Crate&Barrel Turns Vintage Industrial

Aug 25, 2008 by

As the hand-made and independent designer powers grow stronger, it is interesting to see how the big box retailers respond.  It seems that Crate&Barrel is certainly watching the indie pulse closely, as they realize that people want a mixture of elements – old and new – in their interior design.  Lovely reader Sara of the inspirational living blog FromAtoZen sent me an interesting email pointing out Crate&Barrel’s “conversation pieces.”

For example, Crate&Barrel is jumping on the train of letterpress inspiration, made re-popular recently by independent artisans, with their “letterpress” inspired coffee table — which is a mass-manufactured rendition of what we have seen in the handmade scene.  They are also hitching a ride aboard vintage industrial revitalization with their new coffee table, which is an interesting “weave” of industrial materials.  I do like that they are calling these elements “conversation pieces,” which is a great description of the interesting vintage pieces we all have in our home :)

Erin of DesignForMankind recently wrote a very interesting guest post on Decor8 regarding imitation vs. inspiration.  Unfortunately, I think that big boxes, driven by the bottom line, will inevitably jump on any trend bandwagon that has proven successful – as this reduces their risk of investment cost, while increasing the likelihood of solid revenues.  What do you think of Crate&Barrel (and other retailers) in reflecting the trends seen in independent movements?  Does the entire existence of “trends” (think owls, Amy Butler, silhouettes) nullify individualized design?

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  1. Amy

    This is a great post, Grace!… I could blather on but being in headless chicken mode with deadlines I will have to bookmark this for now. I took a moment to read Erin’s guest post you have linked here… she makes excellent points! Good to see the long list of comments/dialogue in response.

    But just a passing thought…. mass produced “conversation pieces”… ha, sounds like an oxymoron! Not exactly a very personal convo when the world at large can buy this stuff by the baker’s dozen and bring it into their disposable trend- of-the month homestead environ… the same people who buy art to match their couch… yipes! No, this stuff is completely devoid of soul.

  2. Grace

    I totally agree — Erin makes really good points in her article, and it makes us think twice about what “inspiration” truly is.

    Amy, good point about the oxymoron of “conversation pieces!” Indeed, conversation pieces are meant to strike up philosophical comments about the uniqueness of the piece, or the story or character behind it. Can you imagine the conversation about a mass-produced piece? “Well, yes, I bought number 998,921 of this piece that looks vintage, but instead was made in a child-labor factory overseas. I saw the Joneses coming home with it yesterday, but I rigged their SUV so they could not get it out of their vehicle. I think this piece represents the soul-less pursuit of consumerism…boxed wine anyone?” (Not that there is anything wrong with boxed wine…)

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