Dear Pottery Barn,
How I love you and, yet, hate you. You lure me in with your pretty catalogue pictures and daily deal e-mails promising a land of free delivery and $100 off. I eagerly browse the store like a kid in the candy store finding perfect piece after perfect piece. My eyes then wander over to the price tag and my dreams are shattered. I will have to walk away from your perfectly rustic traditional home accessories once again. I have some bad news for you today. I have been forced to find another love. Yes, it’s true. You have been replaced. His name is Chris and he is slowly breaking me away from your talons of exuberant prices. I am taking it one day at a time but I think, soon, I will be over you. Don’t get me wrong. My eyes will still light up every time you deliver a new catalogue to my doorstep and I will still bookmark design ideas from your website. I know you won’t miss me- you have hundreds of thousands of other hearts to steal away from their wallets.
Yes, it’s true. Chris has become my Pottery Barn. It all started when I was heading down to Dallas to move into my first place. As I hugged my college roommates goodbye, I was suddenly left with a lot less furniture. I was already moving to a new city with no job and no family. I certainly didn’t need an empty apartment as well. I didn’t want to commit to anything too substantial since Chris and I would be getting married soon and we had fun times of combining stuff in our future. As I browsed online, I stumbled upon a pair of bookshelves. Wait, scratch that. Not a pair of bookshelves, THE pair of bookshelves. It was love at first sight. But wait, what’s this… $299…. EACH?? And did I mention that I didn’t have a job yet? Yikes. How was I going to swing this? But look how pretty they are!
I mourned over my lost set of bookshelves and, of course, immediately called Chris to lament my situation. I sent him the picture so he could see just what a loss my apartment was without these fabulous bookshelves. He did his usual “Mhm, that’s nice” and we soon moved on to talk about something else.
Little did I know that my Chris was hard at work on my graduation present and, in turn, had become a furniture builder. He called with the news and, to be honest, I was extremely skeptical. I’ve never heard him talk about building furniture before and these aren’t a simple pair of IKEA bookshelves. I dreaded the day of the reveal knowing I can’t fake liking something, especially to him. Fortunately, for both of us, I was pleasantly surprised. They looked amazing! I couldn’t believe my eyes. To Chris’ dismay, now that I know he can build something based on a drawing, I’ve provided him with a healthy stack of items to duplicate. Sucker.
I don’t know what the appeal of Pottery Barn is- from what I can tell, it’s a very nice, very organized, and very expensive garage sale. Naturally, Julie loves it. Almost everything we own is “just like” something she found at Pottery Barn, and she gets pretty giddy every time a catalog shows up.
A little over two years ago, Julie sent me a link to a $300 bookshelf. After restarting my heart, I realized that there was absolutely nothing special about it. I mean, for $300 I feel like I should be able to ride it to work, but no, these shelves couldn’t even stand up on their own- they have to lean against the wall. I looked at pictures and dimensions and decided I could build it, which was convenient because I also needed an idea for Julie’s college graduation present.
I should mention that at this point, I had never really built anything but bike ramps, so my carpentry experience revolved around the assumption that someone would be barreling towards whatever I built at full speed with the intention of hurling themselves into the air. All this thing had to do was hold up books, but nonetheless I ran off to Home Depot and filled my Jetta with a pile of lumber, much to the disbelief of onlookers in the parking lot.
I went back home, laid everything out in my parents’ driveway, marked off a few measurements, and started hacking away. The easy parts were the shelf bottoms and backs. All I had to do there was cut everything to the same length, which only took about an hour or so. The next two days, however, were spent building the shelf sides and supports. Each one of these pieces has a rounded edge, so I made a cardboard pattern to get an identical curve on every piece. Actually shaping that curve into the wood was a pain. I didn’t have access to a huge selection of carpentry tools, so I basically made a ton of increasingly smaller cuts as close to the curve as possible, and then hand sanded everything smooth. At one point my neighbor popped his head over the fence and asked, “What the heck are you doing over there?” I pointed to a few seemingly random piles of wood and replied, “Making bookshelves. See?”
Once I had everything finished and assembled (beautifully, I might add), I excitedly called Julie and told her what I had been doing. She fell silent for a second and asked if I could cut it in half because upon further examination, she decided she wanted two shelves. Uh… what? She clearly had no idea how much work I had put into this project because she said “Well, it’s not like building another one!” No, Julie, it’s exactly like building another one. I decided that I really had nothing better to do, so I started taking everything apart so I could, you know, do everything over again. When I told my mom all about this her only reply was, “Well I hope you really love this girl!” I’m still not sure what that was supposed to mean.
Finally, I finished these things, and it was time to visit Julie in her new apartment and deliver her present. It was raining cats and dogs that weekend, so I had to wrap everything up in trash bags. I also brought my entertainment center, so everything had to be disassembled to fit in my car at once. When I got to Dallas, I hauled everything inside and began final assembly, which required running a drill at 11pm… oops. Once everything was put together, I saw my hard work pay off- everything fit perfectly into the nook she was putting it, without so much as an inch to spare.
If I had to do everything over again, I would. It was literally a labor of love, not only because it was for my fiancee but I also realized that I love carpentry. Oh, I also love building a $300 shelf for less than $60.
I apologize for the pictures. They were taken the day we moved out of our apartment. There’s too many boxes blocking the bookshelves right now to photograph. Yes, we did move a year and a half ago and yes, we’re still unpacking. Oops. Maybe one day we’ll get to it…