Shopping Around for a Great Look

The Money Times

It's easy and convenient to shop furniture and accessories from a catalog or catalog outlet stores like Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Design Within Reach, Pier 1, Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma Home, and even the big box stores like Target, K-mart, or Wal-Mart. Here's my advice on how to wisely get the best home decorating look by "shopping around."

Remember that catalog stores are highly staged. You're going to see vignettes that are psychologically appealing to buyers. But don't be fooled -- most vignettes will look sterile if you transport them whole cloth into your home. You don't want your interiors to look like everything you own was purchased from one of these stores.

I had a recent visit to Pottery Barn, and based on this trip, here are a few tips:

  1. When I go into a catalog store, I look for the Top 3 items they sell. Don't waste your time getting bogged down in trying to absorb their entire look and design sense. Know that many of their items are poorly designed or are of such mass-produced sterility, they aren't interesting enough to belong in anybody's home -- especially yours.
  2. In Pottery Barn, I was blown away by their Ankara Patchwork Dhurrie Rug. It was a heavenly rug made up of squares of new rug made to look like antique carpet pieces stitched together. Beautiful color, very well made and executed, and lightyears beyond anything else in the store. That's the kind of merchandise you should hone in on, ignoring what clearly isn't very interesting or unique.
  3. Find great pieces in a catalog store and visualize how they will look in your existing or in-progress home settings. Go for an eclectic mix of decorating elements and it's absolutely fine to add the best of the catalog stores' merchandise to higher-end custom furnishings, flea market treasures, and your personal collections. Look for the most interesting things you can possibly find, and avoid things that are "all the rage," like yet another fake deer head or yet another leather club chair that looks like every other club chair in the world.
  4. You'll find an interesting mix of new home products and one-of-a-kind antiques at Anthropologie, and you can take that philosophy with you into your home decor. Mix your new pieces with the old, the mass produced with the unique, the serious with the whimsical. In the end, everything should look comfortable, stimulating, and filled with personality. Avoid making it look like a collection of catalog furnishings.
  5. Some homeowners will only buy iconic furniture, originally fashioned by a famous designer. Design Within Reach specializes in newly manufactured iconic furnishings, but even here, don't just have one iconic piece after another. Your interiors will look silly, like you're living in a Furniture Hall of Fame exhibit. Mix it up and go with folk art and outsider art handmade pieces, mass produced no-name items that are interesting, a few iconic pieces if you must, and lots of old furnishings and accessories that form a warm connective tissue between all your decorating elements. Staying iconic 100% will rob your interior of accessibility and warmth, and that goes with duplicating the entire line look from any catalog store for that matter. Here's some inspiration: The lovely living room design in this photo shows off the eclectic beauty that designer Bunny Williams brings to her projects.
Jay JohnsonComment