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ASID Gives Student Designers an Insider Look at the Industry at SCALE 2019

ASID Gives Student Designers an Insider Look at the Industry at SCALE 2019

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) held its National Student Summit over the weekend in New York City. Students and educators alike dedicated their weekend to three days of programming that kicked off Friday morning and concluded with a closing keynote led by none other than Interior Design editor-in-chief Cindy Allen.

The Summit, like ASID, champions the ability of design to impact lives. For students, this manifests in the Summit’s mission to prepare them for their first professional roles in the design industry, while educators are briefed on timely and relevant topics to explore in their curricula. It’s no wonder that the Summit sold out, with over 400 students in attendance at the Grand Hyatt New York. 

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Students spent Friday morning embarking on their choice of firm and showroom tours; participating firms included major industry players such as: HOKICRAVE, Rockwell Group, Perkins Eastman, A+I, Perkins+Will, NBBJIA, and Interior Design parent company SANDOW. Students also had the option to tour showrooms that included Haworth, Benjamin Moore, Herman MillerTeknionTOTO, and Gunlocke.

Photography by Griffin Shapiro.

Attendees reconvened in the afternoon for a keynote address on the business of design led by ASID CEO Randy W. Fiser. Fiser cultivated a discussion between Benjamin Moore color and design expert Andrea Magno, ICRAVE executive team leader David Taglione, HDR design and brand strategy principal Elizabeth Von Lehe, and Studio O+A design director Mindi Weichman. Together they discussed what each looks for when hiring and recruiting talent, and in turn gave students advice on acing interviews, putting together a stellar portfolio, navigating internships, and finding their true passion in design.

For the remainder of the day, students had their pick of breakout seminars, the ASID National Student Career Fair, and networking time in the SCALE Learning Lounge before the evening’s opening reception at the Humanscale showroom.

Following breakfast on Saturday, attendees began their day at a morning keynote speech from ASID national chair BJ Miller. Miller, who is also founder and principal of the Vision Group and managing director of Indigo Companies, shared her path to becoming a leader in the design industry. Miller advised students on what it takes to develop the path towards leadership regardless of differences in career aspirations. She highlighted the importance of respect for the work and one’s self, along with a desire to win and diligence in cultivating strengths.

Photography by Griffin Shapiro.

After Miller’s morning keynote, students embarked on tours of notable projects that have been recently completed in the New York City area. Locations for the morning tours included the Delos headquarters, Etsy headquarters, and STK Grace. Students then reconvened at the Hyatt for the afternoon keynote. 

Liz Ogbu, founder and principal of Studio O, spoke to the role of design and design professionals in spatial justice issues. She encouraged the up-and-coming designers to cultivate an awareness of social justice as it relates to geography and how designers can bring an awareness of racial justice as it relates to the built environment. Ogbu advocated a shift to doing right by others through design, and creating opportunities for others to move up rather than out.

Following Ogbu’s keynote, students set out on another round of project tours at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and American Copper. Evening pop-ups in the Learning Lounge focused on opportunities for professional development, while breakout sessions on the impact of design explored issues of social justice, the environment, and education. 

On the final day of programming, students and educators alike convened for breakout sessions exploring the practice of design. The conference concluded with a keynote conversation between George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg of Yabu Pushelberg, moderated by Interior Design editor-in-chief Cindy Allen.

For more from SCALE, check out the keynote conversation between Interior Design’s Editor in Chief Cindy Allen and George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg of Yabu Pushelberg.

ASID CEO Randy Fiser. Photography by Interior Design Staff.
Photography by Griffin Shapiro.
Photography by Griffin Shapiro.

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Interior design recovery robust but uneven

Michael J. Berens

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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Interior design recovery robust but uneven


After several years of modest growth following the recession, the interior design industry experienced a surge of activity in 2015 that continued into the first half of this year. Although demand softened somewhat in the third quarter, in most areas of the country the industry has made a full recovery.

But not in all. While some states have seen big gains, others are still struggling to return to their prerecession level, as indicated by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

An analysis of BLS State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (OES) for interior designers for the years 2010 to 2015 (the most recent available annual data) shows most states have rebounded since the industry contracted from its peak following the economic downturn, which began in late 2008 but had its biggest impact on the industry in 2010-2011.

