Friday, April 26, 2013

The Restoration Hardware Swedish Demi Lune Chair Controversy

I did a post about one of my projects HERE, and I got so many great comments (thanks everyone!). One of them got me thinking, and I wanted to answer it fully.

Here's the comment:

HI Valorie! Love the choices you and the clients made! I am wondering if you would weigh in on the "controversy" regarding the chairs? Did you use them against your better judgement? Did you feel that they did/do not deserve the controversy? I think they add a distinctive touch in the right space, but, of course,a whole room of deconstructed items looks ridiculous-and would never exist in "real life" but even though one might be able to afford that ancient crusty one-off antique, you still might recover it or use it in a personal way. Love that your choices are always individual and reflect so much personality. Totally going to try and steal that studded wall detail somewhere!
Cheers! Meredith

Haters ganged up on this chair - Joni says. "This is all wrong, the proportions, the stain color. Hideous. Can’t imagine what they are thinking!"

In case you are wondering about the controversy, take a look at Joni Webb's post when Restoration Hardware introduced a line of deconstructed furniture. The post is entitled "Are They Serious?"

Joni says "This settee and all the other pieces in Restoration Hardware’s newest line “Deconstructed Upholstery Collection” – are all bare of the top layer of decorative fabric. I mean – seriously, WHAT??? And no, you can’t order the frame WITH fabric. You read that right."

As always I enjoyed Joni's thorough post. Lots of research, great writing, and tons of photos are always a part of Joni's blog posts. And she elicits tons of comments so you get a good idea of what people are thinking out there.

Joni especially hated the Restoration Hardware Swedish Demi Lune Chair. I did not hate what RH did. Of course I would love to use an antique or vintage piece, or maybe even a higher end reproduction like the one Tara Shaw does. And using deconstructed upholstery on furniture is nothing new or radical.

Hideous? Yes or No?

I chose to use the RH chair for my client because she liked a Klismos style dining chair. While the budget was good, there were limits, and there were places to spend, and places to be thrifty (but beautiful). I also was trying to provide an collected look with a mix of furnishings. The couple is not a fan of antiques or vintage pieces.

The client liked this style of chair HERE

I proposed the RH chairs because of the shape, the ability to customize color through a huge selection of fabrics offered, and because of price. We needed a minimum of eighth chairs, and some of the Klismos chairs came in around $2K each. We were definitely not going to spend $16K on dining chairs. And to my delight, the simpler lines of the antique look of the RH chair was attractive to the client.

The chair I chose

I chose the navy blue duck for the fabric. The color played back to the navy couch in the family room. The duck because the couple entertains their large extended family, and there are toddlers to contend with. The dark navy is forgiving of dirty little hands, and the duck is indestructible,

The navy blue couch in the family room - I keyed off this for the color choice of the dining chairs - I did not choose velvet (like the couch) because I thought it would start looking The House of Velvet - And besides the canvas duck I chose is more durable for the heavy family use the dining chairs will get - They are also used as pull-up chairs in the family room

The quality of the chair for the price is great (and we got them on sale!). The distressed wood also is forgiving of wear and tear. If it gets nicked up, it adds to the patina. We were surprised at the white stitching and considered pulling out the threads. But after a day or two, we loved the stitching because it graphically underscored the design of the chair.

I love how the chairs pair with the table - The navy blue fabric gives the chairs a custom look

I paired the chairs with a unique dining table. It's modern with a twist. The legs have brass casters like an antique, but the tripod design of the legs looks modern. The color is traditional, and the hand scraped finish makes the table more user friendly. It is an oval that has two leaves to accommodate the family. The table is done by Caracole and it's called "It's Got Legs". We purchased it locally through Eclectic Home. Clients (and I) in New Orleans support the local shops as much as possible.

It's Got Legs

As far as reacting to negative opinion about this chair, I obviously did not let it sway my decision to "sell" this chair to a client. I liked it for all the reasons stated above, and I am confident in my choices. That being said, if the chair was not right, it would have been returned. I did tell the client about the negative things bloggers had to say about the RH line. She reads the blogs. Her reaction? First she said that she trusted me, and next she said she doesn't care what others say if she likes something, and third it's her budget for us to manage in a smart way.

Don't hate me

Both the clients and I love how this chair looks in their home. And it is comfortable. I don't know how many homeowners would spend $16K on dining room chairs. I might get someone one of these days that has the criteria to do so. But in the meantime, I do not think that a lesser budget should get lesser design. My job is to make it work, and make the clients feel happy in their home and proud of how it looks.

A funny side note about Restoration Hardware.  At the Miles Redd talk and book signing the other night, he was asked a question from the audience about RH. Being the gentleman that he is, he didn't bash them, but he smirked and said real antiques are always best. Don't get me wrong, I cannot stand when any catalog room is reproduced, when a homeowner buys every piece of furniture shown either in a showroom or in a catalog picture. But I think RH  does a good job filling a moderate (to expensive) price point niche with well designed pieces. Their customer service is good too, though some pieces take way too long to be delivered.

What about you? Have you ever not used something because bloggers and their readers hate on it? Or bought something everyone loved? 

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  1. Well, if people don't like it -they don't have to buy it. There is something for everyone! I agree that I don't want an unfinished piece in my own home, but for a client - what they want rules! These are cool -maybe not for me -but great in the right situation - as is anything. Thats the beauty of design, there are no wrong answers!

  2. Hi Valorie, it's me Carey. I love the chairs and I love the way you used them. They're right on. It was interesting to read how and why you made the style decisions about this room. The chairs your clients used as inspiration are classic beauties, but I think the RH chairs are better here, much more interesting. A bit unexpected, and so very perfect with that table. You did a lovely job of defining the relationship between the living and dining areas (referencing the original post about this home) while giving each it's own life.

