Thursday, April 17, 2008

This is why we don't actually *read* Elle Decor...



A reader emailed this to me:


Decorno,

I can't even bring myself to read the comments on your wonderful postings on money and anxiety as I'm living it, moment by moment. Will indulge myself later this weekend, but you've definitely hit a nerve with me, as always. Judging by your postings, I am older (49) than most or your readers, but no less affected by the "upscale emulation" going on around me, compounded by typical mid-life issues (which rival adolescence in intensity) of identity...I have found myself drawn to the blogs that combine creative design with boho chic as a soothing balm and appreciate your public service. I will probably have to cancel my subscription to Elle Decor after this month's above mentioned article reports the following : "The Powers-Caudell household is the kind of place where liquid laundry detergents are decanted into clear containers and where even the Splenda is splendidly displayed, tucked into glass dishes sized perfectly for those sunny yellow packets" ... I am now on my way to sign up for a volunteer position at the local soup kitchen, thanks to this smut! ....

A fan,

C.

63 comments:

Diana said...

Wow...interesting email. I think she has a very good point!

Anonymous said...

I read a profile of the designer/self-marketer Barbara Barry in which she talked all about how product packaging hurt her delicate sensibilities, so she (or her servants, more likely) did all that laundry-detergent decanting stuff, so as not to face the orange horror that is a Tide bottle. She couldn't even bear the sight of something as utilitarian as a measuring cup in her laundry room, so she used (or made her servants use) a sea shell to scoop up the detergent.

Christ.

Be the change..... said...

I can understand people wanting to hide ugly packaging really. I tend to buy products with packaging I like (no orange tide!) but I really don't have the time to decant every project into aesthetically pleasing bottles. I would if I could, though; I'll admit it!

morrismore said...

I read the same profile of Barbara Barry as Anonymous and wondered...what about her medicine chest and kitchen cupboards? Are all of those items re-packaged? Of course, there is the other extreme. About ten years ago I was in a large (12,000 square feet)modern house near here. There was incredible art, an amazing mix of French antiques and modern furniture, and...in the family dining room, a light oak purified water dispenser (Alhambra?)with about fifteen vitamin bottles on top of it. Ms. Barry would have had a coronary!

Anonymous said...

What about suppositories?

(Just bein' practical...)

katiedid said...

Oh my, I totally missed that article. So I guess the bottle of Dawn by my kitchen sink is out of the question?

maison21 said...

it's called a "cabinet" or a "cupboard", and it's used to store things outside of public view. i mean, duh.

but i must admit, i've been known to decant my dish soap into a pretty olive oil dispenser to keep out by the sink, and i will only buy WHITE paper towels- never a print- if target is out of plain white bounty, i'll go without. of course, the soap and the white towels sit in a kitchen that i started painting two years ago, and stopped after partially painting only one wall...

last, i think scooping out the tide with a seashell is BRILLIANT- i will have to have a talk with ana on her next visit! thanks for the tip, barbara!

oooohh- ikat! pretty!

Anonymous said...

For the record, not all your readers suffer from any of the types of anxieties discussed here this week. But it certainly has been an entertaining peek into the hollow core of the American middle class mind.

AND NOW FOR THE AWARDS CEREMONY

Best comment of the week: "But you can live on $50 in China!"

Best product integration: Coach

Most controversial debate: Housekeeper vs. Cleaning Lady; couch vs. sofa (TIED)

Most thoughtful posters: Suzy, Aesthete's lament and the Anon who wrote, "Think of your futures, someday you may have children and ageing parents that need you. And they don't care about your Chanel bag."

Anonymous said...

Best "I am better than you!" quote:

"...the hollow core of the American middle class mind."

Anonymous said...

Magnaverde was inadvertently omitted from most thoughtful posters list.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHXBL6bzAR4&

angelica said...

i know this is totally off topic, and i was going to go back to the topic of how much we make/live off etc.. but i think a great topic would be for those business owners out there...

how much did it cost to start your own business?

and maybe have them talk about what steps they took, how they profited in the first couple years, etc.

i know i would love to hear it!

Anonymous said...