About half the states’ estimated figures for 2015 show employment at or around prerecession levels. (BLS data does not include self-employed designers.) Some states have even well exceeded those levels, and others have made a big comeback after two or more years of substantial declines.

A few, however, have experienced erratic growth and have yet to reach a healthy recovery.

Since 2010, 13 states have exceeded their prerecession employment levels by 30 percent or more, as of May 2015. Five have seen gains of more than 100 percent. Utah went from a low of 190 employed designers in 2012 to 520 in 2015, an astounding increase of 173 percent in just three years.

Others include South Dakota (133 percent), Alabama (122 percent), Rhode Island (111 percent) and North Dakota (100 percent). Close behind are Oklahoma (95 percent), Mississippi (92 percent) and Nevada (90 percent). Rounding out the list are Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

In terms of numbers of employed designers, Texas leads the pack for biggest gains, having added 1,650 positions between 2011 and 2015, for a total of 4,780. California continues to hold first place as the state with the most interior designer employees — 6,770 — but it experienced fewer highs and lows during the period from 2010 to 2015.

Other states with a big boost in employment are Illinois (890 new positions), New Jersey (780), Ohio (740) and Colorado (690). Several other states — Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Utah— each exceeded 300 new positions.

Nine states have made notable comebacks in just the past two years. Mississippi, for example, by 2013 had lost about a third of its interior design employees (50 positions) but rallied, reaching 260 employees in 2014. Nevada’s employment level fell from 370 in 2010 to 210 by 2013, but it rebounded to 400 by 2015. In addition to Utah, Rhode Island and Ohio (mentioned above), Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas and Virginia have also enjoyed resurgences in hiring during 2014-2015.

Several states have not been so fortunate.

In Connecticut, interior design employment waxed to 980 designers in 2013 but had waned to 620 by 2015, a decline of 37 percent. Minnesota, which reported a prerecession level of 1,090 employees, fell to 730 in 2015, a drop of 33 percent. And South Carolina, which bounced back to 470 employees in 2012, counted only 390 in 2015, a 17 percent loss. Oregon’s employment levels have see-sawed throughout the post-recession period, jumping from 300 in 2011 to 640 in 2013, up to 850 in 2014, and then back down to 750 last year.

Looking across the data, it is difficult to say what accounts for the rise and fall of activity in particular states. Interior design activity is dependent on many factors — the overall health of the economy (federal, state and local), personal income and worth, construction activity, housing prices, population density, consumer confidence, lifestyles, attitudes toward luxury and consumerism, and more.

In some cases, such as in Utah, Colorado, Nevada and the Dakotas, there is a clear link between overall growth within the state and renewed demand for services. In other cases — Rhode Island, perhaps — the location of firms may have less to do with their hiring patterns than the source of their clients.

In any case, given the significant increases in hiring over the past two years and the recent slowdown in demand for services, we can expect to see less volatility in employment for 2016 and possibly 2017.

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About the Author

Michael J. Berens

Michael J. Berens is a freelance researcher and writer with more than 30 years of experience in association communication and management. He can be reached at

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Boomers, The New Hipsters, Fueling Apartment Demand

LOS ANGELES – According to Manny Gonzalez, FAIA, LEED AP and principal with international, award-winning KTGY Architecture + Planning, National Multifamily Housing Council’s (NMHC) research shows that aging boomers will represent a larger share of growth in the apartment market as millennials begin to marry, have children and buy homes.

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13 Design Industry Mergers & Acquisitions

The latest news on design firms and manufacturers. 

A custom ceiling system by Koroseal at the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas by Mark Zeff. Photography by Eric Laignel.


A subsidiary of commercial interior design product distributor Sangetsu Corporationhas purchased Koroseal Interior Products, another distributor. Koroseal specializes in commercial wallcoverings, wall protection systems, and dry-erase wall coverings. 

A custom conference table by DatesWeiser at Sony’s US headquarters by Studios Architecture. Photography by Eric Laignel.


Knoll has acquired DatesWeiser Furniture Corporation, a Buffalo-based manufacturer of contemporary wood conference and meeting room furniture. Allan Weiser will continue serving as the company’s president, leading the sales and operations teams.

Kitchen and bath manufacturer XYNC Brands, which produces Ryvyr and Hembry Creek products, has been acquired by ELK Group. XYNC Brands president Hal Weinstein will continue to oversee the brand during the transition. 

