Website of the week
I came across a really interesting post today on one of my favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy: a discussion about Pier 1's new "Loft 21" collection. While Apartment Therapy kind of set the tone of many of the posts to follow by saying, "Obviously, we do not have a high regard for this new development on the furnishings landscape," many of the later posters came to defend both Pier 1 and the new collection. Like many people, when I hear "Pier 1," I think wicker and papasan chairs. And while there's certainly a place for that kind of furniture in the world, Pier 1 has recently tried to modernize its offerings--whether due to sliding market share or to capitalize on the covetable "young urbanite" demographic, I don't know. Regardless, this seemed to offend a lot of the posters on principle alone (how dare this cheesy "global" store try to pander to design snobs!). So I decided to look at the collection and judge for myself. Loft 21 is part of Pier 1's "Urban Spaces" collection, which also includes "Brownstone," "Lake Shore Drive," and "Micro-Pod." Um, okay. There's basically one way to view the collection, which is to to scroll through all 8 pages of it.

The good news is that there's still a lot of rattan, as in the Martin chair, pictured below; palm shows up in this storage box; this frankly ugly hamper is woven out of some natural material that, on second thought, probably lets your laundry breathe better than a regular old plastic or metal hamper.

There are also some totally bizarre items. Like, seriously, what are you supposed to do with these silver rattan balls?

That said, there is some cool--and affordable--stuff to be had. After spending many hours shopping for armchairs, I can tell you this Bradford chair, currently on sale for $329, is a huge bargain--even with the matching ottoman, it's still less than a similar chair at Crate & Barrel or Room & Board. Of course, I'd recommend the sit test before you buy.

I don't know how practical this onyx square shelf is for displaying knickknacks, but I really like the design. Heck, you can hang it on the wall and not put anything on it. at all!

The Deirdre table with stools is also a great bargain--for $329 you get a glass-top table and four vinyl stools, one of those great space-saving ideas for when you have super-limited room (as in a studio). This is great for entertaining.

But one of my favorite things is also one of the most affordable. People tend to rave about Pier 1's inexpensive but good-smelling candles; the Mella comes in a really cute (and probably reusable) retro glass container, and the scent sounds delicious.

So, true, it's not as great overall as West Elm or CB2, but you have to give Pier 1 props for trying to modernize their wares. It's a decent first try that, hopefully, will only get better with practice.

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