Bullseye, Target! Smith and Hawken edition.

One of the things Target does exceptionally well is their collaborations with best-in-class product manufacturers. I'm not talking about their seasonal designer collections where they slap Liberty or Calypso and soon Missoni prints on every lampshade and serving tray within arm's reach. Rather, it's with their ongoing partnerships with companies like Calphalon, J.A. Henckels and Fieldcrest, that Target really hits its stride.

The manufacturers' deep industry knowledge and product area expertise and Target volumes result in tightly focused, high-quality, well-designed, product lines at moderate prices. Target gets to offer their customers exclusive lines from top manufacturers and the manufacturers grow their audience through entry-level products without diluting their brands. The customer gets so much more than just a discount--they get real value.

It's a brilliant strategy, really. Add a Diet Coke and a bag of popcorn for a $1.50 and it's no wonder I'm there three times a week

The Smith and Hawken for Target collection is a shining example of this type of collaboration. With only six different furniture collections and a few key accessories, if Smith and Hawken had been this disciplined about merchanding for their own stores, perhaps they would still be in business.

A personal favorite is the Solenti collection. It feels traditionally inspired but very modern in its streamlined simplicity. The furniture is appropriately scaled and well-proportioned--so many outdoor collections on the market now are ridiculously large--and the seats are deep enough that you can actually sink back into them, yet not so low that once you do, you can't get back up.

I was a little surprised by the price tag--a single club chair will set you back about $1,000, not including the cushions. While these are clearly investment pieces, and the great Smith and Hawken quality and elegant design may be worth every penny, it seems like a price point that would be out of reach for the average Target customer. And for those who are looking make a long term investment in patio furniture, and by that I mean dropping a grand on a single club chair, I don't think Target is the first place they're going to look.


Stating the obvious: Arnold edition.

Let me make this perfectly clear. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a...

And also a steaming pile of this...

And Mildred Baena?

She's a...

And a...

Their poor kids.


A nooner with George.

Image: George Smith

Today started like any other day--iced coffee and candy for breakfast, a couple of hours screwing around on the Internet looking for images of Chippendale sofas upholstered in funky fabric--inspiration for a post on how one that I found on Craig's List might be redone. Eventually I got dressed and headed out for lunch at the Yellow Deli with my dear friends Ken and Karen.

The Yellow Deli is a beautiful restaurant in the old town Vista built by hand and run by members of the Twelve Tribes, a christian community that lives communally and supports itself through its restaurants, woodworking shops and organic farming. The place itself felt like the treehouse of my Sunset Magazine-fueled childhood fantasies--paneling made from salvaged barn wood, leather head rests in the booths, macrame booth dividers. Seriously magical.

And the food--white bean soup and a salad with cashews, cranberries and havarti cheese. A basket of home-baked bread! I even put Stevia in my iced tea so my blood sugar wouldn't spike, but there must have been something else in there because by the time I left, I was thinking of joining the Tribes. I'd do it for the homemade bread alone.

Now to understand what happened next, I'm going to have to bring you up to speed on my backstory. My sofa backstory. Yes, I have a sofa backstory! That surprises you?

I've always wanted an English roll-arm sofa. Always. I remember sitting on one in Conran's at the Beverly Center way back in the day when "back in the day" was an expression people still used...so the late eighties, maybe? Must have been. I was in college, anyway. So I remember sitting on it thinking, "Now here's a couch you could make out on. Nice and deep. Supportive back. Low arms."

Image: George Sherlock

But is was a very long time before Captain Universe would see fit to put a roll-arm sofa in my path. For a while I used my sister's antique iron day bed for a couch--not at all good for making out on. It had two boards across the rails to support the cushions and they periodically fell inward. Later, at the height of my Shabby Chic-i-ness, I replaced it with a pink metal garden from the Long Beach Antique Market that was a disaster to make out on. One of the metal slats that supported the cushions rusted through and would sometimes hit the wood floor so hard it would make your teeth chatter.