Brown Jordan’s lounge chairs at a Texas vacation house by Lake|Flato Architects and Plus Two Interiors. Photography by Andrew Pogue.


Littlejohn & Co., a private investment firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut, has acquired Brown Jordan, manufacturer of outdoor furniture and accessories.

Architecture and interior design firm Intec Group has acquired John Cooney Associates (JCA) Architects. JCA will enhance Intec Group’s portfolio with notable projects including the Mosaic District, Union Market, and Cathedral Commons. 

Poggenpohl’s kitchen cabinetry inside a Chelsea Gallery District apartment designed by Utopus. Photography by Fran Parente.


Munich-based industrial holding Adcuram has acquired a controlling stake in Poggenpohl, designer and manufacturer of luxury kitchens. Poggenpohl will enter into a new growth phase under Adcuram, which will include expanding the brand’s product portfolio and streamlining its production.

Levine Contract Furniture Group has assumed sales responsibility of Gordon International in the New York metro region. Both companies, which specialize in contract furnishings, have showrooms on the 14th floor of the New York Design Center. 

Irwin Seating Company’s audience seating inside a lecture hall at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies by Studios Architecture. Photography by Bruce Damonte.


American Seating Company has sold its architectural fixed seating business to Irwin Seating Company, a leading manufacturer of audience seating for entertainment projects. American Seating Company will focus its resources on the transportation seating market.

Matt Newstrom and Shastan Jee have purchased SmithCFI, Steelcase’s distribution partner in Oregon. SmithCFI will retain all employees and maintain current operations at its current Portland showroom and headquarters. The company also has offices in Bend and an operations center on Swan Island. 

California Glass Bending’s panels clad the facade of Gores Group’s Los Angeles headquarters by Belzberg Architects and Joan Behnke & Associates. Photography by Bruce Damonte.


Vitracor Inc., also known as California Glass Bending, has merged with Pulp Studio, Inc, and will now operate as a division within the company. The companies will move to a 150,000-square-foot facility in Gardena, California. The merger and new facility coincides with Pulp Studio’s 20th anniversary. 

A custom serpentine sofa by Vladimir Kagan inside a New York townhouse by Julie Hillman Design. Photography by Bärbel Miebach.


Residential furnishings and textiles manufacturer Holly Hunt has acquired the brand of late furniture designer Vladimir Kagan, who was previously represented by Ralph Pucci InternationalWatch Vladimir Kagan’s Hall of Fame documentary.

De Padova has acquired 75% of Danish furniture manufacturer MA/U Studio. Mikal Harrsen, who co-founded MA/U Studio in 2012 and pioneered the brand’s minimalist approach, will assume the role of executive brand director. 

STARK’s cowhide bench upholstery at the 1 Hotel South Beach presidential suite by Meyer Davis. Photography by Eric Laignel. 


STARK has merged its fabric division with Scalamandre to form a new company under the latter’s name. Chad Stark and Louis Renzo were named president and CEO, respectively. STARK’s luxury flooring division will be unaffected by the merger and operate as a separate entity. STARK’s fabric lines, which include Old World Weavers, Fonthill, and Grey Watkins, will continue as distinct brands carried by Scalamandre; fabric and wallcovering lines previously represented by STARK, including Lelievre, Tassinari & Chatel, Missoni Home, and Sandberg, will now by represented by Scalamandre.

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Making housing more affordable

Michael J. Berens

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

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Making housing more affordable

Historically, a robust housing industry has been a bellwether of a booming economy. At present, however, the economy is at its strongest point in 10 years, but the housing industry is limping along.

Recent projections indicate annual home sales will fall below those of last year. A number of factors are contributing to this situation, but the major one is affordability. For many Americans who want to buy a home, the cost is just too high.

“Affordability remains a huge concern,” says Inna Khidekel, managing director of capital markets for Bridge Investment Group, which leads a Workforce and Affordable Housing Initiative as part of its multifamily fund management program.

The firm’s research finds nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of renter households earn below 80 percent of their area’s median income (i.e., $45,000 a year or less). Only 41 percent of households can afford the median list price of a home in their area. In addition, individual household factors such as family size and health status can affect how much in housing expenses is manageable.

