Talk about timing!
A day after I read Lileks’s “The Color of No Money” in National Review (not available online), I get a Restoration Hardware Catalog. “Restoration Hardware catalog,” says Lileks “[is] the most depressing article to arrive in the mailboxes this month.” Apparently, it’s intentional: company CEO Gary Friedman sees their new look as a response to “the collapse of global economy”. Oooh how relevant he sounds! I mean, I can see why some arty types would be insecure about their intellect and all, but do we really need to marry room decor to post-Marxism?
No, we don’t, because, as Lileks points out, Sears Roebuck catalog c. 1934 was bursting with color:
Times were hard, but the trees were still green, the flowers still bright, the sky still blue. If you are headed to hell in a handbasket, why not tie a ribbon to the handle?
A much better attitude for turbulent times! See, fashion does not need to be in sync with economic cycle. Why wallow with doom and gloom when you have exciting things, like Technicolor going on? Lileks adds:
Colors rise and fall in popularity. They’re the visual equivalent of carbon dating: When you see a picture of an office with teal, puce, and mauve cubicles, you know you are in Tootsie era of interior design. Those terrible twins, harvest gold and avocado green, tell you the appliance hailed from the Nixon/Ford era. Brown and orange: the slump-shouldered trough of the Carter years. Turquoise and pink: Nifty Fifties. No one can chart the exact moment when a color slips out of vogue, but one day you look around and realize that the entire palette has shifted.
I’m not ready to generalize from the Restoration Hardware catalog to entire culture, but… it certainly is an odd catalog. There is no color in it. None! Whatsoever! Lileks describes Restoration pallet as “death, decay, rot, ennui, collapse and brown”. Sounds like Urban Decay cosmetics. In 1997 I owned a shimmery gray lipstick of theirs named Hell’s Bell. An ex roommate of mine owns it now. I hope she still enjoys it because what use a mother of two has for such trinkets? Urban Decay hails from the heart of “irrational exuberance” 90s — founded in 1996.
Unlike Urban Decay, Restoration Hardware doesn’t market the wildest tints of cockroach and asphalt to post-teens. And so Restoration Hardware colors their items beige. Nevertheless, some of their products sound rather macabre. Right of the top of my head I can name several takers for the replica of a 19th century French dental chair.
Those takers might have grown out of black, I must add, but they didn’t exactly grow into Gary Friedman’s pallet. I don’t think they’ll have any use for the off white couches that populate his catalog.
Also, what’s with replicas and molds? I’m talking about their cast resin horns and antlers “hand finished for exceptional realism”. I’m sorry, but sometimes I do care for authenticity. If there is a scull of a dead animal on nailed a wall, the owner should have the decency to kill the animal… or at least have an ancestor kill him. If the scull was found at a swap meet or an estate sale, the it’s allowed to hang, because it can be argued that the item was acquired in a course of some sort of a hunt. But molds from a store in a mall? Channel your inner Sarah Palin!
To go back to my original point about arty types trying to appear smart. Gary Freidman greats the readers of his latest issue with a quote from Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. Who’s Albert Szent-Gyorgyi? I didn’t know, and I’m glad interior designers brought him to my attention. A couple of months from now Nobel Price Laureate who discovered vitamin C, advanced our understanding of cancer and heart disease, and fought in WWII Resistance will still be a man worth remembering. But the recession will be over. Than we’ll be wrecking our heads trying to rid of that desaturated ottoman.