Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This really irks me...

Restoration Hardware is peddling antique unbound "book bundles" as objets de art. Firstly, I despise the idea of buying books as purely decorative items. Certainly, bindings and covers can be -- and even should be -- beautiful (see the new Penguin Classics series HERE), but I'm a firm believer that books you display in your home should be books that, you know, you've actually read and enjoyed. Secondly, the idea of filling your shelves with packages of mistreated, long forgotten literary works to achieve some monochromatic, industrial "style" strikes me as incredibly sad.

Salvaged Wood Kitchen Island ($2695) + {Reproduction} Vintage Barstools ($295)

On a related note, can Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Wisteria, etc. just stop with the "found" and "antiqued" furniture and accessories? I'm all for vintage and antique, but can't we just buy real vintage instead of faux? Decorating your home with items that look like they have history (but in reality either don't or, if they do, said history has no particular meaning to you) strikes me as incredibly fake.

Burlap sack turned tablecloth, for a mere $69

I don't really understand spending the big bucks just to decorate your home with discarded soda boxes and burlap. I know that many antiques are (quite rightly) expensive, but why is 50-year old trash suddenly a design statement worthy of a mark-up befitting its newfound trendy status? If you're going to decorate with inexpensive, "humble" materials, then the prices should reflect that. It's like buying a plain white tshirt for $100: just plain stupid. Beyond the absurdity of these prices, the idea of elevating the ordinary and everyday (of the Great Depression!) to designer status strikes me as bizarre and even a bit condescending: We aren't poor, we just decorate like it.

On a final note, prices and subtext aside, the Belgian/industrial look is just too damn depressing for me. I'm a big fan of gray, but we've taken the whole gray, linen, limed wood look way too far. A piece or two here or there (or gray walls) is one thing, but when its thrown altogether (as staged by Restoration Hardware in particular), a monochromatic color palette in gray tones makes a room look like it's had all the life sucked out of it. When used en masse, gray is just as blah as beige. Where's the joy?

Lest you think I've got something against the big name retail stores (which I really don't -- much of my own home is filled with PB, RH and C&B), here are two items that I'm drooling over:

Weathered Zinc Single Fex Mirror ($849)

I adore the quatrefoil shape of this mirror. And, while I think I'd prefer the frame's finish in something a bit more glamorous (silver leaf, perhaps), I don't even mind the weathered zinc. As it is though, I'll be waiting for this piece to go on sale before I consider making the purchase.

Lafayette Chandelier ($399)

I was absolutely shocked when I saw this chandelier in the latest Pottery Barn catalogue. It's so chic! So Pieces, etc.! The red faux coral is the perfect hit of color for a breakfast room or den. I'd maximize the beachy feel of it by pairing it when blues and turquoises -- and speaking of turquoise, wouldn't this be fabulous if there was a turquoise version? [Are you there, Pottery Barn? It's me, Averill. Bring back your Summer 2008 collection!]

43 comments:

Dayka (Life +Style) said...

i totally agree about the books. something about displaying books you've never read seems so fake to me, but again, that's just me. i love antiques, but not stuff that's made to look antique (with a fake antique price tag to match!). i'm with you--just buy the real thing! :)

Christy said...

Oh I loved this post Averill - I abhor all those same things - I mean seriously, book pages you haven't read as art?! Pitiful! And yes, that chandelier in turquoise would be oh-so-fabulous!

Susan said...

Hi, I am new to your blog (Thanks, Holly, from Things that Inspire) and I have to say I agree with you! Frankly, I got the Restoration Hardware catalog and I thought it was cold and drab - everything was brown, gray, and neutral. I love color and while I think there is a place for neutrals, I'd like to see some turquoise or red or green mixed in with all those neutrals. It doesn't feel warm or inviting to me to be so monochromatic.

I like what I've seen of your blog and hope to spend some time reading through your older posts. You've done a great job with your rooms!

Susan

Liz @ It's Great To Be Home said...

Agree about the books and that PB chandelier! The faux red coral is such an awesome pop of color - long live color!!!

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

I too get a good belly laugh when I see massed produced "found" objects advertised in catalogs. However, I will say that I like the look of authentic salvaged pieces like those advertised in RH. I love your colorful home too, but I'm not opposed to homes with gorgeous old pieces as the center of attention rather than color. Given that the pieces are authentic, I think a home can get away with little color.

My suggestion for those who like that look are to go to antique malls, flea markets and salvage yards. (My post for tomorrow is on tips for flea market shopping.)