In my house the only thing decanted is fine wine when celebrating someone's birthday or another milestone. We only eat SUGAR and for Christ sake I have loved the smell of Tide since childhood. Bring on the bright orange box.
I am seduced by beautiful packaging as much as the next but people that are putting that much effort into ordinary household things have far too much time on their hands.
If I sound cranky it's because in lieu of going shopping for frivolous items like new spring sandals or a great new bag, I'm on a spending diet and am finding a modicum of solace here with Decorno!

Anonymous said...

thank you anonymous 11:14 AM, you crack me up!

Anonymous said...

this was also pretty good:

"not all your readers suffer from any of the types of anxieties discussed here this week."

Halfmad said...

Also known as, "The type of house I would never want to live in in my life."

Anonymous said...

It's called personal style, folks ... if they want to decant their cleaning products into different containers, who cares? The knee-jerk outrage is a bit much. ... arguably no different than putting Q-tips into a more-attractive glass jar or other container ... I don't quite understand the annoyed responses here ...

Anonymous said...

God, I miss Decorno. The sense of humor around here has plummeted.

morrismore said...

Two things. First, like Maison21, I, too, decanted the dish soap into a smart olive oil container. Imagine my surprise when one of my sisters put it on the table, thinking that it was olive oil for the salad.

Second, the posts this week were fun and very thought provoking. Yesterday's dialogue about mixing low end items with high end reminded me of the nagging thought that in decor the less permanent and/or expensive treatments are often the most successful. It is an art to pull off a mix of items without it looking like the efforts of someone who has watched too much HG TV and/or my worst nightmare...LHAH (loving hands at home)

Anonymous said...

Morrismore:

I keep flashing on your wonderful scenario whereby some aesthete takes all her pills out their tasteless labeled pharmacy bottles and decants them into tasteful Baccarat unlabeled decanters... Good times!

morrismore said...

Anonymous...very Reversal of Fortune!

Anonymous said...

hah! Yes, perfect!

Anonymous said...

Decorno: I'd love a "stuff anxiety" entry this week.

Apartment Therapy LA just had a great little thing on putting your apartment on a diet. The idea was born from the fact that most of us
- even those of us without huge incomes or rich partners - tend to have too much stuff and can feel possessed by our possessions.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the things I've accumulated in my little house but somehow unable to let them go. Apparently, I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

"Stuff anxiety" -- an over-reverence of things. Brilliant. The compulsion that makes people feel they must treat everything, even laundry detergent, as objets d'art.

Jo said...

I'm not sure I see the connection between (a) decanting laundry detergent into something that makes you smile more than the original packaging did and (b) being a self serving, consumerist scumbag who spits on the poor.

Is it not possible both to decant AND do volunteer work in the community?

Anonymous said...

Martha does

Anonymous said...

... only the community service is court ordered!

professional psychic said...

i too canceled my subscription to elle decor recently. as a woman who is struggling to make ends meet at the ripe old age of 39, it's just too depressing to see the incredible display of wealth.

i'd love to decant my detergent, but honestly i'm busting my a$$ to run a business and raise two kids.

i grew up in a fabulously wealthy family that just happened to piss the money away. it breaks my heart to know that the beauty of the super rich will not be mine unless i sell a kidney or win the lottery.

i don't think that letter was about the decanting...i think it was more about the sick feeling a person can get when longing for riches, being aware that other people are just trying to get fed and sheltered and the terrible space between.

if you can't relate to it THEN COUNT YOURSELF FORTUNATE!

Cote de Texas said...

Being from Houston, I am well aquainted with the decantings at the Powers Caudell household. (not personally, but from a local magazine that he edits). Randy is just anal, very fastidious and someone I promise you would be very good friends with Decorno, I swear! He's funny! He doesnt' decant becuase he's superior, he does it because he is super visual, like many interior designers who look at their personal environment in a different way than most people. It's torture for him to look at anything "ugly" like an advertisement. AND, if you are put off by his laundry room - check out his kitchen. He has (or had - this is about his 10th published home in as many years!) a glass door refrigerator where everything was pretty and lined up and organized and butter was in crystal dishes, etc etc. It's enough to make you feel like the dirtiest, filthiest, unorganized pig of person when you see that fridge.

Reggie said...

Wait a minute, what am I missing here? Does the original poster think this is good or bad? Doesn't everyone decant their liquid or powder soaps/detergents? I mean, I couldn't imagine not doing it!

Anonymous said...

