Shopping: Restoration Hardware Redux

The Fall Restoration Hardware catalog just came my way.  Just so’s you know, I didn’t actually seek it out; it was given to me – hidden, really – in a pile of highly-desirable reading material (The Sunday New York Times, National Enquirer, etc.) so of course I checked it out as I made my way through the stack.

Holy Cow.  Didn’t think Restoration Hardware could get any more bizarre (see previous post on the matter), but somehow, the CEO has managed it.  Yes, I’m blaming the CEO for this mess, because he makes it quite clear that it is all his doing in his Letter to the World, found on the opening pages of the catalog.  He explains Restoration Hardware’s new direction, fresh start, new beginning and so forth with the same level of understatement he brings to furniture design.  Which is to say he is shouting your face off about how amazing Restoration Hardware is, adding insult to injury by sharing his philosophy with us.  Much like the work of all the greatest fill-in-the-blanks who ever lived.  And I quote,

“…Pablo Picasso, one of the world’s preeminent artists and influencers of the 20th century [in case you didn’t know just who Pablo Picasso is], repeatedly broke down stylist conventions and was undaunted by the art world’s status quo.  His irreverent spirit…was unfettered as he pursued his calling and followed his muse – great art that answered to no one, yet inspired everyone…”

It goes on from here.  Check out the full-length Letter to the World here and see for yourself.  The weird, even ironic, aspect of Mr. Friedman’s remake (inspired by inconoclastic art, no less) of Restoration Hardware is that every single thing in their catalog is a knock-off.  They actually sell a giant linen-upholstered egg chair, knocking off two birds – Jacobsen and Vervoordt – at once, with a dash of obese Wal-martian to give it extra American oomph.

Once again every piece is very very large.  Even the reproduction accessories.  Linen manufacturers are probably down on their knees this very minute thanking their lucky stars that Mr. Gary Friedman CEO has such an oversized sense of scale – just think of all that extra yardage he’s been purchasing.

Don’t miss the Giant Clock!

Giant Dining Area

“Carpe Diem!” – Gary Friedman, CEO


The problem with scale is especially disheartening, since adding a very large or very tiny or very out-of-scale-in-general piece can take decor up a few notches instantly.  But this principle is seriously undermined when the Supersize School of Decorating is applied across the board.  Where’s the element of surprise in an oversized whatever (I’m thinking of my own beloved giant vintage pliers here) when everything in the entire room looks like it belongs in the land of giants?  Not to mention Restoration Hardware’s rampant reproduction of items best left in the past.  Vintage accessories and vintage-esque accessories are different things entirely.  Yet Mr. Gary Friedman CEO insists on referring to the “one-of-a-kind items such as our grand 5-foot French Tower Clock” as though he doesn’t know the difference.  It seems strange that no one on Mr. Gary Friedman CEO’s team has pointed out to him that selling multiple reproductions of clocks, no matter the size, inherently disqualifies that clock from being one-of-a-kind.  And I don’t know about you, but my McMansion has been sorely lacking in reproduction calipers, big enough to pull a small elephant through a doorway.  The fact that there are multiple versions of these one-of-a-kind calipers in other McMansions only makes me want them more.


The frustrating thing is that American-inspired decor, with a dash of the exotic, European or otherwise, can stand alone.  Think of Ralph Lauren, or, heaven help us, even the reinvigorated Tommy Hilfiger (who, contrary to the F. Scott Fitzgerald axiom, is enjoying his second act).  They don’t feel the need to race around Belgium, France, England and Italy finding cool crap to knock off.  And even if they did choose to re-create a piece or two, something tells me they would avoid re-sizing it to the level of bloat.

Ralph Lauren: he only goes overboard on firewood and candles.  And that’s okay.

Lastly, and I say this as an Axel Vervoordt fan (if such a term is even appropriate) and as someone with a very limited palette, those Restoration Hardware rooms, one after another filled with gray furniture, are just depressing.  Somehow the combination of non-color with the massive proportions just makes me want to pop a Prozac(tm) and find a nice human-sized couch to lie down on pronto.  Maybe the reborn Restoration Hardware has been underwritten by the pharmaceutical industry.  Now that makes sense: they want to depress us so they can drug us.  Now all we have to do is keep eating and growing until our girth matches our couches – no doubt there’s a drug for this too.  Corporate power meets creative power and the world is one big mass of gray.

Where’s Picasso when you need him?

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