Tag Archives: shopping

Inspiration, Expectation: Anthropologie, Spring 2012

by Kate

The world is in bloom.

Spring arrived with a great rush here in Pittsburgh. Midsummer heat swept through the bare branches of early March, bulbs burst into full flowering brightness, a lush carpet of grass sprung up from the bare brown soil, and suddenly the air is full of sweetness. Spring is a season of powerful newness. Since I am here in the city and far from the farm fields of home, I decided to celebrate the season by packing up my camera- and my toddler…

…and heading over to see the new crop of displays at our local Anthropologie. Like my recent trip to meet the Pioneer Woman, this trip was partially inspired by my sisters, especially Mary, who lives on a ridge far away from fancy stores and big book signings. Mary will be moving into her own little cottage in a couple weeks. She has a beautiful ( and anthropologie-ish) knack for home decorating, and I can’t wait to see what she does with it. I though these pictures might inspire her.

Lets look a little closer at the front window, shall we?

This spring, Anthropologie is inspired by Abstract Expressionism. It says so, right on the window.

Meanwhile, I am inspired by Anthropologie. In part, this is because, unlike Mary, I am a terrible shopper. As the eldest of nine children raised by a journalist/farmer, I didn’t get into the habit of shopping at an early age- though I did get really proficient at sorting through the regular large bags of clothing left at our home by helpful friends and members of the community. Even thrift store shopping is fraught with tension for me. I lack the ability to see an object or piece of clothing and know how to integrate it into my home or wardrobe with a strong and significant sense of Style. However, I am capable of recognizing beauty and creativity when I see it- so, I love wandering through Anthropologie. I think they do a fantastic job of marketing brilliant creativity and an eye for beauty.

I love the way this display flows, and the colors of their spring collection. I also love that this shirt is laid out on what appears to be a butcher block table.

This next picture is a great example of the way the designs within the store play with texture. Something about this reminds me of the running a theatre company and working on set design. However, I am pretty sure that something about the chair would remind my husband of a piece of furniture that has been attacked by a vicious bobcat and then left in the rain. Sometimes our tastes differ, have I mentioned that?

I have another ulterior motive in my recent love for bright and flowing prints, like the shirt featured above, and the dresses below.

As a very tall, very straight hipped, and very fair skinned person, I generally shy away from bright and flowing clothing. I feel that it makes me look ridiculous, as though I am swathed in a bright and cheerful tent and billowing in the wind. However, these days I am a very tall person who is four months pregnant, and my shape is definitely starting to shift. So is my taste in clothing. Bring on the bright and the billowing!

Also, bring on the big accessories. Luckily, the fact that I am a bellydancer means I have lots of necklaces like this one lying about.

In fact, I have a very similar necklace to the one above. I love it, but for some unknown reason I’ve only worn it once. I now resolve to work it into my wardrobe on a regular basis. Wandering through the displays at Anthropologie often reminds me to see the beauty in things I already possess- like this heap of clay pots.

I too possess a (significantly less orderly) heap of battered and empty pots, located in a forlorn jumble to the side of our back porch. One of them is verdant with a random and likely weedy growth, and the rest reproached me throughout the entire last gardening season. Seeing these displayed made me feel marginally better about this eerie similarity to my pitiful pot heap. I am going to guess that my husband will NOT be convinced that this justifies the jumbled heap or makes it any more attractive- so I have put Clean Pots on my to-do list for the next week.

I do not on the other hand happen to have a large collection of home- made aprons, but my domestic goddess sewing sister Mary makes them, and I bet hers rival the ones on display here.

Lets look a little closer at all that china.

I really loved the bee on this plate, and the brightness of the mugs.

There were lots of cheerful pieces of china.

But I was extremely relieved to discover that the plate my (almost) two year old fell in love with, and began to play with, was plastic. Pretty and unbreakable plastic plates have been a staple in my house recently. In fact I may return and pick up some of these some day soon.

There were many things in the store that reminded me of the the farm where I grew up- Anthropologie is all about the farmhouse chic.

This strawberry plate reminded me of my sister Colleen, because of her love of all things French and also because growing up, Colleen headed out to the upper fields and found the first ripe strawberry of the year.

Speaking of strawberries, these ceramic containers are a permanent version of the ubiquitous stacks of cardboard containers that we use to harvest berries every year.