My detergent is the liquid kind, a dreary blue. Even a Baccarat decanter wouldn't make it look good.

Anonymous said...

Thank god a blog with some common sense! I'm fed up with reading about how a house is a "petite" 700 square metres (while most of us, the normal people, are more than happy when we find a 100 square metres apartment within our budget, at least where I live in Europe (and no, I don't live in the ex-USSR), or about how anal rich people need to get anything ugly be replaced by beauty, beauty, beauty.
A word to this pseudo-elite: Get a grip, open your eyes: do you sometimes get out of your golden ghetto?? Do you see what's happening out there? And by out there, I mean out HERE??
People are getting killed for their beliefs, the recession is everywhere, the planet is undergoing major changes and all you can think about is your detergents being not nicely packaged? How narcissistic and/or sociopathic is that??? But of course, a conscience is not something that can be bought. It's inbred. Sometimes, it can be done away with, when you live in a ponerized society (if you don't know what that means, check out ponerology.com). You trade comfort for conscience. And for the rest of you, if you think that this behaviour is normal, you've been reading Elle Decor for too long. Neo-liberalism is swallowing you whole. If you want to wake up, here is a link to an interesting article which might actually open your eyes (or not, it's your choice, really): http://www.sott.net/articles/show/153826-Shaping-Conventional-Wisdom

And just in case you're wondering, I love decor as much as you do, I'm just fed up with all that crap...

Reggie said...

Anon 9:45:
Feeling better now that you've gotten that off your chest? I hope so, 'cause you're bringing me down with your holier than thou bull, but that was your intent, wasn't it? Last I checked this is a design blog...not solving world issues here -- there are plenty of other blogs for that kind of rant. But please, do have a lovely, aesthetically pleasing day, like the rest of us are trying to!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Reggie, this is, in good part, a blog for arguing passionately about decor. If you want a decor blog where everyone agrees about everything, there are dozens. Some will even delete "negative" posts to keep the blogging environment child-friendly, with no sharp edges. You can agree all day and all night long!

OK, back to the topic: What I don't understand about the household in question is why they allow Splenda packets but not detergent bottles to be seen with the naked eye.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Um, for my tastes, I actually think it's a bit tacky to decant everything into pretty containers. I mean, while I don't do it with any items, I can see how someone would decant one or two items that are seen many times/ day. However, decanting everything seems precious and twee and just trying too dang hard.

That being said, I completely disagree with the assumption that people who do this don't care about the environment or casualties of war or other serious issues. They aren't necessarily rich, either; I suspect that obsessive decanting has far more to do with one's personality than one's socio-economic status.

It's a ridiculous stretch to imagine that just because a person insists on decanting, he/she is shallow and uncaring.

decorno said...

Aw shucks, to the anon who says he/she missed me.

Yeah... can't be on too much to police the crabbiness. I am on an island with intermittently reliable internet access.

As for suggestions on "stuff" anxiety and/or over-reverence... that is BRILLIANT. Will be sure to tackle that early next week.

Ok... gotta go decant my 4th margarita now. Woo hoo!

Anonymous said...

I join you, by decanting a fresh Oxycontin.

Cote de Texas said...

I forgot this tidbit - there's another designer from Houston, one of the better ones - and she has her "housekeeper"/maid/what did we decide was the proper term? - bake an apple pie - EVERY DAY - not to be eaten, but because it makes the house smell, well, homey. And she wants that atmosphere in her house. swear to God - true.

Reggie said...

Anon:
I was not suggesting that because this is a design blog that posters can't or shouldn't disagree. I enjoy the healthy exchanges on this blog, and its "food for thought" subjects. I was objecting to your shrill "wake up you shallow idiots there are starving children in [region of your choice], etc., etc., etc." As another poster eloquently put it, don't assume that people aren't passionately concerned about our planet or its inhabitants if we are also interested in what kind of containers we have in our laundry rooms. I'm done.

Anonymous said...

For a man who's life is compulsively edited, he wants us to know that he reads Dominick Dunne...look in the picutres, there are at least two Dunne books carefully displayed. Art books = safe. Dunne books combined with obsessive decanting (not to mention the consumption of Splenda) make the man look a tad silly. Maybe Elle Decor should've helped out with some editing here.

Anonymous said...

