Category Archives: Shopping

Pottery Barn vs. Restoration Hardware

Holly and I went out the other night for some retail therapy for her. My retail therapy comes when we buy a TV, but for now, we went to Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware for lighting, fixtures and some furniture that we are going to need. Talk about two totally different experiences.

In both cases, we spent considerable time on their respective websites and perusing their catalogs so that we would be well prepared when we got to the stores. In both cases, we made a list of what we wanted, the price (lowest of course) and part number. It was our goal to go into the stores, find an associate give that person the list, have them write up our order and get out of dodge in time to grab dinner.

Let me caveat this whole post by saying that I hate going to the mall. I’d rather do almost anything than go to some overly crowded cavalcade of stores to watch people buy stuff that they can’t afford. It is almost as depressing as being in a casino without the buffet, free cocktails or show girls. Pulling into the parking lot alone starts a migraine for me.

First stop, Pottery Barn. I love Williams Sonoma, the parent company of Pottery Barn. We recently had to buy a new espresso maker and I went to WS due to their amazing lifetime warranty on all appliances. The staff was helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. I haven’t purchased too much from PB in my lifetime, but I expected much of the same. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. While the staff was nice, they were clearly trained by the Keystone Cops. They didn’t quite get it. There were problems with pricing, catalog versus stores versus special order versus internet orders. There was a sign in the front that stated if you spent over ‘X’ number of dollars, you could get discounts. We were spending well over ‘X’ and pretty disappointed to learn that our discount was that they would knock off 2 points on shipping. Wow, thanks for saving me all of 1% of my purchase. I realize that retail isn’t the highest margin business, but damn, 1%??? Come on guys. Show me a little love. I hope that a bad write up on this blog is worth it.

After 45 minutes of trying to figure out our order, we realized that our baby sitter window was closing rapidly. I ran over to Restoration with my list in hand. They also had a store versus catalog versus special order issue, however, they understood what was going on and I clearly wasn’t the first person to come in with a list. Rather than going point by point, they ran down the list and highlighted 2 items that they had in the store and brought them out to me. Cross those off the list. Secondly, they took me over to a terminal and we quickly ordered all of the items that weren’t in the store. ‘Oh great news, a bunch of this stuff is on sale.” said our associate. Finally, they opened another browser window and stumped me. It was the special order section and I needed Holly to help guide me on decoration ideas. I’m not great with colors and down cushions versus standard cushions.

I literally sat in Restoration and played chess on my phone for almost 30 minutes before Holly came in. I had already been in the store for about 30 minutes, so figure a good hour and 45 minutes in Pottery Barn. Ugh. Holly came in, made a couple of decisions. They added up our totals and sent us on our way. BTW, nothing is more painful than spending a whole bunch of money on things and leaving the store with house numbers and a towel rack. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it to dinner, but we recognize that we had unrealistic expectations in the first place.

Here is where things go sideways a bit. I suppose that we should have expected this, but when you buy a bunch of things, once in a while things are going to get screwed up in shipping. We’ve been really luck thus far, but we haven’t really ordered too much until the past week or so. We just started to get stuff in the mail and in two cases, we’ve received things in the wrong color. Not the end of the world, but a hassle. The reason we’ve ordered early is that we want to prepare for when things like this happen. Again, it’s good to be ahead of the curve.

Hardly the worst thing to happen. It should look great when they are installed.



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Home Depot vs. Restoration Hardware

Anyone that has been reading this blog for any amount of time understands that we have champagne taste on a beer budget. I’m pretty cheap. Holly has been pretty cheap. We are at the point now, where we are bragging to our friends about how little over budget we are on this project. We are less than 2% over budget at this point.

One line item that wasn’t included in our contract by Craig was for accessories and non-recessed lighting. These are things like sconces, ceiling lamps, fans, towel racks, knobs, etc. He doesn’t provide a budget because each buyers tastes are different and, as I’m finding, it is pretty easy to spend a few thousand dollars on a gnarly, ugly chandelier. So he leaves that line blank. Well, what to my surprise when I started looking at things like towel racks, toilet paper holders and stuff like that. Did you know that you can spend over $100 on a toilet paper holder? To H-E double hockey stick with that. It isn’t gold or internet ready or anything. It just holds TP.

With our champagne taste comes our love of Restoration Hardware. As those of you familiar with this store, you know that it isn’t the cheapest place on the planet when it comes to buying the above mentioned items. So I needed to put on my El-Cheapo attitude and beg and plead to at least go look at Home Expo, Home Depot’s clean version of their Orange nightmare. While it wasn’t a complete score, we did manage to pick up a few things at Expo that were more or less equivalent to Restoration and save ourselves about $600 in the process. So without further ado, here is the first Home Depot vs. Restoration Hardware comparisons.

Item # 1: Outdoor Lighting

We needed 7 sconces for the exterior of the house. Holly found some really nice ones at Restoration. They were $150 each. The ones that we found at Expo were $100. Can you spot which is which?



Item #2: Cabinet Knobs

Again, the ones at Restoration were really nice, but they were $7.50 a piece. The ones at Home Expo were $2.99. We needed 33 knobs. You can do the math on this one. It was a huge savings. The pictures kind of give away which is which.



I guess the pictures are a dead give away which are which, thus making my 3rd and final challenge a piece of cake.

Item # 3: Drawer Pulls

Since I kind of gave it away above, here is what the drawer pull that we ended up getting looked like

The cost each at Restoration was $13. The cost at Home Expo was $5. We need 18 pulls.

