Florid Language: Restoration Hardware's New Catalog

A few weeks ago the latest Restoration Hardware catalog was (with some great effort, I'm sure) forced through my mail slot to land with an audible THUMP. This 382-page tome — the company's first ever "Source Book" — is full of language that is as grandiloquent and imposing as its oversized furnishings.

The descriptions that accompany Restorations Hardware's images are reminiscent of the J Peterman catalogs that were spoofed on Seinfeld, with their florid descriptions of expensive and often obscure merchandise. In those catalogs, products are sketched in colored pencil, presumably to convey that the J Peterman name is so "established" that a buyer could go on faith, without photographic evidence, that a Gatsby bomber jacket would look just as good in real life. Restoration Hardware has spared us of that particular pretension but the catalog's linguistic flourishes are almost as hilarious. The description of the Baluster Dining Table (Image #2) is typical:

"During the Renaissance, when the French city of Lyon was a center of the silk trade, an elaborate system of covered courtyards and corridors allowed silk merchants to transport their precious wares, rain or shine. Our extension table's base was inspired by a salvaged wooden balustrade that flanked a stairway in one of those courtyards."

Eat your heart out, J Peterman!

For a major retailer, Restoration Hardware is working hard to distance itself from its position as a corporate chain, with every other item is "hand-forged", "hand-carved", "hand-turned" and "hand-stitched". While the pieces are all new, some are built with reclaimed wood and many are touted as faithful reproductions of antique and vintage fare. The furniture is uniformly whitewashed and weathered, as if it had drifted ashore after years of battering in a (very salty) ocean. Among the company's sources of inspiration are "grand circa-1900 train stations," the Han Dynasty of 2,000 years ago, early 20th century classicism, 1890s Belgium, Renaissance cartography, and (my favorite) "pre-Renaissance Spanish rejeros". My other favorite is the reproduction of a "100-year old Hungarian sleigh" with it's "tea-stained burlap cushion".

What do you think of the new Restoration Hardware?

Images: Restoration Hardware