Monday, May 23, 2011

Too much design?

Do you ever feel like the whole accessible design movement has gone too far?  Like every single product now gets the designy zhush before its sent to production?  Like everything is so cute?  So trendy?  Like there are too many choices?  Observe.

Recently, my office was looking like this.

And like this.

Clearly, I needed some magazine bins.

So I went looking for magazine holders.  Do you know how many choices there are at The Container Store?  About 20.  Okay, maybe not that many, but there are TWO WHOLE AISLES.  There were lots of cute ones, but at something like $10 each, they started to feel like an investment, which started to bring the pressure that they had to work now, and later, and in the elevator.  (Extra points to those who know that reference--leave your guesses in the comments).  And all of a sudden the walls were closing in on me.

I happened to be at Target later in the day, and found that the selection was less overwhelming in quantity, but everything was so designy.  So trendy.  So cutesy right NOW.  And it made me itch for something classic.  Something that wouldn't date itself in a week.  I kind of like these clear acrylic ones that I picked up oh, a decade ago to store my collection of Real Simple magazines from my days as a photo editor there, but they are no longer available.

Mostly what I like about them is the absence of style signifiers.  Oh, of course lucite is its own look, but a clear acrylic box goes with anything and always will because it practically disappears.

Here's the thing.  If you're buying for style over function, and the style isn't going to last, I believe you should spend as little money as possible.  In this case, that meant Ikea, though even at Ikea there were too many choices.  I made it simple and bought the cheapest ones:  the ones made out of finished cardboard, which you assemble yourself,  in a green very close to the green already happening in bins in my office bookshelves, and in the living room right through the doorway.  The look is actually classic, the color works for now, and if I change the color scheme of everything, I won't mind replacing them.  And having the clutter off the floor?  So priceless.

Do you want to know the product that really sent me over the edge?  The one that made me wonder if we have gone off our collective design rockers?  Here you go.

Crate and Barrel Set of 12 Sparrow Clips, $7.95.  I think I saw it in Cooking Light, and I tore out the page because it made me mad.  I love birds.  I love bright colors.  So cute!  But....really?  Do you really need your bag clips in the pantry to be shaped like special little characters?  I don't know.  It just seems so ....indulgent? Maybe its just that I can't imagine a time when my list of bigger ticket needs for the house will dwindle to nothing, and I will have nowhere to spend my dollars but on cute little clips like these.  Or on my kids college fund.  You know, whichever.

What do you think:  Has design gone too far?  Or do you love having so many options for pencil cups and toilet brushes?  I'm VERY curious!


  1. I think sometimes we do get a we bit caught up - retailers encourage themes because then you have to rebuy the items again down the road. Sometimes design gets "cutesy" and I have to draw the line. I like to reserve the really decorative touches for fabulous fabrics and art, and let classic design (ie, clothespins!!) alone.

  2. I couldn't agree more, and thought maybe I was the only one! Sometimes it feels like EVERY purchase has to be THE ONE. It took me 1 year...1 YEAR... to finally buy a paper towel holder. I just could not commit. I finally bought one for $10 at BB&B and my paper towels have never been held so well. :) Its a hard lesson to learn to know when to buy that trendy item/fabric/insert-anything-here and when not to.
    THANK you for admitting feeling the same way!!

  3. Great post! I agree with you 100%. I'm glad stores are making "cute" products, but like you said; I can't imagine my house list being nothing except cute bird clips.

  4. Agreed! I'm all for organizing/containing/concealing clutter in the most pleasing way possible. I admit to having a bit of a weakness for container store fare, but share your unwillingness to making a big style/financial commitment out of it. The other day, Scarlett, inspired by a recent recycling episode of Sid the Science Kid, insisted that I not recycle any more tin cans, insisting that we remove the labels and turn them into crayon/pen cups instead. I love them. They are uniform, stylish, simple and classic (and free)! A total winner.

  5. I went on the EXACT same adventure yesterday, down to hoping to find acrylic but opting for ikea. the white cardboard ones that are 5/$1.99 b/c somehow the silver rims were too something! On the other hand I discovered OXO Pop for my pantry problem. They are kind of my favorite new design objet...

  6. OK, I saw those bird clips and thought there must be something more to them than what they are. It really puzzled me.

    Right now I'm struggling with office supplies. I need a bunder for a bunch of papers from a project I worked on for Maren's school. I have some plain white ones at work that I could use for free (not even stealing! We have a million and are always trying to get rid of them.). But I can't stop thinking about a cute one I saw at Target.

    On a different note, I saw a blurb in the paper about the new-to-the-area department store called Gordman's (I know there's one in Woodbury). The writer claims it has a better selection of lamps and other home decor items than HomeGoods. I'm staying away for now because I just bought three new lamps from HomeGoods for my living room and don't want to find something I like even better! But good to know for the future . . .

  7. You know that "bunder" is supposed to be "binder," right?!

  8. hahah love this post! Couldn't agree more :) I have just discovered your blog and am loving it! From one Heather to another :) I'm your newest follower

  9. I haven't seen "Portlandia" but I was at Patina with a friend and she was saying there's a scene when people are looking at stuff or making stuff and keep saying, "Put a bird on it." That pretty much encompasses these bird clips. I love bird images, but this is what I like to call taking the joke too far.

  10. Yes! I have been thinking of this of late. I tend to bounce back and forth between more modern/stark design and vintage/cosier design.So I've been thinking of what makes something classic vs dated. What I have come up with is neutral colors tend to age better, and you just have to get what you love, keeping in mind if this is the type of thing you loved 5 or 10 years ago? Can you grow and change with it? And err on the side of classic and quality because you have stuff around a lot longer than you think you will. Add a few touches of cheap trendy if you feel the need.


Let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!


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