Rising home prices are placing a home purchase even further out of reach. In the third quarter of this year, home prices reached their least affordable level since the same period in 2008 — a 10-year low, according to ATTOM Data Solutions. The cost of home ownership is also increasing as prices and mortgage rates rise.

A study by the Urban Institute found that as of July 2017, the share of median income needed for the monthly payment with a 20-percent-down mortgage on a median-priced home stood at 22 percent, up from 18 percent five years ago. The study also forecast that if rates rose to 4.75 percent (they have been hovering between 4.71 and 4.79 in the past few weeks), the share of income would increase to an average of 24 percent.

The problem has been growing for some time, as builders, pressed by increased construction costs and regulation, have opted to build more large homes and luxury homes that command higher prices.

In its 2018 State of the Nation’s Housing report, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (JCHS) states, “the share of smaller homes (under 1,800 square feet) built each year fell from 50 percent in 1988 to 36 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017. Of this latest drop, 9 percentage points occurred in 2010-2013 alone.”

Between 1999 and 2015, in contrast, the share of large homes nearly doubled, from 17 percent to 31 percent. During this period, most multifamily construction has been focused on rental properties, not on condos or townhouses — popular starter-home options — whose construction has fallen by half.

Analyzing data from this year’s third quarter, Trulia relates that although housing inventories improved somewhat, starter homes are the hardest to find, comprising only one-fifth (20.9 percent) of the total market. MetroStudy chief economist Mark Boud, in his Q3 housing forecast, noted that homes for sale below $200,000 were scarce, while inventory at $400,000 and above was increasing.

The shortage of affordable homes to buy has heightened the demand for rental properties, driving up rents. CNBC reports rents in the third quarter of this year rose 2.9 percent compared to a year ago, up from 2.5 percent in the second quarter. JCHS found one-third of households in 2016 paid more than the 30-percent-of-income recommended industry standard for housing.

Moreover, adds Khidekel, some 12 million households spend more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. They are among those experiencing what JCHS terms “shelter poverty,” that is, not having enough to cover basic necessities after paying for housing. Under such constraints, setting aside funds toward the purchase of a home is nearly impossible.

Most industry analysts agree the present situation is not sustainable, but at present it is difficult to see a way forward. Some point to low unemployment and a strong economy as a hopeful sign. However, rents, home prices and mortgage rates are increasing at a much faster rate than wage growth.

Others point to the millennials reaching household formation milestones. Yet, data from Freddie Mac estimates that 700,000 young adults refrained from buying a home between 2000 and 2016 because costs outpaced income growth.

The latest ValueInsured quarterly Modern Homebuyer Survey shows less than half (48 percent) of millennials believe buying a home is a good investment — a record low — compared to more than three-quarters (77 percent) a year ago.

More and more affordable inventory is needed, of both new and existing homes, and soon. In an article for Forbes magazine, John McManus, a content director with Hanley Wood’s Residential Group, calls for an “all-out blitz of lower-priced, entry-level homes.”

He and a number of other experts suggest that wider use of new technologies and modular construction techniques, as well as changes in business practices, could help lower the cost of building a home. Trade and professional organizations have called for less regulation, which adds costs and delays to projects.

Some builders have begun to introduce models with smaller footprints and fewer frills to appeal to more economy-minded millennials. Others, like Bridge Investment Group, are investing in preserving,restoring and rehabilitating already existing buildings, thus holding down construction costs, especially in lower-income areas.

This is not just a housing industry issue. In a number of metropolitan and suburban areas around the country, providers of basic and valuable services, such as police, fire and emergency personnel, teachers, and healthcare professionals and paraprofessionals, cannot afford to live where they are needed. For the sake of our communities and society’s stability as a whole, the cost of housing needs to scale back to a level that most, not just some, Americans can afford.

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How smart is your sofa?

The way technology is impacting the furniture industry and the manner in which we buy furniture

Until even a decade ago, no one thought AR-VR (augmented reality-virtual reality) would change the way the furniture business operated or the way we’d shop for a sofa.

“When our parents bought a bed that turned out to be too big for the room, they would probably arrange their lives around it,” says Ramakant Sharma, head of technology and operations and co-founder of Livspace, which offers end-to-end home interiors solutions. Livspace launched, what they claim is, the world’s first design automation platform, called Canvas. It allows home owners to design, decorate and furnish their homes virtually. “Today, consumers want to have good-looking homes. At the same time, there is a massive information asymmetry: if they are buying a piece of furniture at a particular price, they have no way of validating the price,” says Sharma.



