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2020 Year in Review: These Were the 10 Most Memorable Design Moments, Debuts, and Curveballs

2020 Year in Review: These Were the 10 Most Memorable Design Moments, Debuts, and Curveballs


The Design Community Steps Up

As demand rapidly outweighed supply for essential items like face masks and hand sanitizer, design brands rose to the occasion, transforming manufacturing centers in the process. In March, 154-year-old outdoor furniture maker Woodard converted part of its Owosso, Michigan, production facility to make non-N95 face masks, while renowned textile companies Schumacher and Kravet donated 600 yards and 500 yards, respectively, of tightly woven cotton to the Michigan facility. Since the spring, benefit auctions, exhibitions, and fundraisers have also made a significant impact—for example, General Assembly’s At Home online sale, for which 40 talents and brands, including Apparatus and Calico, donated pieces benefiting humanitarian organization Direct Relief.

The Pandemic Makes Us Rethink How We Live

As the virus spiked in densely populated cosmopolitan areas, confining people to live and work in tight spaces, it’s no huge wonder why many questioned their surroundings—both indoors and out. With remote work becoming the new normal, the notion of the home office has received renewed attention, as has interest in remote local getaways and suburban real estate. According to data from Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants, July saw a 44% year-over-year increase in home sales across all suburban counties surrounding New York City— at a time when Manhattan property sales were down 56%. On the product level, brands say that pricing, client spending, color trends, and trade shows are all being reevaluated.

The Design Industry’s Racial Justice Reckoning 

Like many fields, the design industry was forced to confront its own inclusivity shortcomings in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests, conversations, and movements surrounding racism, police brutality, and social injustice. “Since before the United States of America was even a nation, it was being constructed around a European worldview that was built on a hierarchy of racial inequity, explains Mabel O. Wilson, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, in an online AD article. To correct past inequities, architects, designers, and planners play a massive role in promoting healthy built environments as well as diversity within their companies. This summer, for example, the Black Interior Designers Network (BIDN) launched an allyship campaign created in part to empower non-Black members of the design world to combat systemic racism within the industry.

The White House’s Controversial Shake-Ups

In August, Melania Trump unveiled her much-criticized revision of the White House’s renowned Rose Garden. The work was carried out by Oehme, van Sweden and Associates and Perry Guillot Inc., two award-winning American firms, who, along with several committees and external advisers, sought for the beloved public green space to resemble its original design. The removal of the garden’s iconic crab apple trees, installed by garden designer Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, caused particular outrage. This December, the First Lady revealed another White House change: a new private tennis pavilion that draws inspiration from classical Greco-Roman architecture—something that the Trump administration has been a vocal if controversial advocate for.

The Rose Garden, photographed in spring 1963 while in full bloom. 

Photo: Getty Images

Split Pendant by Kelly Behun for Hudson Valley Lighting.

Photo: Courtesy of Hudson Valley Lighting

Kelly Behun’s Year of Firsts



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