Hah--I LOVE that you caught the Dominick Dunne detail! God, what a decrepit old poser he is, not to mention shitty writer.

I don't have super-strong feelings about Decanting and the People who Do It, but my hunch is: If you drew a circle to represent shallow self-absorbed assholes and another circle to represent decanters, those two circles would overlap. And it would be, as scientists say, "statistically significant" overlap.

Anonymous said...

Reggie,

My 'rant' as you call it was not to get things off my chest, I have plenty of occasions to discuss these things every day so that I don't need to unload on blogs, as a matter of fact.
I just find it interesting that my comment depressed you. To me, but this is only my opinion, it means that you must agree on at least some of the points I was making, and I just reminded you of them. Otherwise, why would you be depressed about it? You would just laugh it off or shrug it off. This comment was not directed at you (hey I didn't even know you existed back then!) but you took it personally. So my guess is you must sometimes feel guilty about some of the things I said. And quite frankly, it feels good to read that, not because I wanted to depress you or anyone else for that matter, but because it reassures me when I see that people still have compassion and are not just completely narcissistic.

About your comment about how I should post on other blogs discussing these matters, well, what would be the point? So that we can all congratulate each other about our points of view, thereby not learning anything in the process? Growth comes from friction. I discussed that here BECAUSE it is a design blog.

My point was that most lifestyle magazines are made mostly for and by narcissistic people who, as typical narcissists, want you to be happy for them (when they marry, when they redecorate), whereas in return they don't give a rat's ass about you. They are there to serve as a model for you to emulate by trying to be as good/ as beautiful/ as successful as they want you to think they are. And so their behaviour (for example wanting everything to be perfect) becomes the norm, because it is spread in magazines.
Of course, the truth about their personality is never mentioned in these lifestyle magazines,i.e. that as narcissistic people, they feel inadequate and never content and that their compulsion to arrange/decorate everything perfectly is just to compensate their own (perceived or real) imperfection.
Again, there is nothing wrong in wanting to live in beautiful surroundings, but when it substitutes for an actual inner life, there's a problem and that's not something to be emulated and made to be cool.

Anonymous,

Your comment about the overlapping circles really cracked me up!

Anonymous said...

Cote:

Couldn't the maid just bake some apples? I mean, to get the smell, you don't need an actual crust and all that mess, do you?

Oy. Can't believe I'm thinking this out...

Anonymous said...

"Is it not possible both to decant AND do volunteer work in the community?"

So far, out of 43 comments, no one has claimed to do both.

Reggie said...

Anon:
It didn't depress me, it bored me. Enough already!

Anonymous said...

and yet you keep coming back...

Anonymous said...

Reggie,

He was referring to your statement:

"you're bringing me down..."

Sacheverelle said...

Oh that's just great. I really LIKED Barbara Barry & now I think she's a totally vapid a**hole.
I don't get why these people wouldn't want to have access to the stuff on the label such as ingredients, instructions, etc. I mean it can't hurt to keep that info handy, even if you do have domestic help.

Anonymous said...

Dude,
I'm with Reggie on this one. I believe "bringing me down" may refer to losing a buzz vs. making him sad. Last word-itis anyone?

Anonymous said...

Barbara Barry is like the Prime Minister of Vapid Assholes. Wealthy Vapid Assholes.

Suzy said...

Gee, someone's really hit a nerve here. Can I just add that not all people who ACTUALLY read Elle Decor (myself included) agree with or want to emulate the lives these people live - its just a bit of a buzz to see how the other half live. I don't really understand the argument about decanting - the packaging is going to get thrown out/recycled at the end of its use anyway (right?) if someone wants to pour their laundry detergent into a glass bottle, what is the big deal? Am I missing something here?

Anonymous said...

How about people who pour their brandy into Tide bottles?

Be the change..... said...

This is getting ridiulous. At no point do any of these people say that we should all be decanting our tide into baccarat crystal. They simply show that they DO do that (and obviously a lot of people think that is ridiculous). I just want to say that it is totally possible to be socially and environementally consious and still lead a beautiful life (or what you think is a beautiful life). One doesn't negate the other! Just because you are socially consious doesn't mean you have to live in a shack surrounded by crap with wal-mart pricetags left on everything. Nothing is black and white.

morrismore said...

