Sunday, December 30, 2007

Restoration Hardware in my Pottery Barn

Ladies, I know this will come as no surprise to you, but gentlemen, make no mistake...Size does matter. Regardless of what you've heard, it's quite obvious that if you are a true American, you must aspire to have really big furniture. I mean overstuffed, bloated, sofas...
Immense dressers...

And dining room tables capable of hosting an entire Viking raiding party...

I don't mean to suggest that there's anything wrong with this. Oh, I could try to connect the dots. You know...Mass mailings of catalogs from companies like those mentioned in this post's title create a desire for the opulance and splendor of "The Wellington" or "The Turner" collection to fill bedrooms or dining rooms and thus people buy huge homes outside their means in order to accomodate the huge size of this furniture using tricky lending packages they really don't understand and which eventually end in foreclosure creating a crisis of national proportion.

No, I won't blame that crisis on companies like those named above. Furniture doesn't drive home sales, obviously. However, the standard of living suggested in the catalogs published by these companies is certainly not middle class, and yet, well...that's what really gets me. I mean, how did I end up on their mailing list? One would think that with all the access to information we have these days, companies would better target their mailing of glossy, clearly expensive catalogs by accessing home sales records and mailing only to those homes of 3000 square feet or more. And yet, here I sit with over 30 catalogs a year from no less than five different companies all of whom manufacture furniture so large it wouldn't even fit through my front door.

Of course, the size of the furniture isn't the only thing disproportionate about these pieces. Take a look at their prices???!! $179 for a measly nightstand? Did I miss something here? I mean, these are mass-produced pieces of furniture, right?? And if it's really big, it's probably "Assemble it yourself" quality.

Or maybe I'm just looking at this the wrong way. Maybe the furniture isn't bloated, immense, or obese. Maybe it's comfy, homey, roomy, enveloping, a bosom. That'd make sense. Most of us would like to nestle our heads back there again. Maybe if they sold it to me that way I'd like it better. Instead of naming their furniture lines after the blue-blooded, landed gentry who traipsed the English heather a century or so ago, why not anthropomorphize it?

Look at this:Now, that's comfy looking, homey. Why not say this sofa is from the "Buxom Chest" collection and comes only in "creamy milkmaid"? That seems reasonable and certainly helps me understand why I'd buy this sofa more than "The Charleston Collection."

Or what about this one:

In a nod to Monty Python, I'd say this couch is from the "Huge Tracts of Land" collection and comes in a beautiful "Bloody Lipstick." Again, at least I can see that, and laugh at it as I max out my credit card.

Or it's just me, right? It's my problem. I'm just a miserable old curmudgeon. (Is that redundant? Doubly so?) Sure, I could be envious of those who have "Huge Tracts of Land" and "Buxom Chests", but I truly think there's something more here. It's an entire American obsession with size. In our bodies, we want to be thin, trim, fit, but our appetites deny us this. The land of plenty is too much for us. We succumb to its cornucopias. Plates of food large enough for two people and then some. Cars the size of small busses. Movie theaters large enough to hold 24 screens (though said screens are barely bigger than a large screen TV). Acres of parking lots at malls the size of small townships. We have it all. But think about it. What do we do? We complain about it. "It's too crowded." "The food is bland." "The blindspot is too big." Or my favorite, spoken by an employee at a local Movie-emporium, "I hate working here."

I guess what I'd like to suggest is the tired epiphany that, bigger isn't better. (This post, big as it is, is an excellent example of that truism.) It doesn't make us any happier, more satisfied, or better fed. Although, sitting here in my small sofa with my wife's feet contending for space with this laptop...I guess a bigger sofa would make things a bit more comfy.


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Jesse M said...

This post reminds me of Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, a sort of phenomenology of the spaces we inhabit. It certainly doesn't talk much about huge foyers with ponderous furniture... it talks more about life in nooks and crannies of old houses, and it compares those small spaces with very primal experiences, like nests and burrows. It'll make you nostalgic for the small, intimate spaces you enjoyed as a child... if you can get past the ridiculously dense French philosophy prose.

(which, I confess, I never did... I've only ever gotten about a third of the way through the book)

Leslie said...

Nestled here in my 900 sq.ft. apartment, I hear you. Each and every thing we bring into our tiny home has to be carefully considered, since space is at a premium. Yesterday, we got rid of our television set, and in its stead liberated our piano from a cramped back room. It's beautiful how having less can lend the feeling of having so much more. Though I knock my knees against piled stacks of books and bang my elbows against bookshelf-narrowed walkways (Perhaps get rid of some books? ..nah, they don't count.), I actually like living in such close quarters and requiring a mindfulness about what we choose to possess. Because it's funny: The less we let ourselves accumulate... the less we seem to "need."

Unknown said...

Delightfully cynical, especially given the nature of the mass marketing. Today, they can target even more appropriately given the amount of information that Zillow and others have gather on homes and addresses. Why tickle your aspirations for an authentic Arthurian round table 5 yards in diameter when your home would be a challenge for Ikea to decorate? Good design is hard work, no matter the medium.