    Don't understand the controversy. I've had my eye increasingly focused on interiors the last 4 years (one wouldn't know it from the look of my home). I'm learning that absolutely everything in the world is out there these days, and it all works if it's styled correctly and the person who is living with it loves it.

  3. Hi Valorie! I missed the RH post of Joni's and wondered what the controversy was about when I read through the comments on your reveal post. First of all, I think the lines of the chairs are beautiful! And I think your approach is exactly why people are happy they hired a designer in the first place. To give them something they absolutely love that couldn't have thought of on their own. You are incredibly talented and I wouldn't change a single thing!

  4. I'm an upholsterer, I love the deconstructed look, for me the big whoop is the insides. Not sure I'd do a whole room , but one piece would be "give them something to talk about". Love your style, don't change a thing.

  5. I usually agree with Ms. Cote de Texas about almost everything, taste and style-wise...but I remember when that RH post came out, and I just laughed at her distress...she is so funny, even when she is upset she makes me laugh. The deconstructed look did not bother me, I actually liked some of the pieces. How is that any different than the Gianetti's doing some faux patina in the gorgeous home they are finishing in Ojai right now? I love that, it's so soft and comforting looking to me with beautiful lines. Some of it is real antiques or vintage, but let's face it, a lot of the surfaces are just being finished to look old. It's fine! It's absolutely beautiful, too....

  6. via FB

    Great post. I like your use of the chairs here, Valorie. Truth be told, all the haters and opinionaters probably use all kinds of things in projects that they wouldn't be all that proud of. You just happen to be out there and honest about your project and your sources. Very few clients have huge budgets like that and people who say all their clients do are less than honest most of the time. Anymore, the only opinions that matter to me are mine and my clients.


  7. via FB

    I think that it was a wise and well selected element. High with low, old with new and in the end the client gave the approval. Besides - just look at the finished room- gorgeous! Enough said. Kudos!


  8. via FB

    What a great room . Your choice of the blue duck and stitching embraces the roughness . It works here.


  9. I admit I didn't like the line at all when it was introduced, but seeing the chairs in that blue fabric changed my mind. Great vision! One question though, why do people awalys say real antiques are best? As with everything in life, I believe in a good mix. No matter my budget, I beleive there are times when nothing but a beautiful antique will do, but not always. I could never make the blaket statement that antiques are ALWAYS better. Can you shed some light on this?

  10. Valorie I think you put this design job together beautifully! It all works and you have a happy client. I like the chairs in blue a lot actually. Seeing images of furnishings in homes does sway me in loving the look or thinking it is so so. All of our bloggers help in design decisions. For example I am loving velvert a lot right now!

    PS I am having a Paris Book Giveaway!
    Art by Karena

  11. Oh...I think the way you used the chair gave them a whole new spin. They are perfect in your design. I can understand why Joni didn't like them...but then you went and broke the rules and they are fantastic. I bet if she sees them used in this context she'll love them. I would think about what a blogger said about a chair before I bought but I would not let it change my opinion or stop me from buying if I liked. A person has to have confidence in their own style. You my girl, have style confidence!

  12. Lord. me and my big mouth. i really hated that chair, didn't i? ha! actually when i saw the finished room, i didn't even realize that i had gone postal over that particular chair! i think i just wish it was a more faithful repro - but hey, it looks fabulous in this room - which is also fabulous. pleasssssssssssssssse forgive me.

    1. Nothing to forgive my dear Joni. I love your big mouth lol. You know I have one that you love too.
      It is just so interesting to me to see what things become a lighting rod out of the thousands of things we see on all the blogs.
      You have a ton of good info and good points on that "chair" post. You made me laugh when you used the H word about that chair, and I knew I would use it one day lol.
      As ever thanks for reading this old Vamp and for taking the time to comment.
      I love ya!
      xo xo

  13. You did a great job and it looks beautiful. Only the rich and famous can decorate in authentic antiques. The rest of us do our best with less and it still looks fantastic.

  14. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Brave,young and fun! Whoever hires you is lucky to have you!

  15. I love the chair and think it looks fantastic in the blue upholstery you chose. Kudos!

  16. This was such a great project. I have come to love your style and appreciate your stories of making a room work for the owners. When RH first showed their deconstructed line, I thought it was stupid. Like so many things in fashion and design, though, after seeing it for a while, I've come to like it. In fact, I was looking at the entire deconstructed line last night for a room I'm putting together. The chair looks fantastic in the blue and works so well in this room.
    To answer your question, I would never ever give up something that I truly liked just because someone else expressed their displeasure.

  17. I remember Joni's post and wasn't sure about the partly-upholster RH pieces, I think I would like one piece in a room i.e. I liked them in small doses.

    I didn't like the original unupholstered RH chair but the blue covered ones you have used look fantastic - what a difference. Great job - who would ever have thought to use royal blue velvet?

  18. I remember Joni's post and how much I agreed with her, something that I don't normally do. Her style is drastically different from mine, but I appreciate it greatly and learn so much from her blog.
    The good client is one who has the courage of her convictions, and trusts her designer to give her what she wants. You scored big here, Valorie! I absolutely LOVE the chairs done in blue! What a delicious idea!

  19. Nothing makes my heart sing like a Klismos chair. Valorie, you did a great job as always for this couple. While I personally would not prefer the rough finish of the RH chair, I would like to know the names of other vendors or manufacturers of beautifully design Klismos. The antique ones are very hard to find so a beautifully scaled repro would be fine with me.

  20. Valorie,

    Who cares what anyone else thinks about a personal design choice- do they live in your home??

    I must sheepishly admit I have lost track of your blog but after seeing your original and always evolving design work on this house, I am back! I just love your design aesthetic.