We got hooks too. 2 for the bathroom. $22 each at Restoration. $2.50 each at Expo. I’ve spent a lot of money on stupid things in my time, but if you pay $22 for a hook, you’ve been taken.

Finally, shopping for knobs & pulls (anything frankly) at Home Expo is akin to getting dental work. Their websites are also amazingly terrible for such a retail giant. In looking for my pictures tonight, I found Knobs4Less. Their selection is pretty nice.

If you curious about Question #1, letter A is the one that we got at Home Expo. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any interior lighting at Expo that we were just in love with, so we are off to Restoration tomorrow. Wish me luck.


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My Blue Mantel

Well, we purchased our mantel the other day.  Actually, it is this one here to the right, however, we got it in a very dark, heavily distressed blue with a nice little gold leaf trim.  Holly found it on

The people at are great and they offer a wonderful warranty if you aren’t buying your mantel in blue.  We are actually pretty stoked that we got the first blue mantel.  Our rep told me that she never sold one and that it was the talk of the office, so we are a bit nervous.

I’m sure that it will be fine.  Some of the furniture that Holly has picked out has a ton of color in it, so I’m sure that it will meld in.

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Garage Days Re-Revisited

Since Metallica were such a bunch of bastards about the whole Napster thing, I’m stealing one of their titles for my post.

I spoke with Sig at Morgan Hill Garage Door Company today.  It was a pretty simple process of picking out our garage door.  He said go to the website, pick out a door and I’ll come and measure next week’.  Wow, that was painless.

Before I continue, as I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not a very good decorator.  Holly has given me the opportunity to pick out a door, but reserves the right to veto my decision.

The above pick is my choice, though we might go with another version that is more craftsmany.   We went with paint grade wood.  I’m of the opinion that garage doors are about as exciting as watching paint grade wood dry.  There isn’t a whole lot more to say about it.  If you need a door, Sig is your guy.

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I’m Floored

Get it??? Thanks, I’m here all week.  Try the veal.

Okay, that may be the cheesiest tag-line that I’ve ever come up with.

Today, we made the single quickest decision to date on this project.  Picked out flooring in less than 5 minutes.  In fairness, we’ve known what we wanted for a long, long time so once we discovered it, it was easy to say ‘that one’.

We ended up picking out the Bruce, wide-plank, engineered flooring as seen in the picture above.  On my monitor, it looks a bit dark, but the sample that we have looks amazing.   Why did we go with engineered vs. a finished floor? The cost was more or less the same, but frankly, I want as maintenance free a home as possible and if I can take redoing the floors every 5 years off of my plate, I’m stoked.  Plus, no one has really sold me on why I would do traditional floors over the engineered, so I’ll stick with what will last longest.

We did most of our shopping online, but Craig pointed us to ProSource in San Jose to actually pick out the sample.   We worked with Andy Pommier there.  Andy is very nice and responsive on the phone and that is about all that I found out in the 5 minutes or so that I was there.

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Decisions, decisions, decisions

I really haven’t been in the mood lately to do much writing.  My personal blog has taken a bit of a hit as well.  Between work, family and actually building this house, the amount of free time to do recreational writing has taken a bit of a back seat.  Any who, we are starting to get into the really fun (complicated, time consuming) stuff and that is making decisions on all of the little detailed things.

For example, they are ready to pour the concrete for our porch and back patio, so they need to know how thick the stone that we want is.  Go pick out your stone.  They need to figure out how much the chimney is going to weigh when it is coated in stone, so pick out that stone as well.   We needed to determine how much of an angle that we want our tapers on our front porch to be (10″ to 8″) and how much of an angle we want our arches to be.  It is really fun stuff, but I can see how people would go insane in this process.  There are so many small details that you take for granted.

Go buy your mail box.  A decision, what do we want?  What size, what color, what should it say?  We have our mailbox going into the closet of my office since we would have had to cut through a Hardy Plank if we would have put it where we wanted to.  I guess I see why that defeats the whole purpose, but I don’t know if I agree with the physics.  A decision.  It’s a craftsman house, so window and door trim was relatively simple.

In proofing this, it sounds like I am bitching about the burden of building a house.  That isn’t the case.  It is more fun than I ever would have imagined.  I can’t wait to do it again.   Like I said, there is just a lot going on and it is hard to get my thoughts around things.

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Appliance Shopping – Standards of Excellence – San Jose

We purchased our appliances this week from Standards of Excellence in San Jose. Since I mentioned early on in this blog that I wasn’t going to write about finances in terms of dollars, this is one of those hard to write posts. The place was really nice, however I don’t think that our budget was in the same ball park as their average clients.

I think what gave it away was the La Cornue range (3x our total appliance budget) in the entry way and the fact that they were surprised that the homeowner arranged the first meeting instead of a designer. The products that they sell are amazing, but show us to the back of the store please and do you have anything with scratches on it? Seconds? Returns? Last years model maybe?

In the end, and thanks to Craig, we were able to get pretty much everything that we wanted (except for the GE Monogram Wine Vault with bio-metric scanner – seriously, check the link. My banks vault isn’t this secure). The stuff that we got is nice and is appropriate for the house and the neighborhood. Best of all, we came in at $7.00 under budget after some of the rebates allotted to us. We’ll take that and put it towards some of the other areas where we are over budget. Every little bit helps, we are finding.

Picture above by Jes *Junque Revival*


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