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Wayfair cuts more jobs, a construction kickback scandal and more

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The surge in pandemic-era pet ownership in America is leading to an increasing interest in high-end indoor spaces designed with a homeowner’s canine and feline counterparts in mind. Stay up to date with our weekly roundup of headlines, launches, events, recommended reading and more.

Business news
Wayfair announced last week that it is cutting 1,750 jobs – 10 percent of its total workforce – in an effort to cut costs due to falling consumer spending amid rising inflation. Reuters reports. The new layoffs come just months after the online furniture retailer cut 870 jobs last August. Wayfair joins a growing number of US companies pursuing similar cost-cutting measures, including Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Bed Bath & Beyond.

The Biden administration is reviving a housing standard that requires communities to examine patterns of residential segregation and take steps to improve access to housing for all. Bloomberg reports. The mandate was established by civil rights-era legislation, but it stalled for years due to inaction. Now the reinstated rule requires local governments and public housing agencies to create equity plans every five years, in a process designed to identify civil rights violations and track progress toward desegregation. Communities that fail to comply could lose access to billions in federal funding.

Two dozen construction managers and contractors were charged with bribery and kickback conspiracy charges in Manhattan criminal court last week. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg accuses them and 26 subcontractors of defrauding at least seven developers out of $5 million between April 2013 and July 2021. The New York Times reports. In a scheme reportedly led by Robert Baselice, an executive at a construction company in Secaucus, New Jersey, subcontractors paid to earn a spot on a list of employees he recommended to developers. Baselice and his associates then made millions in kickbacks from the subcontractors, who charged high prices. The companies named in the suit were involved in major New York high-rise projects, such as the Remy Apartments in Chelsea, the FiDi Hotel in the financial district, and the Fifth Avenue Hotel in Midtown (with interiors designed by Martin Brudnizki). According to one of the city commissioners working on the case, commercial bribery schemes are contributing to higher construction costs in the rest of the city.

Portland, Oregon-based hospitality company Sortis Holdings Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire Ace Group International, the operator of the design-focused Ace Hotel chain, in an $85 million cash transaction. The Wall Street Journal reports. Ace currently operates 11 hotels in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Kyoto, Japan, often enlisting big names in the industry to design its interiors. LA-based design firm Commune worked on the LA and Palm Springs locations along with in-house design team Atelier Ace. After the purchase, Sortis plans to add new outposts in the US and internationally. While the boutique hotel chain has traditionally catered to creative clientele and vacationers — with lobbies populated by cafes, in-house DJs and reclaimed furniture — Sortis also plans to expand Ace’s scope to resorts and luxury campgrounds in the coming years.

Artificial intelligence tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion have come under the spotlight in recent months for their ability to create artwork “trained” on massive amounts of images found online – now the owners are fighting of those images. Two new lawsuits have recently been filed against popular image-generating services, according to AP, alleging that the companies copied and processed copyrighted images without permission. One lawsuit comes from Seattle-based photography giant Getty Images, alleging that AI startup Stable Diffusion infringed intellectual property rights to advance its commercial interests. Representatives of AI image-generating companies have compared their services to the learning process of one artist observing another’s work. In response to Getty’s lawsuit, Stable Diffusion issued the following statement: “Anyone who believes this is not fair use misunderstands the technology and misunderstands the law.”

Single-family homes are on the rise in the US, with 11.3 percent more homes starting in December than the previous month, according to new data. While the rate still marks a 21.8 percent decline from the same period last year, a year of nearly straight decline is coming to an end. Still, the bump in single-family homes was the only bright spot among consistent declines in other categories, including home starts, permits, and completions — even for multifamily homes, home starts fell 19 percent. The report also noted that the number of homes approved for planning permission was down 1.6 percent in December from the previous month, continuing a slow but steady decline into 2022, while the number of homes completed also fell in December from the previous month. the month before, with a decrease of 8.4 percent compared to December. November.