Marija said...

Many of the things in the catalog and your post I actually like (the dining chairs, the roomy baskets, the reclaimed island) but I cannot stand the sad way they are merchandised. Why not hook that island up with some chrome Bertoia chairs? Let's see those linen chairs at a rich, dark, elegant dining table. I'm not feeling a whole lot of creativity coming out of that catalog. So much for inspiration.

The book thing. Wow. if you want to buy books that perhaps you aspire to read, that's one thing. Maybe on a rainy Saturday afternoon you'll pick one up and read it...but buying old books that are bundled together that you can't even open let alone read? Totally pretentious. And then when this is out of fashion, do you just throw them out? It's akin to faux flowers, really.

I will, however, happily take just about anything from their Outdoor Garden Collection!

Marija

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

I enjoy reading a post where the writer has a strong opinion, I agree with many of your points and laughed at the comment, "we aren't poor, we just decorate like it"!

What?! That chandelier is wonderful. Crazy, when I saw it I had a similar thought about the color, thinking, could I paint the beads?

Janell

Tracy @ ComfortandLuxury said...

You are not alone in your frustration! Grey on grey on brown (with some more grey thrown in just for kicks) can look good but it mostly comes off very contrived to me. Most any design with such a tightly edited color story and aesthetic does. I feel the same about all white. If you truly enjoy those looks, it shows. There's a warmth that comes from it that an interior put together just for show and to keep up with "trends" doesn't have. As for "books as decor", if I had an enormous house with a dedicated library, some of the books required to fill it would have to be bought by the yard. But here in my little house with a handful of bookcase, they're all mine. Books wrapped up in coordinated paper bug me too because it reduces them to props.
Thanks for the opportunity to rant with you, Averill!

Averill said...

Marija - Totally agree re RH's outdoor furniture collection; it's all gorgeous, but I particularly love the Klismos collection.

Karen - I'm all for authentic found objects but, like you, prefer ones that have been culled from antique shops, flea markets, etc. Half the fun is in the hunt and that back story gives them a personal touch that I think all accessories should have.

Tracy - Books wrapped in coordinating paper bug the heck out of me, too! Just saw a room full of them not long ago...will see if I can find the picture.

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

Very valid points. I think a whole room of ANY one style is rather unimaginative, but I guess to each his own...
I too was pleasantly surprised with the "coral" chandy from PB - looks like they did a good job on reproducing coral, and yes, they definitely need a fabulous Turq-WAZ version!

Laura@JourneyChic said...

I love the honesty, Averill! Too often blogs seem to suck up to stores/brands/trends, and it's great that you called out some of the popular ones. Those ripped books are absolutely absurd! it's like buying pre-ripped jeans. If you want to recycle your own books to try a new decorating trend, go ahead. But spend money on something that's destroyed? I don't get it.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Averill,
First, the easy one...I too almost fell over when I saw the red-beaded PB chandelier. Such a welcome surprise.

I do like the Belgian look...but agree w/Marija. That sad, "formula" driven way RH has adopted as their signature style is dismal and it's hard to appreciate the gems that are really worth incorporating into decor.

Ok on to books...you now I love the Penquin classics! I also have other beautiful classics handed down from parents and many antigue books. I have not read them all, but do enjoy their company very much! I do source out books for clients based on color, content, etc...it's just a fact of design.

I'll tell you what I really dislike...the faux books that are really boxes!!! And, any faux flower and plants!

Poindexter said...

I'm with you on your assessment of colorless grey interiors - more is not more. I'm somewhat a fan of using touches of humble materials here and there, where it makes sense. But you're right, it's not like we're children of the Great Depression. Our grandmothers used the cloth from feed sacks for good reason, it's not a fashion statement!

Valerie said...

I agree...but I think retailers always "over do it" in their catalogs deliberately to get your attention. Have you ever seen a Company C catalog? If you decorated like that you'd need sunglasses just to walk around your house. No home is going to feel like one if you purchased everything from the same store or even at the same time. I just wonder who does buy overpriced antique book bundles? I'd go to a used book store and make the bundles myself if I wanted that look. Oh well, to each their own. :)

Couture Carrie said...

Agreed, darling!
On all counts!

xoxox,
CC

EAC said...

