La La How The Life Goes On

Crappy Chic

Posted on: April 24, 2014

A new HomeGoods store recently opened near us to much fanfare. My MIL and I checked it out on Grand Opening day. We luckily arrived just as the early birds were leaving, and so only waited 10 minutes to buy our oven mitts. I’d previously avoided HG stores because I imagined their demographic to be more along the lines of Britney Spears. You know, tons of money but not tons of taste: “It’s a genuine ottoman from Thailand, y’all! With a special drawer to store ma Cheetos and yoohoo!” Just lots of “shabby chic” furniture that looks good enough for a prefab McMansion in Sherman Oaks but with no real character.

I returned another day with my mom, who of course managed to crystallize in a sentence what bothers me about HG and places like it. We saw a wall hanging/shelf thingie that was weather beaten and ostensibly beachy. My mom lifted it up and said in that Scottish Church Lady voice: “What rubbish! $30 and you’d need to give it a coat of paint!” After laughing until my ribs ached, I completely understood her confusion.

Even as I was explaining shabby chic and weathered and nautical design hoo hah to my mom, I realized that none of that stuff appeals to us because it all implies poverty. We didn’t have a ton of money growing up, so my entire early life is a retro Tumblr account dedicated to worn, weather beaten and shabby decor. And not by choice. So when I walk into a store offering shelves with peeling paint, my low-rent origins make me one part curious if it’s lead paint, to two parts astounded that someone will pay $80 for the privilege of owning it.

If only my family had known back in ’86 that our shabby was actually shabby chic! If only we had known that the old sink now holding rhubarb plants in our back yard was not actually borderline redneck but actually an Upcycling Pinterest board waaaaaaay before it’s time! Goodness! The parties we could have had! The coverage we could have garnered in “Gracious Homes of the Merrimack Valley” and Interior Design! Look, America! This is not a broken couch on our porch! It’s a repurposed veranda fixture! Why, yes, that may look like a cupboard door is missing from the kitchen cabinets. But no! It’s just us Opening Up The Space in order to display our fabulous collection of McDonalds Great Muppet Caper happy meal glasses. Such whimsy! Yes! “Creating A Point of Interest” I believe it’s called.

It got me wondering what other aspects of life and design are influenced by our childhood circumstances. For instance, I grocery shop all the time because I can’t stand to see even a half-empty fridge. We had an empty fridge sometimes as a kid, and the memory gives me stomach aches. I have a reptilian reflex from deep in my amygdala that my kids should never encounter a square inch of empty fridge. Which means I’m almost afraid to own a giant subzero restaurant-quality refrigerator because I know I’d feel compelled to fill it. And who’s paying for that grocery bill?!

Oh yes, the interior designer who comes to my house better bring a PhD in Psychology and Counseling to go with his fabric swatches. Or, at the very least, some kind of furniture that will store my Cheetos and yoohoo.

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