Before becoming a professional decorator, I’d bury my head in great design catalogs weekly; afterward, notsomuch. A few months into my career, I realized my job was to ensure that clients’ homes were NOT filled with things everyone had easy access to. Magically, my studio became catalog-free.
Sometimes there’s a stigma attached to catalog decorating—one that oftentimes is rather true. For some odd reason, many people tend to buy EVERYTHING they see in a single image. Instead of ending up with a beautifully coordinated room, they end up with Page 7. The key to designing with catalogs is simple—just don’t buy everything from the same one. You know how your Mom told you to share your toys with friends? Well, share your money and your square footage with different mail-order retailers, darnit!
Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of designing with catalogs. In fact, some are so well prop-styled and art-directed, that I enjoy flipping through them just as much as my favorite shelter magazines. Here’s the rundown on eight great catalogs every designer or design lover truly should be subscribing to. They’re free, they show up in your mailbox and you don’t have to leave to house to purchase stuff. What’s not to like?
Described as, “A Catalog of Antiques and Decorative Items for Home and Garden,” Wisteria is catalog shopping at its best. The effortless blending of old styles with new color-ways sets the Texas-based retailer apart from others, making it a favorite of designers everywhere. Many of their pieces boast European charm, rich textures and timeless lines. Overall, I count on Wisteria for console tables, mirrors, dining tables, planter boxes and accessories; however, their sofas and dining room chairs are always on my radar. Once paired with non-Wisteria objects, everything instantly looks high-end and right off a trade-only showroom floor.
Brocade Home is known for its stripped-down, modernized Victorian style. Many of their pieces sport high-gloss white or black finishes, Queen Anne-style legs and diamond-tufted upholstery. Price-point-wise, the catalog retailer borders on upper-medium. The prop-styling? Oh. My. Gawd. In a Rachel Zoe-ish manner, “I die” each time I turn the page. What’s so spectacular about their styling is the juxtaposition of utilitarian, industrial items like extension cords running through a space boasting uber-feminine lines.
If you thought FLOR’s easy-to-use product was brilliant, signing up for their catalog is even smarter. Every single style and color can be found in the catalog, with its price listed front-and-center. Combine that with the tile calculator on their site and you’ll have absolutely no need for a contractor to upgrade your floors. Tools needed to install the product? A utility knife…like, for real, that’s all. The playful art direction and styling is top-notch; many of the designer-quality spaces allow you to see combinations used in context, leaving little to the imagination and ensuring you’re ordering what’s best for your intended style. Since I started receiving the catalog in 2004, House Pet in “Frog” has become my most-used tile. It puts a modern, geometric spin on Astroturf when installed in a parquet style.
Chiasso began as an actual home furnishings store in Chicago; it’s now a must-read furniture and accessories catalog for modernists everywhere. At a medium price-point, you’ll find streamlined tables and chairs as well as mid-century-inspired sofas. At only $1,198, the “Abby” sofa is a must-buy. The button-tufted three-seater looks like an $8k buy from a high-end showroom.
With CB2 stores popping up all over the country every few months, it’s no wonder the retailer’s catalog is such a hit country-wide, especially for TV designers. Many pieces require light assembly and come in high-energy hues such as a punchy red, No. 2 pencil yellow and ultra-white. As far as its name is concerned, the letters stand for Crate & Barrel 2, the modern side of the otherwise mega-traditional retailer. My personal favorites are CB2 dining chairs: Vapor, Orbit Arm and Joe, specifically.
One-stop shopping for anything from bedding to towels, slipper chairs to nail-head headboards, The Company Store stocks items with transitional styles offered at a medium price-point. My personal must-haves include: the high-energy colored Retro Fan in dark blue, pink or orange, Chambray Voile Ring Top Panels, Turned Leg and Quadro tables.
Stemming from the Oscar-winning director/actor’s network and yearly film festival, Robert Redford says about The Sundance Catalog, “What you see, smell, taste and feel here is a dream being carefully nurtured. It is an area whose pledge is to people. What we offer in the form of art and culture, spirit and service, is homegrown and available to all.” I didn’t know of this catalog until last March, when my rug-expert friend, Jason Moattar, showed me some amazing film reels in his media room, which he discovered within the catalog’s pages. From fashion and gifts to home furniture and accessories, everything sports an old-world, rustic texture. Some of my go-to picks include: Modern Times Factory Stool, Oak and Iron Refectory Table, Vintage Hotel Key Rack and Helping Hands Wall Hooks.
As far as lighting is concerned, it’s pretty much a sure thing that at least one light fixture in my clients’ homes comes from the Lamps Plus catalog. From pendants to flush mounts, table lamps to crystal chandeliers, the retailer’s got something for every style and budget. My personal favorite is the bronze Meurice pendant from Jonathan Adler.