I do love the Belgian/Industrial look, but I also realize it is a trend for most. To spend the amount of money Restoration Hardware is asking just sucks all the creativity out of it. I might spend more on antiques, because there is a limited supply, but cannot justify spending that much on something that is readily available to all of America. RH & PB are businesses, though, and need to base their offerings on what will sell, and that means selling what America sees in shelter magazine after shelter magazine. To your point- While I can comprehend folks purchasing books because they appreciate the cover design, fake books are always in bad taste.

Fr√łken Frost said...

I have to say: I <3 your blog!

Accidently came across it searching for eclectic interior designs. Lucky me! =) You post so many beautiful things I would love for my apartement. Thing is I live all the way over in Norway... I get lots of inspiration from the pictures though!

I'll be visiting your blog frequently here after!

Have a wonderful evening.

Hugs,
Ms. Frost

Tara said...

I so enjoy reading your very well written posts. India Hicks (following after her father) swathed every book in white paper. Looks seamless in her Caribbean Beach house, but not practical. I agree with you Averill, the patina and character in my home is on the junk we've enjoyed accumulating for years. Our stories and love would not be had I purchased everything from RH's latest fad.

Kathysue said...

Averill, you know I am a faithful follower and love your blog. I think you and I have some of the same design aesthetics. I am a lover of classic and colors. I agree totally about the books. I do not like anything that looks decorated or contrived and the shabby mis-treated books are both. I think when you see a look in all the catalogs it is on its way out! I think the die-hard collectors of Swedish and Belgian design will still be using it in their homes after it is a passing trend. Just like shabby chic, Tuscan, Country or any of the other trends that come and go. I like that you spoke out so wonderfully , Bravo to you Averill. Love your style and your blog!! Kathysue

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

Totally agreed with you on all your points.

When I went to the home shop this year I was so sad to see that the Swedish and Belgian look was still going strong.

Yes it's pretty, but there is more in the design world. I wanted to see something new and fresh, but sadly it looked just like it did the year before.

The Zhush said...

Averill, I loved this post so much! I too really like the catalogs, especially RH, but when I got the latest one, I tossed it immediately feeling uninspired. I am a huge fan of gray, totally appreciate Belgian style, but the sepia-blah-gray tone of this last collection, ech! We have a few antique books in our house, that we will probably never read, BUT, they are real antiques, either purchased by us b/c of a very meaningful title or gifted to us for the same reason. That bundle of ratty paper in the first image seems like a practical joke!

Kelle Dame said...

I hear ya! I couldn't quite figure out why the latest RH bugged me so much and now I get it!

Kitty said...

I don't know which is more stupid: the books or the burlap cloth. My son and nephew have built more aesthetically pleasing forts out of afghans and boxes in the living room! A fool and his money are soon parted. Thanks for telling people what NOT to do, Averill! Love, Kitty

Emily A. Clark said...

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed your soapbox. It's refreshing to read someone's real opinion rather than just "loving" a bunch of design trends because every one else in blog land says you should. Good for you!

I agree that the books are pretty ridiculous.

Sanity Fair said...

A note to PB and CB: STOP recreating over-priced Cracker Barrel store scenarios. At least Cracker Barrel's crap is actually old.
And that's HORRIBLE about the books! Couldn't those books go to schools or other places where people could use them? At least don't deface and devalue them. Ugh. I'm completely with you on this Averill - it's the worst.

Angie said...

Thank God. Someone finally is brave enough to speak up about this trend. The awful "vintage" books, the overdone Belgian look, the wanna-be antiques! Enough!

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Maybe this is a nod to how we should be feeling about our depressed economy. Our homes are to reflect a depressed mood? I couldn't live that way either, especially with tattered books. I'd feel like I would need to repair them. Our homes should be all about our personalities. Those rooms lack any & all. We were thinking a like on the PB chandelier, when I opened the catalog last week I was shocked what a striking fixture that was. Love the pop of red.

Great, honest post Averill!

P.S. - are you by any chance attending the All the Best Blog/ Tory Burch cocktail party April 29th at the Galleria?

Things That Inspire said...

Love this post...I am in wholehearted agreement about the discomfort of using books as ornament. It all started back in the day of that company that sold 'leather bound classics' just for the sake of creating a library that looks like it belongs to an erudite person (I love using my SAT words on your blog).

Although, I must admit, I make an exception for the library on the cover of Suzanne Kasler's book - so color coordinated - it is simply the use of books as sculpture.

Jenn said...

Even though I'm totally someone who buys books for their cover, I'm with you on this one.

