February 21, 2011

Anthropologie Awe- Struck: What Inspires You?

What inspires you?

I think being star-struck is something that I have yet to experience. I know there are many folks out there who follow "stars" and famous people as though the famous people somehow don't put their pants on one leg at a time like us "regular" people do. And there are folks who will literally do ANYTHING to be famous; thus, the number of reality and talk shows that are incredibly popular right now (and may I say they make me want to vomit). These things are as foreign to me as living on Jupiter would be. I do not understand it, wouldn't be good at it, and I don't WANT to understand or experience it. I recognize that there are people who make arrangements in their schedules to ensure they don't miss a single minute of award shows on television (I mean, really, don't those people receive ENOUGH accolades for crying out loud??!!). I confess I did ask for an autograph once in my life- Patsy Clairmont signed my Bible at the Knoxville airport, and I am on FaceBook, and that is pretty much the extent of my fame diversion.

B  U  T...

(prepare for a visual FEAST!)

stand me in front of an Anthropologie store and I'm entranced, enthralled, enraptured even. A typical visit in the presence of this greatness for me is two hours. I DEVOUR that store the way many grocery store patrons devour trash magazines that are filled with stories that are

A) likely not true 
B) about people they really don't know or ever will know 
C) none of their business anyway

Much in the way that some folks would gasp if they unexpectedly ran into a famous person, sometimes when I walk in there (and occasionally as I'm walking around), I actually audibly gasp; something I am certainly not apt to do in any retail store of any kind. My most recent bask in the glow brought to mind these ageless, burning questions, 

Why is it exactly that I feel so at HOME here?
What makes all these individually disparate displays work together to form a cohesive whole look that works?
Is that the sound of a choir of angels singing?

So I set about answering these questions that plague our times. Here is my analysis for your intellectual stimulation and general edification. The first question is a lot simpler than the second, since the store is exactly my personal aesthetic in physical form and my house would be filled with THOSE EXACT PRODUCTS if my backyard money tree hadn't shriveled up and died back in the Great Drought of '69. Okay, so that was the year I was born and I guess that means I've NEVER had a money tree. I simply cannot buy a $9,900 cabinet. I would love to simply pick up much of the store and just set it back down again inside my home. 

The answer to the second question is more complicated and certainly more lengthy. I channeled my inner Nate Berkus (among others), who, did you know is affiliated with Oprah? Despite recently discovering that fact (I have a very strong mistrust for that woman as I distrust and have a general disdain for anyone who has that much power and money), his design work is awesome, a little edgy, sometimes a bit like Trina Turk's fashion (btw have ya SEEN her boutiques?!). Nice.

There are many reasons why the apparent but deliberate randomness of the objects used for display are so effective at being aesthetically pleasing. Beyond the fact that antiques are in and of themselves INTERESTING to look at, when combined with new things, or things that contrast greatly with them, the display of the objects becomes artful and intriguing. Likewise, when industrial, masculine pieces such as galvanized metal and pipe are paired with very feminine merchandise, the effect is much more broadly appealing than if the displays were more traditional. This is successful application of... JUXTAPOSITION!!

The dictionary defines juxtaposition thusly: 

an act or instance of placing close together or side by side,especially for comparison or contrast.
the state of being close together or side by side.

For our analytical purposes, we shall examine definition #1 more closely; it is the CONTRAST that we will focus on. It is the hard and soft, the matte and shiny, rough and smooth together; one makes the other MORE. Contrast/visual conflict is what makes color so incredibly complex, but that is another subject entirely. Here are some visual examples of contrast and visual yumminess from the fabulous Lenox Mall Anthropologie store:

The successful visual merchandising of Anthropologie is not limited to simply the right contrast, of course. They are also creative, whimsical, imaginative, and the selections of merchandise unusually eclectic, flirty, and definitely feminine. Note the giraffe, zebra, and elephant heads in the bookcase.

In case you can't tell what it is that is hanging on this rack, it is a bunch of jean legs sewn together horizontally, and plants and other objects are displayed in the resulting cubbies.


 This is a contemporary art piece displayed alongside industrial-style visuals.





  Corrugated cardboard cut into rounds and stacked become light fixtures. Note in this cabinet- the unexpected- stacks of paper plates!

cocktail dresses made out of paper, painted wood hangers hang from the ceiling by ribbon

An end table made of some sort of industrial (maybe nautical?) metal piece topped with wood butcher-block; racks made from wood ladders configured in an unusual way. 

Granny afghan, burlap coffee sacks, books, a glass lamp; polka dot apron displayed on a wall covered with "Guest Check" order slips.

Tattered strips of scrap fabrics become the sides to this whimsical canopy bed dressed in multiple patterns and styles of fabrics. 

 Handmade mixed-media signs; note the configuration of the magnifying glass collection, and the way the black metal contrasts with the strong textures of the wood pieces and burlap-covered wall.


Because Urban Outfitters (same company as Anthropologie) had the same unique displays, I used to LOVE gawking in that store as well. They have in the last couple of years, though, removed the repurposed antiques and focused much more on the industrial style. Today it is more like a cheap Spencer's Gifts-gone-industrial than an Anthropologie, but some of their displays are interesting:

Most, if not all the shelving is plywood; some trimmed out, but most is not. 

 Note how the addition of wallpaper (even some saran wrap!) and the wood turned in different directions make a cohesive and attractive display out of what would otherwise be very inexpensive (and cheap-looking) and disparate pieces of "scrap."

The display area on the left has a lean-to appearance. Although you cannot tell in the picture, the horizontal strips of the "roof" are strips of cardboard. Wouldn't some smooth leather BELTS be cool as well? The Fitting Rooms wall is faced with foam core and other products sliced into cross-sections and vertically stacked. Below is another good example of contrast- the rough, natural texture stone veneer wall alongside the wood steel hardware of industrial shelving.


While I'm not inclined to lean more heavily to the side of the industrial look, what with my being a GRANNY & all (that kind of thing is aimed almost exclusively to the late-teen/early 20s crowd), I do appreciate the creativity behind these displays and they certainly spur the imagination to think of stylish repurposing that can add a touch of whimsy and the unexpected. I wouldn't put GUEST CHECKS on my kitchen or dining room walls, but I appreciate the unexpected and out-of-the-box thinking behind it. It is THIS element that captures me- the creativity, the use of seemingly disparate objects, reusing things in unusual ways, that draws me in and, certainly more importantly from a retail perspective, HOLDS me there. I gain creative inspiration from visiting these stores and places like the Queen of Hearts Antiques & Interiors, where my booth is, and where I can see other creative minds at work on a regular basis. One idea can lead to many others, and if you're like me, you kind of take all this stuff in and then when you may not even expect it, pieces of this inspiration and that inspiration come together and you're not even sure why or how. Surrounding oneself with that which inspires you can make ALL the difference in the world.   

Now GO... DREAM... DO... CREATE!

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