Let’s Play a Game With the Restoration Hardware Catalog

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The Restoration Hardware Cube of Paper

Did your household recently receive a 12-pound block of Restoration Hardware catalogs? Mine sure did!

At first I thought “What a waste!”, but then I realized that if I went on to buy just one $1200 lamp, it would pay for a lifetime of sending me catalogs.

But, since I won’t buy said lamp: It is indeed a waste!

The top catalog pictured, “Interiors”, features staged scenes full of furniture and accessories, artfully arranged into picturesque tableaux from some imprecise notion of “the past”.

In case you’re not familiar with Restoration Hardware, it’s a home furnishings store that specializes in recreating and adapting period items — you could easily decorate a Restoration Hardware kitchen with brass Versailles drawer-pulls, a hanging lamp styled after something from a 1910s button factory, a breakfast table made of reclaimed Russian barnwood, and a stove hood patterned after the innards of a famous Belgian clock.

Sometimes the items they sell are relatively straightforward, such as a steamer trunk coffee table.

Other times, they’re strange, like a floor lamp patterned after Sputnik.

Their catalogs are full of this same dissonance: some artifacts that are handsome, if peculiar, homages to styles of the past; others that are bizarre mass-produced old-and-distressed clutter existing solely for the sake of looking old and distressed.

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The catalog descriptions, however, are what I want to point out specifically. They’re mostly compound phrases, like the above:

Reproduction of a found French woodcarving from the early 19th century, ravaged by time and the elements.

Same with this canoe-shaped curtain (the most logical of all shapes for curtains):

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Vintage architect’s model, or “maquette”, of a canoe constructed of solid oak slats.

You could mix and match the second half of those sentences and I wouldn’t even blink. My favorite descriptions in the catalog are the ones that read like the two halves were pulled out of two separate hats. See if you can match these first halves:

1) Inspired by the voluptuous form of a vintage hayrack…
2) Replica of an architectural rosette fragment cast in resin…
3) Reproduction of a pair of Baroque architectural brackets from a Parisian theater…

With these latter halves:

A) …with the weathered appearance of stone.
B) …our cast iron table is topped with timeworn, reclaimed oak.
C) …reimagined as a mirror.

(Answers: 1-B; 2-A; 3-C)

Okay Here’s the Game

The Restoration Hardware company went to the trouble of compiling these catalogs and mailing them to me — no mean feat. So the least I can do is put them to use. I call the game Restoration Hogwash.

It follows the rules of the game Balderdash. First, one player looks through the catalog, and chooses an image, placing a sticky note over the description.

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Then, all other players take a slip of paper or an index card and write down a made-up description for that item.

Meanwhile, the person who chose the picture transcribes the real description.

Everyone turns in their slips to the first player, who mixes them up and reads them all aloud.

After everyone has heard all the descriptions, players each vote for the description they think is the real one. The object of the game is to fool the other players into picking your made-up description (by making it sound convincing), instead of the real one.

Players score one point for each person who is fooled into picking their fake description, as well as one point if they pick the correct description themselves.

The chaise pictured above? Here’s the real description:

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Reproduction of a 100-year-old Hungarian sleigh, crafted of solid elm with a tea-stained burlap cushion.

That is printed right there in the catalog and I’m still not convinced it’s not made-up.

Now, A Challenge For You

Here’s another picture from the catalog, of a table that is also a pillar for some reason:

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Leave a comment on this post and write your own one-sentence catalog description for this piece.

This won’t be a contest to get it right — don’t bother figuring out the correct description. Just some fun to see who can write the best made-up version.

I’ll reprint my favorite comments in a future post! And if you play Restoration Hogwash, let me know how it goes!!