I hate the de-personalization (is that a word?) of accessories from the chain stores. Don't get me wrong, I'm not above a good Pottery Barn piece every now and then...but accessories give your home personality. So it should be yours, right?

Karena said...

I agree with so many of your comments. There is such a thing as repurposing instead of buying new, new, new!! Occasionally fine, however I love to see estate sale finds, family pieces and keeping nice furnishings of your own and recovering, etc.

Karena
Art by Karena

Susie @ Maddie's Nest said...

I received my Architectural Digest this week and there is a three page RH ad near the front....totally blah and drab if you ask me. I don't really buy much from them, I'll occasionally drop through their outlet store but the stuff is usually really damaged. That said, some of their stuff I can appreciate to stand alone....but putting it all together as they do in their latest ads/catalog is totally depressing, I'd agree. And, I have to agree somewhat on the books....luckly my husband will only read harcovers....so I have plenty of used books for our displays....if you can get over the fact that they all revolve around world wars or religious crusades!

maureen @ The Inglenook Decor said...

Averill! I'm so with u on the book things...I think Anthropologie is doing that too. We all should have books that we actually read, whether it looks vintage or not. And as far as vintage pieces, I'm with u on that too. Reproductions are ok but not too much. I'd like to touch,see & feel the real thing.I was gasping with delight last weekend at Roundtop. I saw pieces with so much history that the owners are so proud to state. I mean 18th century cake closets...amazing!

On another note, if u're looking for a turquoise chandelier,this one doesn't look the same as the one above but may be close.

http://www.shinebysho.com/catalog/149-catalonia-small-chandelier

It's the catalonia chandelier from Shine Home

Happy Wednesday!

Kara said...

Great post!! And I totally agree everything. It's so sad we can be swayed by so many trends - this is one I think is ridiculous. Buying new "old" things. Crazy!

SogniSorrisi said...

I agree with A LOT of what you are saying! If you are displaying books I think it should express something about you as a person. There are even those faux books that things can be stored in and I always thought those were so funny and not something I would ever have in my own home (to each their own of course!)

I also agree that too much grey and beige can be depressing. I like a room with life and personality.

I do like that round table in the third last photo, though. Just not with those chairs.

Style Redux 2 said...

Great post and totally agree. I would love to see more honesty like this on blogs.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Sorry gave you the wrong date for the ATB/Tory Burch event - it's Mon. the 26th 6pm-8pm.

Nichole@40daysof said...

Well said! Maybe all of these companies are having an identity crisis as move out of the beige and brown trend and into the gray and white trend. I think I read about this trend switch over at Colour Me Happy.

http://40daysof.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/before-and-after-the-green-guest-room/

Patch said...

Amen sister! It's the same thing as super-pre-distressed jeans and "vintage" t-shirts en masse. Fake substance. Ick.

serena at the urban farmhouse said...

Hi,
I just found your blog and find your candor so refreshing! I too, am confused by the concept of 'not-real' books. As an avid reader living in a smallish house, it always pains me to have to purge books for which space won't allow.
As far as RH, I happen to really like their distressed and neutral look. As some of the other commenters pointed out, a piece here and there is the goal, they just have to display everything together. I think we can all agree that the new look is a dramatic improvement from their former style!
Serena

Southern Aspirations said...

well girly you got quite a response today! I will admit that I like the fourth photo, but what I don't like is how formulaic much of this is. Especially as I, like you, am redoing my home- I DON"T want something that will look dated in 2 years. Appreciate the candor.

Cote de Texas said...

Well, I have a thing for antique books that I absolutely don't read. To me, the book itself is a piece of beauty, a work of art: the worn leather, the gilt lettering, the yellowing and dried out pages - i even like pages that are torn from the cover and held together with twine. so, yes, books ARE to be read, but books can also be an object of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

great article, great chandelier - hadn't seen that one yet.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I loved reading this. I've thought many of the same things myself - and this made me laugh. It reminds me of the Friends episode when Rachael has to lie to Phoebe about where she got her new "apothocary table" from Pottery Barn and says it's an antique. Then she goes over to Ross' apartment and he has the same one. While I love a lot of Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware merchandise and styling, it does get rather ubiquitous. And some of the trends (like those book bundles and BURLAP!) are just silly.

The Matters of Style Girls said...

It's like you've read our minds. We love a good book collection but are always wondering if these people who have 1,000 books have actually read any of them! And so true about the "found" furniture- go "find" it at an antique store or flea market, not at pottery barn!

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