Eventually I graduated to a real grown-up sofa. A two-seater, not a roll-arm, but an excellent make-out sofa, all the same. I loved that sofa, but Bunny clawed the slipcover in the middle of the night when she knew I was too lazy to get out of bed and make her stop. The seat cushions got squishy and made my back hurt. It needed help and that help was going to cost almost as much as a new sofa. I gave it away to a college student setting herself up in her first apartment.

Image: Domino via Little Green Notebook

I'm not sure when I first became familiar with George Smith sofas. It was probably around the time I started pouring over the resources sections of magazines, which at the time still listed phone numbers--the Internet still being a spark in Al Gore's eye. (God, that never gets old.) And seeing Amanda Peet's stunning, pink-striped roll-arm in Domino, a George Sherlock if we're splitting hairs, well, that just turned me into a crazed, roll-arm sofa stalking freak.

Image: Restoration Hardware

I searched high and low and bought the only English roll-arm even remotely in my price range. From Restoration Hardware. I know, I know. You're thinking, "Restoration Hardware? You hate Restoration Hardware." But this was before they primered everything brown and and got tired of painting. As a make out sofa, I'd give it a B--too many loose back cushions--but if your sitting around in your pajamas watching Investigation Discovery, you're definitely gonna need this sofa. For that, I give it an A+! What can I say? I'm old. Priorities change.

Okay. Backstory's over. Back to the commune lunch.

So, high on a crazy-delicious lunch eaten in a strange and beautiful treehouse-like restaurant built by hand in downtown Vista by members of christian commune and contemplating the benefits of joining said commune for an all-access pass to home-baked bread, I got on the freeway going West instead of East. And that, my friends, is how I found myself just a mile or so down the road from my super-secret antique resource that I'll never, ever reveal, Treasures on the Coast, on the Coast Highway in Oceanside, CA 92054.

I'm walking through the shop when suddenly I stop dead in my tracks, my heart skips a beat, jaw drops, and I swear--I swear--Karen Carpenter came back to life and started singing Close to You. Or maybe I hallucinated that part and it was just a floor lamp. They're both kinda skinny. Either way, there it was, a beautiful chocolate-brown George Smith roll-armed two-seater. Not velvet, no. That bitch was mohair. Mohair! And it was covered--covered, I say--in cushy, down-filled throw pillows made from old kilims.

For those of you who fail to grasp the enormity of this event, let me explain. San Diego County is not exactly a home furnishings mecca, so seeing a George Smith sofa in an antique shop in Oceanside is like seeing George Clooney, well, in an antique shop in Oceanside. I might as well have seen a unicorn or a leprechaun. Or a three-legged dog (I think they're lucky). A George Smith sofa at an antique shop in Oceanside makes the Chippendale sofa on Craig's List that I had planned to post about look like George Clooney with a mullet playing a handyman on Facts of Life.

See what I mean? And check out those eyebrows.

But it was already sold, as were all the throw pillows. For the low, low price of $2,000, which believe me, is a steal. So the moral dilemna of buying a sofa I didn't need with money I don't have was resolved.

And that was all it took to snap me out of my commune-food induced reverie. I'd have a hard time getting up in the morning to stir lentils and bake bread or whatever commune-istas do, if I had no hope of ever owning a George Smith sofa. Besides, something tells me that communes frown on sitting around in your pajamas watching Investigation Discovery.

But I really like lentils and homemade bread. Do you think the commune delivers? What? Maybe they own a VW bus.


Ipso Calypso

I braved the mob scene more familiarly known as Sunday afternoon at Target to pick up cat food, (joke away because I'm down to two and under no circumstances will that qualify me for cat lady status), and noticed that the Calypso merchandise is hitting the shelves. There wasn't much out--I'm not sure if that's because it's a small store or because the night crew that stocks the shelves doesn't understand that to some of us, this stuff is important.

Anyway, I was mostly underwhelmed by what I saw. There was an end cap devoted to plastic dishes that didn't look much different from Target's regular spring line. I did think these throw pillows were rather pretty, and--Anthropologie take note--they had feather inserts so they're actually comfy, as pillows are intended to be.

Have you checked it out yet? What are your faves from the line?