Friday, September 16, 2011


Catalogs seem to happen when you become a homeowner.  As homeowners, we're all considered wild shopping animals that will respond to catalog bait.  And I mean-- some of us must respond to these things, right?  Why else would these catalogs be so large, so glossy?  

The catalogs present their bait in different ways; each catalog has its own specific flavor of message to the Homeowning Animal.  The Ikea catalog was thick with syrupy passive-aggressive criticism of You As a Person.  Ikea wants you to know that Well, You're OK, But We Know A Better You Is Within Reach!  Reaching for the Ikea product means reaching for a better you.

This week, the Restoration Hardware catalog came.  Restoration Hardware proffers its bait much more casually, with the studied cool of someone who would use the word "classy" unironically.  This bait is served with wine and a wink.  According to Restoration Hardware, You're Better Than That Swedish Store, and Frankly, We Know That About You and We Congratulate You On Your Discernment.   Reaching for the Restoration Hardware product is reaching for your passport to insta-class.

go towards the light...

"There are pieces that furnish a home. 
And those that define it."
I mean...doesn't most furniture pretty much do both?

Mmmm, yes, furnish vs. define.  Because when you're looking for furniture, you think to yourself: I really want something to define my home.  I don't want this furniture to merely furnish, because obviously that would be a disappointment.

Restoration Hardware's recipe for class bait seems pretty straightforward actually-- there aren't too many ingredients.  In each room in the catalog, you see:
  • No color
  • Enormous light fixtures
  • Gargantuan mirror
The feelings conveyed by these rooms include:
  • Boredom
  • Desire to take a nap
  • Urge to see what's on TV
Watch-- we'll go through a few major rooms in the Restoration Hardware house.

Restoration Living Room

Zero color? Check.
Planet-sized light fixture?  Yep.
Mirror that doubles as portal to the Twilight Zone?  Can't miss it.

What emotion does this evoke for you?  
I feel mighty sleeeeepy...oooh, I'm going to curl up on that couch, just for a minute...I'll be right...

This catalog also gives lavish, detailed descriptions of some of the pieces in the room.  
The detail usually emphasizes the piece's roots in another time, or place, or both.  Before we take a nap on that couch, let's see what the catalog writers want us to know about the tables:

"Originally a pallet used to transport bricks in a
turn-of-the-century brickworks.  Handcrafted wood and steel."

Translation: Old-timey poor people touched this.  $1500.
"Inspired by the voluptuous form of a vintage hayrack,
our one-of-a-kind table is topped with timeworn, reclaimed oak."

Translation: You have no idea what a 'hayrack' is, do you?  Didn't think so.  $900.  

Restoration Bedrooms

Bedroom 1

Hatred of color's freedoms?  Obviously.
Light fixture that people could fit inside?  Yeah.
Mirror the size of a toddler?  Sure enough.

What feeling does this room bring up for you?  I look at this, and I think...I'll go to another room and watch TV, or go outside and see if anything interesting is happening.

But before you run to another room in search of color or life, let's look at the detail 
on the bedframe's design:

"Inspired by a mid-19th century second empire design with
elaborately carved moldings and a distressed finish."

Translation:  Go ahead, throw out 'second empire' in front of your friends!
Enjoy how impressed they will look!
Bedroom 2

So: check, check, check.  Color's been banished to a more interesting catalog.  Arguably, this light fixture is not as big as the others, but it definitely makes an impact.  Even if the light fixture is smaller, the mirror compensates for that with its ongoing expansion!  This mirror is terrifying to me-- it looks like the wall has a disease, and the bad news is: it's spreading.  

What does this room do for you?  For me, it doesn't do much, other than make me want to double check that I'm up to date on all my vaccinations.

Before you call your doctor, some more detail on that mirror:
"Hand-carved wood mirror, inspired by the fanned tail feathers of the peacock,
known as 'the bird with a hundred eyes,' with rows of aged nickel-silver glass."

Translation: I can't translate this one, because all I can think is how I don't want
100 peacock-tail eyes staring down at me in my bedroom.  Also, I think I've developed a mysterious rash.  I need to make a quick call to my GP, I'll be right back...

Restoration Dining Room

Again, color does not get invited to the party-- the only color comes from the pots on the table.  And is that a chair coming down from the ceiling?  Whoops no, that's the enormous light fixture, which is preparing to eat the table.  You see that floor-length mirror of to the right?  So, done done and done.

How do you feel about all this?  Of all the rooms, I think I like this the best.  But still, I just...yaaawn.  I yawn and I wonder...isn't there more to life than this?

Before the waves of existential angst break on our shores, let's read the detail on this page.  You want to guess what the detail on the light fixture is?  I bet you could figure it out.  
Here it is:
"Handcrafted from reclaimed French oak wine barrel staves and hoops."

Translation: We said "French" and "wine," so.  $2200.

How did that Restoration Bait taste?  Do you feel classier having had the Restoration Experience?  Personally, I feel annoyed and angsty. I'll be going shopping at Salvation Army tomorrow, out of spite and in search of meaning.


  1. Bummed after reading, better after writingNovember 6, 2011 at 5:40 PM


    Bitter much?

    The worst thing that happened here is that the reading of your blog entry evokes so much misery, and does so quite unnecissarily. At least I have an excuse to complain: I wasn't sure what I was about to read.

    But you, on the other hand, had to have at least generally known the contents of the catalog you were about to open. You knew you weren't going to like it, and couldn't wait to read it cover to cover... all so you could nitpick it relentlessly here.

    There are people who like this retailer, and there are those who have different tastes. If you know something makes you miserable, next time, spare an unsuspecting innocent bystander like myself the second-hand smoke of your agony. Just remove yourself from their mailing list (or don't pick up one at the store - which I half-suspect you did here) so you'll have no reason to gripe.

    Thank you in advance.

  2. Misery?! This post evoked misery!

    Wow, nope, this catalog came in the mail, like lots of catalogs do when you own a home. I didn't really have thoughts one way or the other when it came-- I knew Restoration Hardware existed, and I knew it was for people with money, but that was about it. I wrote this post because I noticed the consistency as I looked through the catalog, and also because I thought-- how interesting, for people to have so much money, and buy such odd (to me) things!

    But if you like Restoration Hardware, great! I really like the phrase 'second-hand smoke of your agony,' but I think that's a bit much. I was not in agony when I wrote this. I'm sorry it caused you so much grief that you felt the need to post a comment like this. Thanks for the feedback-- maybe this post comes across as nasty, which was not my intent.

  3. I thought it was hilarious. I suspect the person commenting above did the layouts for that catalog or owns at least two or three of those imposing mirrors...and maybe a giant, lifeboat-size light fixture too. Please write more!