How Retailers Give Names to Furniture

published Apr 14, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Would the Billy by any other name be as sweet? What’s in a name when it comes to furniture? Obviously, our purchasing decisions are driven primarily by comfort, style, quality and (for some more than others) a retailer’s overall brand cache. But marketers and branding experts put a lot of stock in the value of product naming as a way to create an emotional connection with the potential buyer. A product’s name can conjure up a trendy era, style, or even mindset. Names can make a product seem more masculine or feminine, depending on the target clientele. Names can also evoke a sense of exotic or ethnic allure.

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Crate & Barrel
Crate & Barrel furniture tends to have names that sound strong, assertive and bold (Marsden, Portico, Troy and Axis), perhaps to build consumer trust in the products as contemporary but also timeless and well constructed. Crate & Barrel’s director of product and sourcing development, told the Associated Press that the store tries to “convey an emotional connotation to the product — quirky, clever or provenance — which we hope will resonate with the customer.” Sometimes retailers will name a product after a famous person. Crate & Barrel’s upholstery buyer says she named a wing chair Astaire “because it’s covered in soft shimmery leather that reminded me of an elegant ball gown; an old-school, iconic dancing reference.” When the store named a sofa after a living celebrity, however, it backfired. The Ian sofa was named after Studio 54 co-founder and hipster hotelier Ian Schrager. Apparently Ian wasn’t amused and his lawyers issued a cease-and-desist letter. The sofa has since been renamed Aiden, not coincidentally one of the most popular boys’ names in the country right now.

Pottery Barn Kids
Indeed, naming products after trendy baby names is an obvious strategy. Pottery Barn Kids’ bedding collections have names like Emma, Hannah and Hayley. The Madeline and Kendall furniture collections have replaced the once prominent Madison line. The furniture at Pottery Barn Kids, which is obviously marketed toward new parents, is clearly divided along gender lines, with the Thomas collection more traditionally masculine (sharper lines, bolder colors) than the Camilla line, which is softer and more stereotypically feminine.

Room & Board
Like Crate & Barrel, Room & Board tilts toward a more gender-neutral or masculine naming strategy, with names that evoke a sense of classic masculinity (the Cameron, Barton, Frederick and Townsend collections) and Hollywood glamour (Hutton, Dean, Orson and Maddox). Some of the pieces appeal to the buyer’s literary or intellectual side, with names like Holden, Harper and Hawthorne.

Design Within Reach
The majority of products sold at DWR carry their original vintage names, often associated with the designer who created them. The retailer’s own collections often have futuristic names that sound vaguely technological, such as Neo and Brix.

This chain’s naming strategy fits perfectly with its boho-chic aesthetic. Names like Mathilde and Patrizia are romantically foreign; quirky, but not too unfamiliar or strange because of their American parallels Matilda and Patricia. Other items are more ethnic or exotic, such as the Springbok bench, Bodhi desk and Kasbah coffee table, which conjure up images of supermodels trekking across the globe in faux-vintage sundresses and pre-faded lace-up boots. Anthropologie has wisely embraced an effortlessly chic Francophile aesthetic, too, with its Atelier chesterfield and Amelie sofa.

IKEA, of course, is the king of furniture naming. The company uses its own special naming system. According to Wikipedia, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is dyslexic and decided proper names and words, rather than a code, would make the products easier to remember. Upholstered furniture, coffee tables and media storage have Swedish place names, while beds, wardrobes, and hall furniture have Norwegian place names. Bookcases are named for occupations (with the exception of the ubiquitous Billy!). For a full list check out Wikipedia | IKEA.

What are your favorite furniture names? What do they mean to you (if anything)?