How Beige Was My Valley

Restoration Hardware is shedding – or perhaps shredding – the “restoration” part for deconstructionism, and boldly proclaim in their latest catalog (after yammering some bs about Argentinian nobility – wha? – and mirrors),

Witness what destruction hath wrought.

Well, Lileks and Ed Driscoll both have been taking a look, and destruction hath wrought beige.

I can’t decide if it’s beige, or tobacco stains, though. Years ago I had a tenant who chain-smoked and her natural habitat had turned the color in that photo. Lileks nails it, though,

Apologies if the bright, vivid colors sear your eyes. The dead muted palette has a purpose: the preface specifically ties the new look to “the global economic collapse,” and seems to suggest you should buy these things so you can position yourself as an aesthetic curator of the best of pre- and post-industrial civilization.

Not that this is new. Back in the early 1990s the NY Times home decor supplement featured page after page of plaster walls that had been distressed to look like they had been through a Vesuvius eruption and back.

Ed Driscoll, on the other hand of the Restoration Hardware “grand 5-Foot French Tower Clock, a reproduction of an early 20th-century timepiece from the village of Bray-Sur-Seine in the Ile-de-France region” (and who would doubt it? the clock says so!) “that once graced a stone tower in Northern France” (see above – it will set you back $1,495 plus tax and shipping, that’s US$, not francs – but hey, you can SEE the ROMAN NUMERALS) sees it as a symptom of the New Depression fad,

We know now that a great deal of the punitive tone of the ancien regime’s media for the past couple years first bubbled out of the JournoList, but was there also some meeting a few months ago where catalog copywriters also decided that, “Screw it, Christmas sales will likely suck like a Hoover this year, nobody’s buying anything, the GOP could take back Congress, life stinks, so let’s just write the craziest stuff we can think of and put it out there. Hey, at least we’ll have cool tearsheets in our scrapbooks to show off when looking for new jobs, when the economy finally does pick up.” Or perhaps they simply tried to imagine the mindset of the average Obama-voting Prius-driving resident of Palo Alto and Marin, and wrote accordingly.

I received the Restoration Hardware catalog a couple of days ago and threw it away after seeing they had more of the same “stuff” they have been doing recently”: oversized, pretentious, extremely expensive while impractical stuff.

Some of the furnishings are downright creepy, like the 1850 French dentist chair, which they describe as

Fully functional, the chair swivels 360 degrees and tilts back to multiple positions from upright to reclined via settings in the arm, just like the original.

Who wouldn’t want to sit at that chair, while watching Marathon Man? “Oh, don’t worry. I’m not going into that cavity.”

And how about a full set of cast resin horns and antlers “hand finished for remarkable realism” to bring out your inner Georgia O’Keefe? No, Georgia’s colors are too vivid. Maybe Buffalo Bill instead? He did his share of shooting out West.

Come to think of it, the creepy furnishings and dirt-stained palette go well with the New Depression fad: Dust Bowl colors for a Dust Bowl mindset.

Bring back the old palette, Restoration Hardware guys, and give up the fake antiques.

(Note to self: ditch the sofas’ beige slipcovers and replace them with red ones.)

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