Serta Simmons Bedding, which generates nearly one-fifth of U.S. bedding sales, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Reuters reports. Hit by declining consumer demand amid rising interest rates, the Doraville, Georgia-based company has filed for protection from creditors in a pre-packaged bankruptcy plan that calls for reducing its debt from $1.9 billion to $300 million. The company is aiming to secure court approval for the restructuring by May 8, and in the meantime has $125 million in financing ready to continue operations and pay its 3,600 employees.

Left: Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen team up with LoveShackFancy for a new home decor collection Courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids | Right: Each candle features Martin’s meditative line art on the barrel and reveals new signature scents over a period of time Thanks to Joya

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Launches and collaborations
Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen teamed up with LoveShackFancy for a new collection of home decor items decked out in the fashion and lifestyle brand’s signature romantic floral style. Highlights of the collaboration include a plush chair, backpack and swaddle in the intricate Cabbage Rose colorway for the Kids collection, along with a chandelier, mirror and border rug for the Teen collection.

Hand-poured candle studio Joya teamed up with multimedia artist and philosopher Shantell Martin for a limited-edition collection of glass votive candles and oversized porcelain candles. Scented with notes of shaded green tea, ocean air, heliotrope petals and vanilla flower, each candle will feature Martin’s meditative line art on the barrel and reveal new signature scents over time thanks to a layered wax molding process.

Environmental organization A Plastic Planet launched an online platform designed to help architects and designers find plastic-free materials for their projects. The seas reports. The subscription-based service provides users with a material library with detailed information about the properties, production and sourcing of more than 100 plastic alternatives, while also highlighting case studies on how the materials have already been used in projects around the world. While the current range mainly focuses on packaging and textiles, new datasets on buildings and construction materials will be released later this year.

Recommended reading
A familiar variety of visually striking single-family homes can be found on the pages of many glossy architecture and design magazines today: cantilevered concrete homes on California hills or glossy feats of modernism hidden in lush jungles. While very much the embodiment of certain architectural ideals, for the ultra-rich these homes are not places where the majority of readers will ever live; as Kate Wagner advocates Azure magazine, with no context or analysis, it’s just “house porn” designed to arouse desire and not much else. Wagner advocates more sophisticated design coverage of residential projects produced with limited resources that benefit a wider range of ordinary people.

In recent years, 3D-printed construction has emerged as the new darling of the building innovation industry, with the loudest voices proclaiming that the robot-powered method has the potential to create a utopian revolution for housing. For The New YorkersRachel Monroe examines whether the emerging technology can really address the country’s affordable housing crisis.

A record number of new multi-family homes will be built in the United States in 2022, with the latest data from RentCafe revealing that an estimated 420,000 new rental apartments were the highest number built in a single year in half a century. The only problem: they all look the same. Boxy mid-rise buildings, ground floor retail space, light slabs of wainscoting – front The New York TimesAnna Kodé delves into the visual monotony of new multi-family homes and whether aesthetics should even matter amid a nationwide housing drought.

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Wayfair cuts more jobs, a construction kickback scandal and more

The Spanish company Estudio Vilablanch won the award for best residential project at The Créateurs Design AwardsCourtesy of The Creators Design Awards

Give the applause
The Créateurs Design Awards announced this year’s winners at an event at the Shangri-La Paris last weekend. The interior design awards from the ceremony went to French company RDAI for best commercial project, Malaysian company Denniston for best hospitality project and Spain’s Estudio Vilablanch for best residential project. For the full list of winners, click here.

Call for submissions
The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation is now seeking nominations for the Paul Broyhill Future Leader award. Candidates must be under 40 years of age and will be judged on their leadership, potential for personal growth, communication skills and commitment to the industry. To submit a nomination, click here.

Homepage image: Highlights of Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen and LoveShackFancy collaboration include plush chair, backpack and swaddle set | Courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids