On December 13, 2008, the LA Times ran a feature about thrifty shopping with two world-renowned interior designers and one modern museum curator at big box, discount home stores like Cost Plus World Market, Big Lots, and Tuesday Morning. The paper invited Kelly Wearstler, Philippe Starck, and Brooke Hodge to spend some time perusing these discount retailers, all the while scouring the shelves to purchase desirable home goods on a self-imposed budget. So Ms. Wearstler hit the aisles at Cost Plus, Mr. Starck headed out with his family en tow to Big Lots, and Ms. Hodge spent some time pouring over the wears at Tuesday Morning.
Not surprisingly, a pattern emerged in all three shoppers — they all flocked to the understated pieces that could be incorporated seamlessly into the bigger picture. And I agree. If you want to make something look more expensive and more individual than it really is, the key is to pick carefully, and use an edited eye. It’s like building a base, and a simple, yet solid foundation increases any object’s longevity. For example, Philippe suggests buying the bowl that looks like a bowl over a trendier shape because iconic style translates tastefully, regardless of the price tag. He also avoids buying anything in color or patterned, which can look decidedly cheap.
Other patterns? Well let’s see, there were pleasant surprises, such as Ms. Hodge’s discovery of a Marimekko journal for $1.99 (she was disappointed there was only one left) or Mr. Starck’s glee at a children’s folding table with four chairs for just $39.99. And all three individuals also tended toward products that were reminiscent of other designers (Wearstler chose a throw blanket patterned in the style of a Missoni print) or specific styles (Starck strived for a Scandinavian look). And finally, they all carry with them a bargain shopping mind set — go for the understated piece over the trendy piece, edit your selections, and shop with a purpose.
I hope you’ll read the article for yourself (click on any of the names in the first paragraph), it’s a fun time, and it’s comforting to know that even big names in art and design can still find joy and tasteful design in the mass produced world of bargain shopping. Ahhh, warm fuzzies.