ope. It’s not the white slipcovered sofa they popularized in the ‘80s. It’s something you’ve seen countless times. Something you can’t even buy from their catalogue.
What is it? Lifestyle. It’s the Pottery Barn lifestyle that entices, seduces and eventually convinces you to buy their products. Think about the last time you perused one of their catalogues. What did you see? A sumptuous leather wing back chair. Next to it, a stack of vintage suitcases. Balanced atop it a brandy snifter containing a swirl of amber liquid. A tasseled throw blanket is casually tossed over the arm of the chair. Beyond this cozy scene, a bookcase overflowing with leather-bound antique books and curious looking vintage vases. On the floor, a Persian rug with honeyed, rich tones. OK, I’ll stop. I think you’re starting to get it.
Only some of the items I described above are actually for sale by Pottery Barn. The rest? Mere props for the photo shoot. I’ve practically made a living out of studying the brilliant photo styling techniques employed by this mega retailer. Why? Because it works. It works on us psychologically. It even works on me – and I know how they’re doing it! Subliminally, Pottery Barn is selling you their furniture and accessories by hawking nothing less than a full-blown lifestyle.
Look closely at the photos. In the kitchen organizing system photo, you’ll see hand-written notes on the wall calendar or rough-hewn schoolhouse-style chalkboard: “Allegra to Dance Class – Thursday noon”, “Jamie’s Soccer Game, Sat. 2 pm - Don’t Forget to Bring Oatmeal Cookies!”, “Grandpa’s Visit – 2/11-2/18”. You get the picture. Allegra? Please. Nobody is named Allegra. I believe that is an allergy medicine. And don’t get me started on the grocery lists. “Crème Fraiche, Herbs, Arugula, Coffee Beans, Fresh Sourdough”. Do these people spend $1,000 a week on groceries? And shop only at Farmer’s Markets? Apparently so.
Make no mistake. This is a lifestyle merchandiser. Pottery Barn wants to sell you furniture, yes, but they didn’t become a powerhouse retailer by stopping there. After all, how can you just purchase the Devon Campaign Style End Table when the massive Seeded Glass Lamp with Pure Silk Drum Shade looks so stunning on top of it? Oh, and that little Bird Sculpture. And the Silver Plate Frame, yes, the whole set of Silver Plate Frames, while we’re at it.
As you can see, I have this kind of love-hate relationship with them. Mostly, I take what they do and use it in our home staging business. We don’t just stage homes. We merchandise a lifestyle. Don’t think for a moment that a huge apothecary jar filled with organic soaps, sea sponges and bath salts doesn’t scream Pottery Barn. Spa. Serenity. Relaxation. “I’ll be so organized and relaxed if we buy this house!” “I’ll put my bath salts in a big jar like that.” “I can see myself taking long bubble baths here.” You get the idea.
It’s a fact. Every woman in America is bequeathed a lifetime subscription to the Pottery Barn catalogue if she has ever even browsed one of their stores, turned on her computer and brushed past their website, or happened upon their catalogue by accident. It’s as if Pottery Barn knows our very hopes, aspirations and dreams. And knows they are laced with Tuscan Footed Urns, Herb Garden Topiaries and, yes, Apothecary Jars. Sigh.