If you're tired of comparing the real-life rooms in your house to the perfect ones pictured in shelter catalogs, here's a website for you: Catalog Living (catalogliving.net). The site is the brainchild of Molly Erdman, a Los Angeles-based actor, writer and comedian.
Every day, Erdman posts a photo from a catalog (Pottery Barn, West Elm, Pier 1, Grandin Road, etc.) and writes a clever caption that skewers the all-too-carefully designed setting. To carry out the comedy, Erdman has created a couple, Gary and Elaine, who are obviously wealthy and just as obviously slaves to style. For a photo of a room with a boring beige color scheme, the caption is: "Gary, I'd really prefer it if you watch only beige TV shows in this room." And a room with an odd arrangement of twigs in front of a dresser gets this tag: "Gary resented Elaine's nagging tone every time she told him to put his twigs back in the dresser."
While the site isn't bust-a-gut funny, it's good for a chuckle -- and a reality check.
A new website devoted solely to environmentally friendly furniture, Nateco, has been launched by designers and wholesalers trying to reach consumers directly.
The furniture and accessories use such materials as recycled and recyclable metals, certified woods, natural materials such as sustainable bamboo, nontoxic glues and water-based stains. Current products include shelving, desks and seating.
Shipping is free; most items require some assembly. For more information, visit www.nat-eco.com.
DECORATION AND INSPIRATION
It's the rare decor book that has the perfect ratio of inspiration to how-to. "The Joy of Home: The Ultimate Design Guide to Creating Your Perfect Home" (Conran/Octopus, $39.99) hits the mark.
There are plenty of touchy-feely moments as the book guides readers to emotionally connect to home, rather than making it just a stylish place to live. Several of the exercises to stimulate creativity involve a bit of work, but they're part of this book's charm and effectiveness. After that, it offers bare-knuckle details on drawing a floor plan to scale, setting up a budget, choosing finishes, etc. An excellent troubleshooting section handles dealing with spaces that are too small, too big, too dark or too noisy. And, as with many Conran publications, there is an amazing breadth of information, with well-written instructions on subjects from laying a new wood floor to wallpapering.
Serious home fans will find this a worthy addition to their bookshelves.