Monday, April 16, 2012

Mordor's Department Store

For the past two years, the arrival of Restoration Hardware's, The Book, has occasioned small bouts of ridicule.  It stared when James Lileks and Ed Driscoll noted the bland, beige Depression chic of it all.  Sandbox, however, came up with my favorite description, "yuppified goth." A few months ago, RH opened a new mega store in Houston.  It keeps with the Depression/goth theme.  Yasha and I have debated whether it is Modor's department store or the Addam's Family Tuscan villa.

Behind the main store is RH's Baby and Child shop, which is certainly where Morticia would have bought Wednesday and Pugsley's nursery ensembles.  In a touch of delightful irony, next to the nursery shop is a trendy cupcake bakery, Sparkles, with its pink script neon sign.

The spring books arrived on Friday.
Perhaps RH is having sales problems.  I thought that the 3 pound book was a once a year occurrence.  Now we have a 3 pound Spring Book, and two smaller books, one for outdoor furnishings and another for Big Style in Small Spaces.  Previously, the outfit made a point of sending out one large book rather than seasonal smaller catalogues.  They were going green--philosophically, not visually.  Until this Spring catalogue there hadn't been a hint of color in their wares.  Now they've added some navy back into the line.  The smaller outdoor book has some colored cushions and the cover even has a blue tint.  

But what intrigues me is that they are still holding to the consumerism of meaning.  One of the things I often post on is the when Nietzsche pronounced God dead problem. (See links above.)  Once God was dead everyone had to find purpose on their own.  Restoration Hardware to the rescue!  It sells significance retail.  They've backed down from their fall Book which compared design to the heat of battle.  Now they draw inspiration from Steve Job's comments about living your life to the fullest, not being trapped by dogma, and having the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Before even considering whether living your life to the fullest has anything at all to do with the couch you buy, such appeals to "choose your own path" are a bit ironic for a retail outlet that sells reproductions.  Compounding the absurdity, the dogma RH seeks to break, their "own way"--it's unfinished furnishings.  They call it their "Deconstructed" line.  That's right, to release yourself from the bondage of dogma, they offer expensive and classic-but-half-finished wing chairs.

This "innovation" prompted a delightful thread on a girlfriend's FB page. They have suggestions for the next line for RH: Destruction.  It is a line inspired by frat house furniture around the country.  Featured in the line would be couches and chairs with molded and mildewed foam divots able to support beer cans and creative lighting involving wire coat hangers, dry cleaner bags, and a Bic lighter.  RH could bill the line as helping you connect with your uninhibited inner child.  They could lift the theme and text from the inspirational speeches in Animal House.  "Nothing is over until we say it is."  "Where's the spirit?  Where's the guts?!" At least the call for a useless and futile act of defiance would provide RH a little credit for self-awareness.


Jennifer Shaff said...

Really funny. Loved the article. I hope that RH calls you to head up their new line!

AHLondon said...

If they call me, I'll need you for a consult.
By the way, the poor picture I have of the store--its the one with the 4 page spread in The Book. It is really that dark. When it was going up, many of us Houstonians thought that they just hadn't painted the stucco yet. I don't think they painted it at all, in fact. It is that industrial wet-cement color. The pictures don't do justice to the beast. It's brooding scale juxtaposed with the cupcake bakery and the palm trees that line Highland Village center. The flagship shop is a sight.

Anonymous said...

"Addam's Family Tuscan villa" - lol! No self-respecting kid will want RH furniture. One mom I know was painting her daughter's bedroom in the shade of pink her daughter picked out. She did 2 walls, decided she can't take it anymore, and painted the rest white. Told her daughter to put pictures on other walls.
Thanks for the continued linkage.

Ethan Smith said...
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