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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.

41 Responses

  1. Tamara Styles says:

    Thanks for this post. I need two of those in my collection.

  2. Teresa says:

    What, no IKEA catalog? ;-) But seriously, considering the hoopla surrounding it issuance (at least here in Virginia), it's cult-like status, and it's near impossibility to find once they are all gone, I would have to add it to my own personal must-have list, as well.

    I totally hear your point about originality, and again, perhaps it is a Virginia (country bumpkin) thing, but I can buy something from IKEA, set it out in a room or in my office and invariably someone happens along and is lusting over my item, having never before seen anything of the kind, and wanting to know where in the world I found such a interesting thing (a child's nightlight from IKEA that sits on my desk sends people into hysterics). IKEA is just like a "cabinet of curiosities". I find inspiration and uniqueness around every corner.

  3. Claudia Clobes says:

    Gotta get brocade…thanks for the tip!

  4. Julia W says:

    While I do love many of Brocade Home's pieces, I feel like the brand is a bit of a one-trick pony. Season after season, they seem to debut the same ornate high-gloss white furniture and pale damask textiles. There's certainly value in consistency but I wish they would freshen up the inventory a bit!

  5. Milagros De Jesus says:

    I would like for someone to help me with my small apt and not charge me 3,000.00 dollar just for giving a few tips. I love that look in the "Wisteria Mag." Can You help? Thanks. My e-mail is mdj1954@att.net

  6. Edna Adams says:

    I'm planning on doing a bedroom. I've painted the walls yellow and the molding and door facing yellow. I plan to get black and white toile bed spread and curtains. I'd like to know what designers think before I go on with my plans.

  7. I'm trilled to see 2 Chicago companies (CB2 and Chiasso) on the list. I also agree with Teresa's comment about the Ikea catalog. Though I'm a bit tired of the "Ikea Look", and everyone and their uncle knows about Ikea, I still can't deny the inspiration I find when flipping through the Ikea catalog.

  8. pixelecho69 says:

    I think I would enjoy Wisteria and Chiasso magazines sound more like my taste.

  9. Christopher says:

    As one of the people who gets to work in the Catalog department at Lamps Plus (photoshop artist) I'd like to say thank you. They're a great team, who take pride in their work, and enjoy showcasing just what can be done with such wonderful products. I'm lucky to be part of such a team and Lamps Plus is always working to make everything they do that much better.

  10. Jeanette Thomas says:

    So surprised Viva Terra is not included. Love this catalog too. I know there are many good ones. Probably hard to do.
    <a href="http://www.vivaterra.com” target=”_blank”>www.vivaterra.com

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