Neiman Marcus Home: I’m perplexed (Plus! What does painting the den have to do with House Beautiful?)

Prologue: Refinishing my (much painted) vintage steel tanker desk is taking longer than I had expected when I started the wretched project a few weeks ago, but I’m in the home stretch, and I’m already planning the next step: transforming the extra bedroom (above) into a den. That’s right. A den. A man’s haven. A place to smoke, drink and write at the big industrial desk. But also a room with a comfy couch where I can curl up and watch my stories. My first inclination was to simply replace the bed with the newly refinished (and hopefully spectacular) desk, buy an old, beat-up couch on Craig’s List and call it a day. But I had forgotten that most old sofas are bloated, sagging, faded and floral. I guess design matters to me – even when it comes to an old couch. Besides, how many chances does one have to totally re-think a room? I’ve even decided to paint the walls, finally replacing a grayish blue I’ve never loved. I’m thinking about using a dark gray-brown. (But will it look good with the naked steel desk)? Which brings me to today’s post-prologue, pre-post paragraph: Color Me Happy House Beautiful.

Color Me Happy House Beautiful

In House Beautiful’s regular color section, interior designers give their opinion on a range of colors. It’s a sophisticated, consistently excellent reader takeaway, and I’ve saved more than a few issues as resources. It’s also the reason I skipped the Google search and went directly to Housebeautiful.com to research brown. I liked interior designer Kerry Joyce’s choice, Farrow & Ball London Stone 6. Says Joyce: This is a warm, taupey brown. Not too dark and not too light. It’s the color of raw unbleached Irish linen, of sand and shadow, of French limestone. Actually, it’s like a Swedish brown, if there were such a thing. It has that beautifully grayed tone. I’d bring in a grayed blue as an accent. I’m not sure what that means, but it has the same wise, thoughtful ring as all the designer picks. Surprisingly, most conjure a pretty accurate mental image of the color they describe. What I saw at House Beautiful’s website lead to today’s post: Neiman Marcus Home: I’m perplexed.

Neiman Marcus Home: I’m perplexed

When I was on House Beautiful’s website, I saw this ad for Neiman Marcus:

My first thought was the the vintage craze had really gone mainstream. Which means it’ll be over soon if it’s not already. Like recessions, trends are easily predictable based on common sense intuition, but specific start and stop dates can only be defined in hindsight. But clicking on Neiman ad didn’t take me to anything resembling the vintage Union Jack. Check out the merch I was surprised (and kind of horrified) to find:

I don’t hate the blue tables.

See what I mean? While it’s true that Neiman Marcus is a department store, the website still feels unacceptably busy, and it took me several minutes before I finally found the French Industrial collection. Neiman Marcus home page → Home tab →What’s New→Fall Trends→French Industrial→View All→Union Jack Giclee.

And in only six steps. Come on guys! It’s the Internet age. If I didn’t already have this post in mind, I would have checked Ebay for something  comparable and then inevitably gotten distracted by one of their recommendations and promptly forgotten all about the graphic Union Jack. That means Neiman would lose $795 because of their (non-gaming oriented) obstacle course of a website, although truth be told, I didn’t buy the flag anyway. I’m not opposed to paying $795 for a great piece of art, but for this? Refinishing the desk has really opened my eyes, and I’m practically rubbing my hands together at the thought of making something that looks way cooler (and cheaper). Maybe framing an inexpensive vintage flag? But I digress, Neiman’s home section is nearly as puzzling as the home page. Although some of the products look exactly like Restoration Hardware’s new French Industrial style, many don’t look very FI (pronounced effy) at all. Check it out:

Which ones of these things is different from the others?

I’m not sure I buy the bedroom in the lower right photo as French Industrial. Am I wrong? I can follow the logic thread, but it doesn’t work for me. Perhaps there are too many cooks (buyers) in the kitchen. It’s like Thai restaurants that serve sushi. Fair or not, I’m dubious. Having said that, the sheer number of products Neiman Marcus carries statistically guarantees that some will be cool. In fact, there’s enough coolness to convince me that Neiman has some very talented buyers on staff. Please enjoy this musical accompaniment as you scroll through some of my favorite Neiman home products. (Maybe get yourself a Diet Coke first). And if you have a few minutes, please let me know what you think of Neiman’s home section.

For some reason, this chair reminds me of Domino Magazine. Nice huh?

A bit ominous, but I do believe I like it.

I’d want these more if they weren’t popping up everywhere.

I really dig this chair. In fact, I love it more every time I look at it.

