Design stories that shaped 2023

As 2023 concludes, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the readers of Design News Now. Your continuous support and engagement have been the driving force behind our publication’s growth and evolution. While some of 2023’s most resonant design stories revolved around maximizing profit and preparing for an AI-driven future, many of the top ten stories focused on the creative process of industry disruptors. They highlighted the journeys of specific designers, unveiling their strategies for building successful careers, sourcing inspiration, and infusing freshness into their new collections. Your enthusiasm for these stories will fuel our editorial direction in 2024, inspiring us to continue curating content that resonates and evolves with you. Cheers to another year! Without further ado, here is a recap of the top ten design stories of 2023:


#10. What makes a home iconic with June Reese

As the Vice President of BIDI and the Chief Creative Officer of House of June Interiors, June Reese embodies a commitment to equity, sustainability, authenticity, and elevated experiences. Her dedication to uplifting underserved communities and her pursuit of lifelong learning are reflected in her determined and enthusiastic approach to design. Her new book Iconic Home book offers an invaluable look into the experiences of Black interior designers within the contemporary design landscape. It delves into their journeys, struggles, and triumphs, shedding light on their inspirations, creative processes, and perspectives, thus highlighting the significance of representation in the design industry. Read the article here.

#9. Making 2024 a profitable year for your design firm

Designers need a comprehensive approach to financial management, strategic staffing, and transparent client engagement for long-term profitability and success in the interior design industry. Arguably, no design business coach has a better track record of transforming interior design firms into successful business quite like Gail Doby of the recently rebranded Pearl Collective. Our #9 top read article of the year dissects the findings of a recent survey conducted by the Pearl Collective about designer’s needs. Read the article.

Gail Doby pictured with 2023 Rising Star Award winner Tanya Shively, Sesshu Design Associates, Phoenix, AZ

#8. The future of marketing luxury products and why your furniture brand may become a media company

Oren John, of Product People and Product World, sat down with Design News Now Editor in Chief, Courtney Porter, to discuss the future of luxury branding, radical experiential marketing and why your furniture company may become a media company. Whew! This one was a doozy – we’re talking in abstract terms, a mile a minute, but as the year went on these abstract concepts became clearer realities: The brands that finished 2023 strong are the ones who prioritized internal media production, included experiential branding in their showrooms and connected the dots between wellness and sustainability and luxury. Read the article.

#7. What makes a maximalist?

Our conversation with Emily Evans Eerdmans about her new book, “Mario Buatta: Anatomy of a Decorator,” delved into the enduring influence of iconic designer Mario Buatta, showcasing his maximalist style and exploring the resurgence of 80s aesthetics in today’s design landscape. Eerdmans discussed Buatta’s impact on contemporary maximalist interiors, emphasizing his penchant for English country house charm. Connecting the old with the new, we discussed the return of 80s maximalism: an unapologetic celebration of excess, vibrant colors, and eclectic textures, with how it has adapted to modern tastes while retaining its bold character. We touched upon TikTok’s role in popularizing trends like Grand Millennial and Coastal Grandmother styles, demonstrating the fusion of nostalgia with contemporary design preferences through social media platforms. Read the article.

#6. Interior designer Gillian Gillies plan to disrupt the fast furniture industry

The introduction of ‘The Climb’ collection marks Gillian Gillies’ venture into product design, focusing on sustainability and disrupting the fast furniture market. Collaborating with Le Point Visible‘s Marilyn B. Armand, Gillies embraces sustainable practices by upcycling excess fabric from prominent fashion brands like Ralph Lauren to create a narrative-rich quilt collection. Beyond design, Gillies advocates for female entrepreneurs, showcasing her commitment to sustainable, women-driven craftsmanship through her online shop. Read the article.

#5. Patterson Flynn’s creative director on collaborating with Mary McDonald

The collaboration between Patterson Flynn and Mary McDonald has birthed a collection rooted in classic architectural elements, distinguishing itself through luxurious materials like silk, mohair, alpaca, and cashmere, a departure from their previous reliance on coiled abaca. Pamela Marshall, Patterson Flynn’s creative director, emphasizes the importance of a collaborator’s constant inspiration and curiosity in design, reflecting Mary McDonald’s diverse knowledge and love for design. Read the article.

#4. Alexandra Kaehler fills a gap in the upholstery marketplace 

The Heirloom Collection by Alexandra Kaehler redefines custom upholstery, catering to homeowners seeking designer-quality pieces with both uniqueness and accessibility. This collection, born from vintage and custom pieces frequently sought after by clients, fills the gap between retail and bespoke design, targeting consumers wanting creatively distinct options beyond mainstream retailers like RH. Kaehler adeptly captures a growing consumer preference for exclusive yet broadly appealing products, transcending the oversaturation of mass consumption. This niche line highlights a new consumer trend, balancing accessibility with individuality, foreshadowing the rise of successful niche collections in the coming years within the design market. Read the article.

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#3. Why Libby Langdon is every manufacturer’s dream design partner

Libby Langdon stands out for her pragmatic approach and deep understanding of market dynamics. Her collaborations with manufacturers are driven by practicality, armed with sketches and a realistic grasp of market demands. She considers logistical aspects, like shipping and packaging, alongside aesthetics in her design process, ensuring mass appeal and practicality. Leveraging her design firm for R+D, client feedback shapes her collections, guiding future decisions. Langdon seeks manufacturing partners open to innovation and alignment with her creative vision, fostering mutual growth. Read the article.

#2. Furniture that makes you feel good with Austin Allen James

Talking with artist and product designer Austin Allen James makes you feel good. And that sensibility is palpable through his art and furniture collections. Transitioning from poetry to painting, he brings a unique perspective, emphasizing organic shapes and color harmony in his captivating compositions. Known for crafting functional art furniture, integrating his original art into each piece, James’s work reflects a deep consideration for people’s emotions, aiming to create positive experiences for partners and clients. Residing in Houston, he blends his entrepreneurial spirit with a commitment to experimentation, expanding his product design through collaborations with home-furnishings manufacturers. Read the article.

#1. M is for modern masterpiece: Becky Weber on Hooker Furnishing’s departure from tradition

The introduction of the M Furniture collection by Hooker Furnishings marks a modern shift in their aesthetic under the creative direction of Becky Weber, Ansley Brown, and Charlie Zagaroli. Becky Weber’s extensive experience at Crate & Barrel informs her approach, drawing inspiration from global travels and atmospheric restaurant designs. Despite teaching buyers to set aside personal tastes, developing M allowed Weber to align her personal affinity for modern styles with the collection’s vision. The M consumer cherishes heirloom-quality pieces, clean lines, and open floor plans, preferring understated elegance over ostentation. Read the article.

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