Mindbender: New Restoration Hardware catalog shakes me to my core
I’ve practically built a career badmouthing Restoration Hardware, a company that hit a low point when it offered a $100 coupon celebrating its unanimous approval of last fall’s bank bailout that somehow managed to come across as simultaneously clueless, condescending and pandering. But I can overlook virtually any character flaw when there’s some kind of redeeming quality; unfortunately, Restoration Hardware’s offering has long felt staid and boring.
A caveat, I think they’ve always done a bang-up job with the bath stuff, especially the lighting and internally lit brushed nickel medicine cabinets. They make me feel pretty. And the folks who worked at Chicago’s North Avenue store have always been very friendly.
But something happened when I looked through the new catalog, a certain spark. It looked different, fresher, the gorgeous photography imparting a sexy glow upon the many vintage-industrial inspired products . As I paged through one “new” product after the next, I began quivering with excitement (practically). And containing myself proved particularly difficult when I laid eyes on the Buckle chair, which they describe as “equestrian inspired.” Frankly the aptly dubbed chair makes me feel like a jockey, and I’m itching to ride it. So to speak. Finally, their new lighting is so industrial, so hulking; it’s vintage except it’s shiny and new. By the time I finished the catalog, even the steamer trunk furniture looked good.
Continued after a peek at my trusty steed . . .
Of course I felt guilty as soon as I’d finished my post-catalog cigarette. As somebody who’s long advocated for people to incorporate vintage items into home decor, how could I live with myself after spending so much time reading that cursed, glossy Restoration Hardware catalog? I’ve always suspected that when large chain stores start offering products first developed or made popular by smaller businesses, the outcome reveals the David vs. Goliath story for what it is, a fairytale.
But maybe I’m wrong!! Maybe it’s OK to buy those rustic looking stools from Restoration Hardware instead of checking out Andersonville’s Roost first? Maybe buying from the big boys helps everybody and the benefits, like, trickle down or something? The answer boils down to what such an introduction does to the overall size of the potential market and how it impacts demand, exemplified by the old Starbucks question: Did the Seattle coffee behemoth’s explosive growth really hurt independent shops? Or did the corporate giant just hurt the weaker shops while creating awareness that expanded the overall pie for everybody? Only a paid journalist spends time determining if there exists a consensus among experts based on the available data.
Oh who am I kidding? While I’m concerned about our nation’s vintage, antique and salvage dealers, my true concern about these slick shiny “salvaged” finds springs from a far more selfish place. Because when particularly trendy products hits the chains, it means the clock is a-tickin’ on their coolness factor, and I hate having that awkward conversation. You know the one? Where you try to convince new friends that you’ve always loved using vintage stoplights as floor lamps and in fact, did NOT buy them at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
So don’t do what I did. Be strong. While it’s entirely possible you’ll never find that perfect vintage industrial pendant to hang in your dining room, you’ll enjoy the hunt (assuming you’re Buddhist). Resist the urge to make your place instantly gorgeous by ordering brand new “vintage” lighting and furniture from the big cats. Instead surrender to the chase, to the thrilling weekends scouring antique shops in the middle of nowhere. Thrill to the possibility of spending cold rainy November afternoons at country auctions. Relish the moment you find that vintage bus depot sign, only to see the tag says SOLD.
It’s ironic, but worth it. Because if you really want that special vintage piece; if you really put it out there and share your intentions with the universe, you’ll find it (maybe). And you deserve to be unique and distinct and special, unshackled from the chains that bind us with their uniformity. We all do, I think.
But damn it if that’s not one hot catalog.