Epilogue:

Come to think of it, Neiman Marcus reminds me of Z Gallerie, which has reopened in their former North Avenue space. I do love browsing at Z Gallerie, so I guess I’ll have to make a trip to Neiman Marcus Home and see how they compare in person. BTW, it looks like Z Gallerie is also channeling Restoration:

A look that’s becoming ubiquitous.

Speaking of Z, I like these, but I think this trend’s finito already. (Only time will tell).

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14 Responses to “Neiman Marcus Home: I’m perplexed (Plus! What does painting the den have to do with House Beautiful?)”

  1. I just think nieman Marcus is too expensive for most people’s budget. I think they’ve added a lot of modern pieces but still cater to an older more conservative buyer. And is any giant dept store chain going to stay on top of trends? Probably not. they need 12 months lead time to get things manufactured and shipped from china so there will always be a lag. I think the usability of their website navigation is not too bad, it’s the link from the ad that failed. They shoud have linked to the union Jack directly as the landing page or the French industrial page. That is a marketing fail.

  2. What are you going to put on your tanker desk once it is gleaming metal? I use silicone spray from the hardware store. It makes the metal somewhat hydrophobic. Carry on!

  3. Neiman Marcus ceased being Neiman Marcus long ago. I received last week their catalog featuring some of the items you show and I find the Buddha Head lamp very offensive. Maybe whomever picked out that lamp should back and order a Jesus lamp and see what the reaction is……

  4. Tate,
    Thanks again for your wonderful coverage of the Sept 18-19 estate sale. It was a success way beyond our expectations and more. For your “flag” idea…how about finding a vintage flag, maybe of your ancestral country(s) and stretch it over an artist’s canvas stretcher?

  5. Hey Chicagogirl, I agree, it’s a marketing fail. The prices are fairly high, but I have to assume the quality is high. As you can see, I do like many things there.

    Robert: Of course, I thought of you when I wrote this post. I kind of agree about the Buddha lamp. While I’m not offended by religious kitsch, creating a table lamp from a Buddha bust just seems disrespectful. But how about a George W. Bush bust table lamp? My brother has a President Jimmy Carter bust / planter, which I love. (If I can ever find a Nixon one, I plan to swap it out as a practical joke. Any help is much appreciated, as it will be very funny).

    Diana: Great idea! Great, great, great. I’m doing it. Thanks. (I ordered a flag already).

    Bruce: Hey man! I’m using some kind of high gloss spray designed for metal. Is that the same thing that you’re describing?

  6. Bruce: BTW, I don’t know if the desk will actually gleam. It’s taking on more of a burnished look. Still, I think it looks pretty decent. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish and post a few pics soon.

  7. Yes, good point. Thanks for blogging, I always enjoy the posts.

  8. Hi, Tate. I would describe the bedroom suite in the group of 4 (lower right) as French Art Deco or Art Moderne rather than FI. The red Queen Anne Wing chair is fabulous. Get a nice rectangular ottoman in the same or in matte black upon which to rest your weary tootsies. We’ll see you 48 hours after you fall into the chair and into a deeeeeep, ressstttfffuull sleeeepp.

  9. I love the red leather wing chair, myself.

  10. Tate, this is scary. I read half your post and then went to NM’s site to see how long it took me to find the section…I thought that bit was hysterical. As I’m going through their products, I think to myself…this is so Z Gallerie…then I get back to read the rest of your post and low and behold! Great minds think alike :) Some of these items I could also imagine in sections of Bed Bath and Beyond. I kept thinking, it’s all about how pieces are put together and the context of collections and the power of someone who understands merchandising. I saw a lamp, rug or side table that if I viewed them in the context of Jayson Home or ABC carpet I’d love it, but assembled with all these other pieces, they didn’t hold my interest. Design is similar to art or music, the minute some big company tags a movement or style, it’s often the death knell. As much as I love many of the pieces at Restoration Hardware, it depresses me to no end one of my favorite styles is now all in one place, and perfectly reproduced and available. It sort of takes the fun of the chase out of it all. I just visited the remodeled store for the first time on Friday. It left me feeling a little gray.

  11. This must be a Union Jack “moment”. I saw this not long before I read your post:
    http://www.designspongeonline.com/2010/09/before-after-mackenzies-dresser-joannes-cabinet.html
    and then saw a great-looking framed Union Jack textile in the window at George Lowell on Clark St…

  12. Thanks Joe. I think you’re onto something. Just last week I snapped a photo of Union Jack displayed prominently in the window at George Lowell: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strangeclosets/5051851638/

  13. Neiman Marcus ceased being Neiman Marcus long ago. I received last week their catalog featuring some of the items you show and I find the Buddha Head lamp very offensive. Maybe whomever picked out that lamp should back and order a Jesus lamp and see what the reaction is…..