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.