Livspace solves this and other issues by allowing customers, who are assigned to a designer, to convey their ideas and have the designer realise their vision for them. The designer then uses the inbuilt software to take into account the right measurements of the space and choose items from the catalogue to design the home. This is done first in 2D, then in 3D, which is accessible on their website. Customers can walk into a virtual reality vision of their home (currently available at the Livspace centres in select cities including Bengaluru). Any changes can be incorporated.

The minute the customer places or changes an order, it goes all the way up to the factory and the warehouse. The time taken for delivery is a reflection of the product that takes the longest time to manufacture in the cart.

“The price point is a simple arithmetic summation of all the items used in the design. Technology is the key in the design tool. It plays three roles here, in customer relationship management, visualisation (which includes virtual reality and order tracking) and supply chain management. This way, the information asymmetry is also decreasing with time, as the customer knows why each item costs as much as it does,” says Sharma.

Urban Ladder is yet another tech-based furniture retailer which is taking on the challenge of integrating technology across four aspects: of customer experience, supply chain systems, visualisation through AR and VR and retail systems.

Look and feel

Urban Ladder began with their e-tail platform and application, and evolved to include AR. “We first built an app calling Living Spaces, which enabled customers to visualise sofas in their homes through AR. It allowed customers to understand how the sofa fits into the house and how it looks in their space, but not what it feels like. Obviously, tech has not solved the third question yet,” says Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder.

The technology also allowed customers to change settings according to their preferences, with a 90% accuracy through AR. “Then in 2015, we expanded the technology to allow customers to see how wardrobes fit into their houses. And we have now taken the next big step, six months ago, by building a VR application in our physical stores that allows customers to experience, virtually, how a product would look in their home by simulating the space in the technology,” he says.

 Since VR is expected to take a few more years to become mainstream. Urban Ladder is hosting the device in their physical stores and the sofa is the first product they want to perfect. “But in the next few years, AR is going to become part of mobile phone technology, like it already is in the latest iPhone and Google Pixel variants. These phones can deduce the dimensions of physical places, so people can get a sense of how products fit into their homes, through their phones and through our app, which will be customised to AR,” says Srivatsa.

At the same time, they also plan to continue investing in applications that will optimise the supply chain and delivery side of things as well as data access for consultants. “This is hard to build because the entire ecosystem has to be aligned and built at one go. This means that there must not be loss of information between the designer and the consumer and the manufacturer,” says Sharma.

That’s why Livspace used a cloud-based system to align the ecosystem, cutting delivery time of the final product to just weeks. The technology is likely to be refined and deepened in the future, as design education seeks to impart more holistic insights into furniture design. Which is why it’s important to get design students on board with the idea.

Customers still like to touch and feel the furniture they are buying. “One of the projects that I ran in Srishti, which addressed the concept of online brands seeking to expand offline in order to offer a tactical experience, resulted in a unique idea. The student who came up with it suggested that brands could, instead of building a showroom, hire a few hotel suites curated by the brands, in order to offer the consumer a real-time experience,” explains Janak Mistry, design principal at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

 Because furniture is a high-cost venture, for both buyer and seller, the solution is to get everything right the first time. This is where technology helps, in ensuring the system is well connected, right from the visualisation to the supply-chain.

Technology in sustainable architecture

Architect Sampath Reddy, founder of Pop-Up Housing, and Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, is currently working on micro-rack supported building using heavy-duty slotted angle frames and palette racks. Inspired by storage solutions in industrial warehouses, buildings as high as 20 floors can be built with this technology. Slotted angle frames can also be used to make everything fro mezzanine floors, modular units, furniture, and bunk beds.

These can then be combined with other materials such as wood or bamboo for the interiors. Sampath says he uses Google Maps extensively to look for underutilized spaces in the city where these housing solutions can be applied.

Sampath, who also works as a Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, He is now working on using these new-age building materials for low-cost, sustainable construction, He is targeting the slums -dwelling communities and as well schools and health centres in rural areas, including medical centres, which and medical centres who need portable housing. Furniture is integrated into the construction.

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