I kind of like the bold graphics of the soap boxes myself, but then, I grew up in the 1960s with pop art. I remember seeing photographs of designer Albert Hadley's Connecticut laundry room and he had left the energy rating stickers on the washer and dryer.

As for the apple pie....the socialite Bunny Mellon had the staff boil apples for the scent...

morrismore said...

I forgot to add...over the years,
I've done a lot of volunteer work (Project Open Hand kitchen worker) and fund raised (AIDS rides for ten years)and decanted. So, it IS possible to do both....

Christine in DC said...

Though I have a difficult time doing this myself, sometimes you have to separate the personality of someone from their work (granted, the cult of personality displayed in the glossies make this even more difficult). As one of my English professors said in college, if we only read authors we also would like as friends and who were completely good people, we'd have a very short list. Probably the same with design: you can like their work without liking them!

Anonymous said...

I make a pretty low salary by most standards but get great pleasure out of opening my cabinet and seeing the lovely clear jars (from World Market) of flour/ sugar/ pasta noodles/ etc... Also, I laughed when I got a mouth wash decanter as a gift but I really enjoy seeing it sit out on my counter also. Sometimes if you don't have a big decorating budget some of these little things really help you enjoy your home.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where else to post this, but following your wildly successful Status Anxiety Week, where everyone seemed ready to share their deep financial secrets under the cloak of anonymity, I want to read about how couples ACTUALLY pay for their lives together! How many readers have joint bank accounts with their s/os? How many believe - as does my sister - that "her money is hers, his money is theirs?" Do couples pay equal dollar amounts towards the overall expenses or does the higher earner carry a much higher financial burden?

And, how many did the respondents come to these decisions? Did they want to avoid at all costs the money-fights they witnessed between their parents as a child? Did they attend couples financial counselling with their s/o? Did they just fall into certain habits and now rue the day they didn't set up some hard and fast rules about who would pay what?

Your Anxiety Week got me hooked. I've honestly never before seen a forum where so many bright, coherent women communicate so truthfully and succinctly about money and its place in their lives. In all seriousness, this is REVOLUTIONARY. And I. Want. More.

decorno said...

Well, flattery gets you everywhere... so you have a fabulous idea for a future post, so stay tuned.

I enjoyed all the comments from Status Anxiety Week more than you know. So yeah,I will post more questions like yours very soon.

Anonymous said...

I am completly floored that so many people take offense to the fact that I put my laundry detergent in a larger container so that I can buy multiple at a time put it in one and not have to store the rest. Do you people not think that the people you write about don't read this? How did this become an "anxiety"? Or to be judged that I keep Dominick Dunne books in my guest room? I also keep Virgina Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, does that make me suicidal?
To the cowardly anonymous blogger who started this it sound like you may have needed to do a little self help work before you read the story about my partner and myself.
And thank you Joni at Cote de Texas for the kind words, I enjoy the civility of your blog site very much.Keep up the good work.
Randy Powers

decorno said...

Honestly, Randy... I am not sure I am mocking you... it's probably that I am mocking the way Elle Decor wrote about it. They did make it sound a little precious, didn't they?

I bet you anything that if we knew each other, we would adore each other. I would probably bring the vermouth over (you would supply the gin... I am cheap) and we would probably have a grand time.

This blog is good fun. We skewer all kinds of things, even me. (I mean, hell... I once posted about a new lamp I positively ADORED, and someone wrote in to say that it looked like "Kansas City Hilton" material. Ouch. I, of course, left the comment up. If I dish it out, I have to take it.)

I will say this.. just know that I am fully, utterly jealous of someone so organized that he/she has his house down to that level of perfect detail. Seriously. It's remarkable, and exactly the reason mere mortals like me read magazines like Elle.

Even with our occasional eye-rolling, we adore homes like yours. And if we were lucky enough to know you, we would probably adore you, too.

The Management

Cote de Texas said...

Hi Randy! Thanks for your so kind words - !!! Don't take it to heart, I've been so skewered here by a certain anonymous - you just have to get a tough shell, I guess. Love your new house - spent about an hour trying to find the address so I could drive by and stalk you, to no avail. AND - I'm waiting waiting waiting to see Andy Singer's new home - WHEN?????? love that guy! And keep decanting. Myself, I'm envious of your neatness and organizational skills.

Joni

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of bitches!