These spindles are old and distressed, but they remind me of the beautiful new Amish crafted spindles on the long dreamed of front porch recently added to my parents big farmhouse.

This display case reminds me of  my mother’s cabinets.

This bouquet in the mason jar reminds me of the huge vases of fresh flowers Mary arranges and brings in weekly when our flower gardens are in season…

I would be very curious, Mary, to see what sort of bouquet you would arrange in one of these vases.

Or perhaps not. They are really not quite Wisconsin farmhouse vases. This long plank table, though, reminds me of the huge Amish crafted wooden table at home- albeit with an added abstract expressionist Southwest twist entirely missing from my Wisconsin home.

This next little table, on the other hand? It reminds me, rather sorely, of the beautiful beat up weathered splintery table in my basement, that I lobbied my husband to include as part of our home decor. Sadly, he was not supportive of the splintery beauty. I love half refinished things, and he does Not. Mary, perhaps something like this could be included in your future home?

Speaking of future and imagined home decor, I really do love this Abstract Expressionist theme.

I have always loved the idea of being a painter, and having a light drenched studio, and sort of generally being surrounded by half painted canvases and the like. Sadly I have slim to no talent with visual arts, included but not limited to basic painting of walls, so (to the relief of my husband, I am sure) I will stick with the harp and dancing, and gazing at the Abstract Expressionist Spring displays at Anthropologie.

Aren’t they pretty? Note to Mary: perhaps you might want to think about lampshades?

Actually, perhaps I should think about and actually purchase multiple lampshades, and in fact a lamp. Mine run the gamut from ripped to scorched. But back to the topic of imaginary bedrooms in imaginary Painter’s Lofts. I fell head over heels for this platform bed.

Oh man. Everything about this is so alluring to me. The bare drywall, high platform, exposed pipes, and dangling wire. The suggestion that this bed exists in a huge open space with glazed windows and light pouring in. I examined it from multiple angles, lost in imagination…

and only returned to earth and practicality when my very good friend pointed out that it sure was a high bed for a toddler to fall off of. True. This fact reminded me that years ago I did live in a one room cabin with a loft bed and a wall of windows and no running water and an extension cord just like that one running mysteriously in the window and down the hill, from whence came power. I loved the beauty and the loneliness of that time- but I swore to myself that when I had a toddler, I would also have running water, and rooms, and stairs instead of a ladder. And I do, and I’m grateful for it… but if I did have a loft bed (and loft life!) I would definitely have a blue parrot chair.

Perhaps I would also have a drafting table, in this fantasy life. Possibly computers have replaced the drafting table, but that is no trouble in my fantasy world, where one could also drink whiskey in a haze of blue smoke while drafting Howard Roark-ian masterpieces of modern architecture.

I could of course mix additional drinks in my southwestern inspired kitchen…

And then, exhausted, I could repose upon this worn leather sofa for rest, respite, and further inspiration.

Ah, this fantasy life is exhausting- but there are bits of every scene that I’d love to bring into my world. The bright pillow on the couch, for example? That I can do. I also have a drawer full of beautiful napkins like the ones in this basket, although they are currently only used to occupy the toddler who throws them on the floor and then stuffs them back in the drawer.

I could always browse through this coffee table book for ideas.

Or simply continue to seek inspiration from my little sister Mary, who seems to have a great grasp of modern vintage style, and who regularly plots and plans in journals that look a lot like these.

Come to think of it, I have a couple books like that myself- it’s just a matter of using them. For me, that reminder is one of the best things about a trip to Anthropologie. It is good to be reminded that there is such potential for beauty all around us- even in a life without a platform loft bed, painting studio, or drafting table. And with that, I am off to look for beauty in my own humble home- quite possibly while wearing bright and flowing printed clothing.

Till next time!

-Kate

 

For more Sweet Ridge Sisters posts on Anthropologie, see here:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Sisters in the City (NYC Edition)

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Sisters in The City (NYC Edition)

by Colleen

I’ve always dreamed of going to the East Coast.  Too snobby for the Midwest in high school, I thought it was the epitome of class in comparison.  Over Christmas break, I had the privilege of traveling to that famed area of the United States to test my dreams and theories.

