Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fun on the Interwebs: Catalog Living

My name is Kathryn, and I am a house porn addict.

Elle Decor and House Beautiful are my dietary staples (supplemented with the occasional Architectural Digest picked up from Half Price Books and selected back issues of Traditonal Home stolen from my mom), but I do enjoy a Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn catalog as a light snack from time to time. If you view these publications on even a semi-regular basis, you are aware of the fact that the visual design teams that work on these mini-mags can get a bit TOO whimsical in staging rooms for photos. Example: The ubiquitous photo of a marble-topped vanity with clusters of canisters flanking the sink. Because they are hawking the canisters on the same page as the vanity, and because the canister come in an array of sizes, they have to display all of them - and think of a way to justify their presence - in the shot. Hence, THE GIANT GALLON JAR OF Q-TIPS. You look at it and think, "Who buys that many Q-Tips in bulk? And where does one acquire them? Sam's? A medical supply store?"

The folks at have made snarking on these ponderables a full-time job. And I love them for it. Okay, disclaimer: I have a trifle bowl on a bookcase that I have filled with balls of jute twine. Rationalization (or, rather, series of rationalizations): I needed a place to store the bowl, as it didn't fit in a cabinet. It looked naked sitting on top of the bookcase with nothing in it. I hate those wicker ball thingies - they serve no purpose, and collect dust. The twine was the right color (light brown) to blend into the wall color while adding a little bit (not too much) of interest, plus the price was right at a buck per ball at the Target Dollar spot, plus the stuff is danged useful. I use it to secure boxes that are being sent up to the attic, I wrap presents with it (yes, I use brown paper, for the full "Sound of Music" effect). So, you know, judge me if you will. I stand by my one ridiculous foray into the outer reaches of visual design.

And I am hypocritcal enough to laugh at similar efforts made by others.

Some of my favorites from the early days of Catalog Living:

The caption:  Leaving my basket of secondary shells under the table allows me to rotate in new shells at a moment’s notice!

Hon, where’s my string of old-timey buoys? Oh wait, I found them. Hey, lobsters and limes for dinner AGAIN???

Oh that? That’s my Wish Plant. It’s where I clip pictures of people who I want dead.

By the way, for the uninitiated, the premise of Catalog Living is that all of the images featured are rooms in a house owned by a couple named Gary and Elaine.  All of the captions are from Gary and Elaine's perspective.  Also, recently, the CL folks have widened their snarking scope, commenting on photos taken from glossy home decor magazines.  Those submissions don't appear on CL - they are featured on the Web site - but there are links to Curbed on CL.  The imaginary couple in the Curbed submissions are a same-sex couple named Martin and Gareth.
Not everyone "gets" the humor of Catalog Living, my husband being one of them.  But, then, my husband doesn't get my addiction to house porn, either.  I get a lot of eye rolls from him these days (more than usual), because when catalogs arrive and I make note of a particularly ridiculous photo (like the one in a recent Pottery Barn catalog, featuring words scrawled directly on the wall in oversized loopy script, above a headboard), either I start exclaiming, "Ooh, I wonder how long before this makes Catalog Living?" or I run to the computer to see if it has already been added.  And, when they do snark on something that I found snark-worthy, then, yes, I do feel somewhat validated.  Sad, huh?

Maybe even sadder than filling giant glass bowl with string . . . .

No comments: