If you’re an American of a certain age, you might just now be discovering that Pottery Barn is a relic of your youth. Those days when you were in your early 20s, just out of college maybe. You moved into your first apartment — the first chance you had to paint your walls beige all by yourself, or buy a pillow with a big button in the center of it. And now things have changed. You’re older, you extensively moisturize, and you don’t know if it’s your newly-strengthened glasses prescription or what, but the stuff from Pottery Barn looks like crap.
Why should you care, you ask? Because, I would argue, Pottery Barn is important to America. Pottery Barn has become as central to our middle class (that vaunted and vanishing class) sense of style as Starbucks is to our middle class taste in coffee. We cannot afford to lose either place to the that slow and steady decline that came to Department Stores and Tiki restaurants 40 years ago.
Pottery Barn democratized relatively good taste in an all-pervasive way that was extremely helpful, especially in the early days of the company’s ascent. Pottery Barn made it seem possible for you to own a couch of proper proportions, an upholstered chair with classic lines and attractively muted fabrics. You, too, could buy that giant mirror with the square black frame and lean it against the wall, just so, and all your friends would know that it was okay because they had seen it in Pottery Barn.