After a short flight, a few metro rides, and a long bus ride, I finally arrived in Princeton, New Jersey at the home of my friend, Emma, filled to the brim with children.  She’s the oldest of nine-typical Catholic family, I suppose.  We spent a few glorious days, wandering around the town and drinking copious amounts of coffee.  I completely fell in love with Princeton.  The college campus was literally a manifestation of my dreams.  The stone buildings, peaceful and studded with towers and turrets, in late afternoon sun took my breath away.

After the Princeton stay, Emma and I set off to New York City and met up with Mary.  I’m still amazed at life; the coincidence of Mary working in New York at that particular time that I visited?  Crazy.  I was SO happy to see her.  After the initial hugging and talking session, we were off!

Emma acted as tour guide because Mary and I are NOT city girls.  In fact, I had serious concerns about being able to get on a metro before I left home.   By the time we got to NYC, though, I was an old hand, and we felt very comfortable in Grand Central Station.

Of course we did a little shopping, as Mary was determined to find rainboots.  I cringe.  Rainboots are definitely not my idea of fashion, but they make Mary happy-very happy.

While she bought boots, I bought a scarf.  To each her own.  We proudly displayed our new wares.

Then we hit up the really big stores, like Saks 5th Avenue, a place that I literally had only ever read about.

Emma and I tried our best to cover our muddy boots as well went up, floor by floor, seeing dresses like the one above, and being scared to touch anything.  On our way to drop Mary off at her bus stop, we passed by another store…Anthropologie keeps trying to knock the Slattery family off, it would seem.  We’ve been using those blueish square cartons to harvest and sell raspberries for years.

I loved traipsing about the city and looking up and seeing things like this:

But, I must admit, I am not a city girl.  It was a great realization to me that I absolutely love where I’m from.  The hills and valleys which make up the landscape at home are far more beautiful to me then anything I saw in New York City.  That is not to say that I don’t see the beauty in cities-I do, but it’s just a different kind.  Cities are beautiful and awe-inspiring in that I am amazed at the skills of mankind to create them.  But there is no replacement for the beauty of the earth and its infinite multiplicity of geography.  That beauty comes straight from God.  How could a metal structure ever compete?

More adventures of the Slattery Sisters in the City here:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Sister in the City

Farmers in the City

Country Girl, Big Sisters, Big City Style

The Downtown Department Store

by Kate

The presence of a downtown department store in Pittsburgh has always been one of things that makes me feel as though I live in a Big City.

Growing up in the middle of dairy country without a tv made it tough to imagine what a life in City would be like, but plenty of old fashioned books and catching half of Miracle on 31st Street at a holiday party assured me that it definitely involved catching a streetcar and going downtown for the afternoon to visit the Department Store and have a milkshake at the soda fountain. Last Friday, that is (more or less) what we did.

In the absence of streetcars, we went around the corner to catch the bus. It was a glorious sunny spring day, meaning it was time for me to pull out my sunhat.

About the hat. A couple years ago, when I still lived down south, it occurred to me that my Irish skin and the searing summer sun didn’t mix.The problem was that I have an an aversion to the various heavy and nostril assailing sunblock concoctions out there. This did not faze the southern beau I had at the time one bit. “Git you a hat, woman!” said he, and so I did. It was surprisingly good advice. Do I look like an idiot? Yes. A picturesque one, though. It keeps the sun off and the sunblock too.

Today, The Downtown Department store (and our destination) is Macy’s.

This has only been true for a few years. From 1877 until 2006, it was the flagship operation of the famous Kaufmann’s Department store chain. With 12 retail floors, spanning an entire city block,  referred to simply as “The Big Store”. This remains an apt description.

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann to design the executive offices on the top floor. The exterior of the building is a striking Neoclassical Style Revival. Perhaps the most iconic detail is a huge ornamental clock. This clock has been a popular downtown meeting place  for almost a hundred years.

It is the clock that really makes me feel like I have stepped into the storybooks I read growing up, the clock that makes a trip to the department store seem magical.

The clock was much more alluring than the window displays, which hinted that perhaps I would not find my magic inside as they promised. Certainly there seemed to be no chance of finding my magic in knits.

Trenches did not seem promising, either.

Spring 2011 appears to be all about neutrals.

