The White House Rose Garden Runs Into More Trouble, Dulux Names Color of the Year, and More News This Week

From significant business changes to noteworthy product launches, there’s always something new happening in the world of design. In this weekly roundup, AD PRO has everything you need to know.

In the News

The White House Rose Garden Remodel Runs Into More Trouble

Recent changes to the White House Rose Garden had already sparked their fair share of controversy—as AD decorative arts editor Mitchell Owens investigated at length. Now, the garden is back in the news, thanks to a series of repairs that have already been required. This week, CNN reported on this development, stating that the problem centered around issues of water drainage. Hopefully, more flaws won’t spring anew.

Century Furniture Rides a Wave of Changes Catalyzed by the Pandemic

Members of design industry are very familiar with Century Furniture—the Hickory, North Carolina–based company that has long served as an embodiment of American manufacturing. Usually, Century makes headlines around High Point Market. But recently, it was the subject of an extensive Wall Street Journal feature. The article detailed how the brand has handled the past few months of challenges and widespread uncertainty—from order shifts to ongoing health concerns. 

COVID-19’s Impact on Galleries Comes Into Clearer Focus

While it was apparent from the outset of the coronavirus pandemic that the business of galleries was bound to suffer, a new survey has made that fact more numerically indisputable. Organized by Art Basel and UBS, the study was covered by the New York Times this week. Overall, affluent individuals continue to make purchases, but sales have slowed, dropping 36% for modern and contemporary galleries. 


Dulux Shares Its 2021 Color of the Year Pick

And the winner is…Brave Ground. That’s the news from British paint company Dulux. The color, which is brown and earthy in tone, could just be a new go-to neutral. Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux U.K., stated, “The colors on our walls are the backdrop to how we live our life. For many of us, lockdown has served to emphasize how important our home environment has become; it has been the place where we work, learn, relax. It can lift us up, nurture us, comfort us.”


Gucci Garden Opens for Virtual Tours

Designed by Alessandro Michele and located on Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, Gucci Garden is now welcoming visitors to tour rooms, objects, and exhibitions throughout its virtual space. The garden concept was opened—in real life—two years ago, as an immersive museum showcasing the brand’s clothing, accessories, art, and other items. It is also home to shoppable pieces from the Gucci Décor collection, and a collection of magazines and antique books.

Good Works

Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club President’s Dinner Makes for a Virtual Event to Remember

This year’s Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club President’s Dinner may have taken place through computer, tablet, and phone screens, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a smashing success. Attendees were sent cocktail kits ahead of time, and encouraged to dress up. Dinner cochair Bunny Williams introduced her husband

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Chicago cannot lose the Palmer House, now boarded up and in deep financial trouble

The great Chicago Tribune critic Claudia Cassidy lived at the Drake Hotel. Touring Broadway celebrities would dine with Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet at the Pump Room at the Ambassador East. And at the Palmer House’s famed Empire Room, a 250-seat cabaret venue with an elegance like no other, Phyllis Diller told jokes and early-career stars like Liberace, Maurice Chevalier, Carol Channing and Tony Bennett were launched.

a sign on the side of a building: Owner of the Palmer House Hilton has been sued for $338 million in missed loan payments, in the largest Chicago foreclosure case to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

© E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Owner of the Palmer House Hilton has been sued for $338 million in missed loan payments, in the largest Chicago foreclosure case to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

a close up of a train station: The entrance of the Palmer House Hilton stands empty on Monroe Street on Sept. 8.

© E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
The entrance of the Palmer House Hilton stands empty on Monroe Street on Sept. 8.

All of that is to say that Chicago’s historic hotels are joined at the hip with our historic and spectacular tradition of live entertainment.

All of that is to say further that, for this writer, seeing boards over the entrance to the Palmer House Hotel, officially the Palmer House Hilton, is every bit as painful as seeing them over the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Picasso statue or Buckingham Fountain.

To lose this hotel would be a loss of unfathomable proportions. And there is a real danger of the unthinkable happening.

As the Tribune’s Ryan Ori reported Aug. 31, the owner of the Palmer House, Thor Equities, has been hit with a foreclosure suit alleging unpaid mortgage payments totaling nearly $338 million. Worse, the hotel is now, in real estate parlance, underwater, being as its current valuation is only $305 million, down from $560 million as recently as 2018.

For a stunning example of how much Chicago’s Loop is losing to the absence of tourists and conventioneers, just consider the size and speed of that drop in valuation.

It’s breathtaking.

That word that could also be used to describe the lobby of the Palmer House, a grand riot of columns, murals, candelabras and a sense of Saturday night urban grandeur that once was the headquarters for the election campaign of Grover Cleveland and, over the years, has hosted enough weddings and conventions to keep half the Loop in business.

The Palmer House long employed a resident historian, Ken Price, who led hundreds of tours to the backstage areas of the Empire Room, where a lucky guests could see stagebills and headshots of the greats who performed there, all lovingly preserved. Price’s tour was about the most fun I ever had in the Loop. And lots of out-of-towners, especially show-business types, felt the same way.

Michael Riedel, the New York radio personality and longtime Broadway columnist, told me this week of his excitement of staying in “the biggest suite I had ever seen” while covering an out-of-town tryout. And, of course, he took Price’s tour. Chris Baum, a longtime concierge at the Langham Chicago Hotel, told me he sent many a guest to experience the history of the Empire Room.


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