announced the formation of a union, formalizing the move by delivering a petition to management on Tuesday morning and requesting voluntary recognition of the NewsGuild of New York as their collective bargaining representative. The bargaining unit is composed of both full-time and part-time editorial, video and production workers at titles like Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Vanity Fair and more—if certified, it will become one of the largest bargaining units in recent NewsGuild history. The group is calling for a stronger commitment to staff diversity, along with more job security, higher pay, clearer paths for advancement and increased workplace transparency. Additionally, the workers in the union are demanding the ability to challenge corporate cost-cutting measures such as layoffs, pay cuts and department consolidations. “Every day, they throw more responsibilities and tasks our way, but when the conversation turns to compensation or growth, management consistently finds ways to move the goalposts. We have no say in what we do, where we work and what we get paid, and no recourse to change it. But that will no longer be the case,” said Architectural Digest social media manager Elise Portale in the statement.

The Queen of England put out the call for an open position at Buckingham Palace, seeking a painter and decorator to supply the estate with “decorative finishes” within a sweeping £369 million palace renovation, the Mirror reports. Listed on the Royal Household’s website, the open position offers up to roughly $39,000 for the full-time post, which joins the team executing the revamp on interior and exterior design at the royal residence. Meanwhile, the renovation itself has drawn ire from British citizens, 150,000 of whom signed a petition demanding the royal family pay for the project themselves rather than tapping into taxpayer funds.

Ashley Furniture is cutting prices on most of its imported goods—including accessories, bedding, outdoor furniture, upholstery and case goods—despite not yet seeing a decrease in business costs. As Furniture Today reports, CEO Todd Wanek shared the news in a letter to dealers, explaining that the price reduction was partly issued to improve their competitive edge in the marketplace. The retailer additionally noted it would reduce the incremental increase for West Coast customers, citing the recent launch of a production facility in Arizona as a contributing factor.

Pre-owned furniture marketplace Kaiyo closed a $36 million Series B funding round led by Edison Partners, bringing its total fundraising up to nearly $50 million. The new capital follows a boom period for the company, which has experienced 100 percent growth every month over the past two years. With the new funds, Kaiyo sets its sights beyond its home market in New York, with plans to expand offerings to more locations across the country.

Online furniture auction startup Loveseat secured a $7 million Series A funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from a group of angel investors, TechCrunch reports. Initially founded in 2013 as a vintage furniture business, the company pivoted in 2020 to focus on keeping excess furniture out of landfills by auctioning off returned items through local online sales in markets including Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County. In the next stage of growth, Loveseat plans to expand into other markets; add operations, finance and inventory-sourcing talent to its leadership team; and broaden its offerings to include electronics and apparel.

Outdoor furniture brand Neighbor completed a Strand Equity–backed Series A funding round—the amount was undisclosed. Founded in 2020 by former Tuft & Needle executives Nick Arambula, Mike Fretto and Chris Lee, the business was established as a direct-to-consumer provider of sustainably made outdoor furniture. With the new capital, the Phoenix-based company plans to invest in product development, team expansion and marketing initiatives.

Wendover Art Group has acquired Bluffton, South Carolina–based artisanal lighting manufacturer Lowcountry Originals for an undisclosed amount. Specializing in made-to-order, customizable lighting and home decor products, Lowcountry Originals was founded in 2009 by Becky Brackett, who will continue to lead product design and development following the acquisition. The deal will also bring The Light Post Boutique, the brand’s Bluffton lighting showroom and headquarters, under the Wendover Art Group umbrella.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced the creation of a new interdisciplinary center for design research, thinking and entrepreneurship housed within the School of Architecture and Planning, MIT News reports. Established through a $100 million gift from The Morningside Foundation, the MIT Morningside Academy for Design will launch in September 2022 with academic and research programs integrating areas of study such as engineering, science, management, computing, architecture, urban planning and the arts, with the goal of tackling global issues such as climate adaptation, public health, transportation and civic engagement. “One of the main goals of the academy is to help our students be socially impactful as designers and to give them this orientation in their work,” founding faculty member Maria Yang told MIT News.

Launches and Collaborations

Cassina has announced a new collaboration with Italian architect and designer Antonio Citterio. He will present his first project within the Cassina 2022 Collection, set to debut during Milan Design Week at the brand’s showroom. Citterio founded the architecture and interior design practice Antonio Citterio and Partners in 2000, and has received accolades throughout his career, along with producing industrial design works featured in exhibitions at MoMA in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

A new weekly video series called Designer Home Tours has debuted on YouTube, giving viewers an inside look at the homes of interior designers along with their recent client projects. The project was spearheaded by Laura Bindloss, founder of New York–based public relations and social media agency Nylon Consulting, and features designer Liz Caan as its first subject—later episodes will spotlight talents like Zoë Feldman, Robert Passal and Bella Mancini, drawing upon Nylon’s client roster in addition to outside individuals.

Showroom Representation

Mercato Place—the online platform allowing specifiers to browse resource libraries and order free textile samples—has partnered with three new brands for offerings on the site, welcoming LebaTex, Room & Board and InsideOut Performance Fabrics.

Recommended Reading

Created by interior designer Sheila Bridges in 2006, the Harlem Toile pattern has experienced a resurgence in recent years, drawing attention for its depictions of Black American culture set against the backdrop of traditional 18th century French design. For the New York Times, Veronica Chambers unpacks the visual elements and historical influences that make the pattern resonate—exploring the roots of traditional toile de Jouy, Bridge’s creative journey and the influential homeowners and brands who’ve adopted the style. “Like so many fans of Harlem Toile, for me, the pattern is a conversation between the past, the present and a hopeful future, one where Radio Raheem’s boombox lives on forever, one where girls jump double Dutch and Black people ride horses and play hoops,” writes Chambers.

As the Russian invasion forces 10 million Ukrainian people from their homes, neighboring European nations are experiencing an increased need for emergency shelters. In Poland, an effort led by Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is providing one possible solution for the housing crisis. As Kriston Capps reports for Bloomberg, Ban is mobilizing the Voluntary Architects Network, a nonprofit he founded in 1995, to set up refugee centers through partition-system construction methods. The organization tapped Polish architects, design students and volunteers from neighboring countries to implement Ban’s partition system, utilizing a series of rigid paper tubes and textile curtain dividers to transform a vacant supermarket into a center for processing refugee arrivals. The group is currently working on at least five additional centers opening soon in Poland, with more scheduled for Paris and Germany as the exodus continues.

Available homes are hard to find in today’s record-tight housing market, but a recent dip in U.S. homeowner tenure may be a sign of positive things to come. A new study by real estate brokerage Redfin found that the typical homeowner spent 13.2 years in their home in November 2021—a slight decrease from the 13.5 years recorded in the same month in 2020 but still a far cry from the 10.1 year average in 2012. For a better glimpse at the data, the New York Times’ chart shows which cities people have stayed in the longest, along with local median sale prices.

Call for Entries

The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium is now accepting entries for its second annual Design Challenge, presented in partnership with design brands Kartell and Alessi. Exploring the intersection of goods and design, the contest invites designers and design students to develop product concepts that elevate cooking and eating rituals. Entries will be evaluated across three category tenets—diversity, zero waste and aging—and will be judged by a jury panel that includes chief design officer for PepsiCo Mauro Porcini, designers Karim Rashid and Fabio Novembre, and head of Michael Graves Architecture & Design Donald Strum. For more information or to apply before May 6, click here.

Homepage image: Courtesy of Eskayel

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