Pale neutrals are a lovely concept, but the sad fact of the matter is that they dramatically reveal coffee stains. This is a deal breaker for me. Also my aforementioned Irish skin is pale enough without being swathed in shades of oatmeal. This color palette tends to make me into a sort of six foot pale neutral person.

The window displays inspired in me the usual terror and qualms that I experience every time I am in or near a department store. I love the idea of these stores, in books, but the reality makes me feel like an awkward ungainly impoverished coffee stained wild haired country bumpkin. Perhaps this is because I am. Taking a deep breath, I bumbled my way through the revolving doors and into a vast expanse of mirrored glass, marble, gleaming surfaces, and a spectacular amount of pink.

There is a wedding coming up (in case you missed it, read more here) and this means that I have given myself permission to go to a real live makeup counter. Due to a mixture of shy terror and complete poverty, I only purchase department store makeup when an upcoming nuptial event gives me the excuse. The last time I bought eyeliner was just before my own wedding two years ago. As a bellydancer who paints on vast quantities every other week, I recently decided to face the fact that my paint pot was drying up and decided this wedding was the perfect excuse to invest in a whopping $21.50 in real makeup, thus earning a Clinique gift bag which would instantly transform me into a chic, clean, classy person ready to attend a wedding.

I am scared of the fancy ladies at the makeup counters, and the men too. The first time I gathered up the courage to visit one and have my face done I was 23 and I will never forget my makeup artist, Bruno, telling me that indeed it was crucial that I wax my eyebrows or I would look like, well, him. His thick black eyebrows were impeccably waxed but that did not disguise the fact that without intervention they would clearly have taken up at least 1/3 of his forehead.

This time, the fancy lady who finally found time to fuss and flutter and dab my lips with various lipsticks was very sweet, and kind. No mention of eyebrows. There were various experiments in the world of color.

I have to be honest and say I am not quite sure how I walked away from the counter with a lipstick called Ginger Flower. It is… bright pink. Very bright reddish pink. Perhaps the word coral is appropriate. Coral lipstick is another thing that sounds great in books, but is a bit challenging to pull off in real life. However, the makeup counter lady assured me that it was stunning. I decided that a springtime wedding would be a great time to look stunning even as I (accurately) predicted that my husband would instead choose to describe the effect as “clown-like”.

My secondary goal on this trip was to sample Chanel No. 5. I recently read a book chronicling the history of this perfume. It was a great book, and a fascinating history full of passion, monasteries, nazis, great escapes, espionage, chic, and luxury. I realized while reading it that I had no idea what the scent born and causing such drama smelled like, so it was imperative that I try it.

Not bad, is my verdict, though I liked the book better than the perfume. Thankfully my husband who was not raised in a free range manner on a farm recently taught me how to sample perfume while loking civilized and avoid spraying it heavily on my body and random passerby while sort of jerking spasmodically in an attempt to wave the scent around. As a result this scent sampling session was almost entirely unembarrassing. I liked the Issey Miyake featured in the picture, too.

The cosmetics and perfume counter is only the beginning of the first floor of eleven at the downtown Macy’s. Although my eyes were already beginning to gloss over and my breath come short at some point, I decided that I must make some attempt to dig deeper into the retail jungle. This meant taking the escalators up to the fifth floor to glance over the 2011 crop of prom dresses. As a harpist, I am always on the lookout for extravagent poufy formal dresses. You never know when they’ll come in handy for an upcoming gig. Sadly, my research revealed that the current model of prom dresses are absolutely useless for a harpist.

Or for someone who would like to sit down at any point while wearing one.

Or for thousands of young women who will deeply regret their prom photos years hence.

Ah well. There are plenty of other formal dresses with skirts in the world, and I almost never buy them till they get to the thrift store anyway.

The prom dresses were more than enough to round out my department store adventure, and I decided it was time to make my way down the escalators, past the soda fountain, and out the revolving doors. The directory reminded me that there are far more mysteries to be explored at a future date- including the Fur Vault, which I definitely don’t have the courage to broach at this point.

Just before I left the store, I spotted a man in a fedora at the bus stop across the street. Just for a second I saw the past juxtaposed on the present, and I felt less lonely in my sunhat.

I am sure that I will return to the downtown department store again someday in the future. Will you meet me at the clock?

Till we meet again,

-Kate

anthropologie, slatterie style

by Kate

One of the benefits of living in a densely populated city is that you can walk out your door and keep walking till you come to a fancy store, the kind that exists only as a catalogue that you curl up with near the woodstove in the middle of the winter when you are living on a far flung farm. Granted, it may take an hour to get to said store on foot, which is about what it takes to drive into a real town where I’m from, but unlike my middle sisters I am not a runner. I am a rambling walker, meandering along as I gaze upon the world around me. I love walking in the city for the same reasons I love walking in the country- there is always a new story, new vista, new adventure to see.  A few days ago I bundled up the baby against the bitter chill of early spring, slung her in the sling, and headed out to peruse the wares at Anthropologie.

The dress in the front window display reminded me a great deal of the shipwreck dress that my incredibly talented friend Rebecca created for our North Carolina production of Twelfth Night. I am pretty sure that given lots of fabric and old hangars she could create a frock similar to this one.

Anthropologie is a high end retail chain that started here in Pennsylvania back in 1992 and has expanded rapidly. The stores specialize in high class bright bohemian shabby chic elegant and inordinately expensive household items and women’s clothing. The store received a great deal of press a couple years ago when Michelle Obama ordered some of their furniture for the White House. Some decorators were in an uproar at the proletarian nature of this move, but the store is anything but cheap, though presumably more accessible than your average White House furniture dealer. Here is the  bench that awaits customers in the entrance, inviting you to sit down at your peril and quite possibly snap it in two.

Let’s take a closer look at that pricetag, shall we?

Why yes, it is a wooden painted bench from Belgium, circa 1900. Yes, it is $1,300 dollars. Hmmmmn. I have a peeling painted rocking chair from Pittsburgh, circa 1900ish, with very similar (and probably arsenic based) peeling paint on it. Casey threatens to throw it out the window on a regular basis. Perhaps I should see if this high end retailer will take it off my hands?

It was at this point, pondering the bench, when I began to see the store through new eyes. I stepped back outside to view the other window display, a ramshackle weathered grey green structure that looked like it had been designed and implemented by none other than my father.

I kept the parking sign in lest you be led astray and think this was actually a scene from Sweet Ridge Farm. It does look eerily like something my father would build. It reminded me so much of home that from that point on, I made mental notes to have Clare photograph the flawlessly stylish high end anthropologie aspects lurking in plain sight back home at the farm. I think you will agree that the goat shed on the farm is significantly sleeker than the urban version. The sleekness is due entirely to the fact that my brother Robert, and not my father, built it.

Moving inside the store, the rustic rural motif continued with a full sized wheelbarrow- unlabeled and not priced as far as I could see but it looked as though it may have experienced hauling work during the French Revolutioin.

Of course Clare was able to locate a similar scene, minus the candles, out in the still snow covered fields.  Note the artistic nature of the apple trees, which my father has brutally attacked with his spring fervor of pruning. There are few things harder on my parent’s marriage than my father and his love of excessive pruning.

Back inside the tasteful, softly scented, flawlessly decorated interior of the store, I realized that the brilliant and tasteful designers had some serious common ground with my mother when it came to shelving and the kitchen/dining area. Here we have the store:

And here is the far less rickety version created by my farmwife mother. Well, it is less rickety now after Robert came and secured it into the wall. Having a son grow up to be a carpenter really allowed my mother to realize many of her dreams. It just took twenty five years or so.

As for aprons, well, if you saw the post Mary and Colleen did on Sunday baking, you’ll know we’ve got that covered.

The folks at the store had a huge wooden table and bench.

Which also looked strikingly familiar to our Amish built dining room table.

Ah but the store did have some pretty beautiful china, like this

whereupon the resourceful photographer/stylist  Clare brought out our Great Grandmother’s wedding china.

I loved wandering through the sophisticated big city store and viewing it through the prism of my Wisconsin ridgetop home, and to realize that you don’t need to pay two thousand dollars for a beat up cupboard from India in order to have beautiful style in your house. I’d go for the amish built table myself in a heartbeat. I found a great deal of inspiration in Anthropologie, which I think is a significant part of what they peddle- style and inspiration. I also have a newfound level of respect for my mother and her farmhouse decorating style. Who knows- perhaps she will be asked to consult in decorating the White House. I can see my father gleefully hoeing up the lawn to expand the White House garden, or perhaps volunteering to teach them a few lessons about pruning.