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Friday, May 7, 2010

Can Iconic Design Be Frugal?

My blogroll is--to put it mildly--somewhat schizoid. In addition to faves who are living life in the frugal lane (Funny About Money, Revanche,Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, Simple in France, Cubicle Wall, Shelley, Roomfarm), I also feature Duchesse of Passage des Perles, Deja Pseu of Une Femme d'un Certain Age, Hostess and, most recently metscan. The latter three write about style and design. They are the aesthetes of the blogroll. That Duchesse and Deja Pseu are francophiles is only a positive.

My most recent addition is metscan. Why is she on the blogroll? Today's post featured her Cartier tank watch, certainly an icon of design and style. But very very expensive, out of reach for many. You could argue, however, that such an item IS frugal, in that it will provide many years of use, and, in the event of financial disaster, could be sold for most of its purchase price.

Metscan is also from Finland (or Suomi). It happens that I went to Finland as an 18 year old. A friend from childhood mentioned that she was going on a trip for youth put together by Finnair: for $200.00, you got your plane fare, lived with a host family for a week, and then spent a week in Helsinki at a hotel. Even at the time (1976), this was a ridiculously low price. I got a rush passport (oh, those halcyon pre-terrorist days) and off I went.

My romance with Finland predated the trip. I loved art and design. In high school I had my student membership to the Museum of Modern Art, and spent many Saturdays moseying around their collections (And inevitably had to fend off the advances of older men. I did not realize at the time that museums were high-end pick-up spots). I just loved the Design Collection, many of whose items were of Finnish origin.

Recently, Metscan posted on her blog pictures of her daughter's Helsinki apartment. It was filled with iconic pieces of design: to wit, an Eileen Gray table. Now all these pieces are expensive. But I believe that they are also frugal, because they will last forever. In fact, some of the pieces in Metscan's daughter's apartment belonged to her great-grandparents.

The Eileen Gray table is $550.00 at Design Within Reach. You can buy a knock-off for much, much less. In this instance, however, I would probably go for the original. Over twenty years, the price difference diminishes.

I wrote a while back about how my parents pined for the iconic Eames lounge chairs. After 20 years of marriage, they bought two, for, I think $1000.00 each. That was 35 years ago, and the chairs are still in service.

I've already promised my son a Noguchi coffee table once he is settled. My daughter wants two of the Kartell Eros chairs.

So thanks to aesthetic bloggers on my blogroll, for all the inspiration. And to the frugality bloggers. Truly, if you take a look, many of the aesthetes are writing about frugality, even if not directly. Similarly, many of the frugal bloggers are writing about beauty in its various guises. Truly, beauty is frugal, just as frugality is beautiful.

I think John Keats would agree. Do you?


Deja Pseu said...

Thanks for the mention! I agree that buying a single iconic piece is probably much more frugal than buying many more trendy or less aesthetically pleasing pieces even at a fraction of the price. Metscan's watch and your design selections are great examples.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

Since personal finance has an emphasis on the personal, I think your blog roll is spot on. :-)

Duchesse said...

Guilty as charged! I'm resoundingly an aesthete. There is frugal, then there is the false economy of cheapness.

I am wary when presented with the "iconic" label. Some pieces that are called such are only worth buying if they are your taste; other items get the 'iconic' label and price themselves way beyond the value. Certain $10,000 handbags come to mind.

metscan said...

I am honored to be mentioned in your post and happy to be on your blog roll! We have a saying here in Finland, probably there is a similar one in English too, but directly translated it goes like: A poor man can´t afford to buy cheap things. There is so much wisdom in that saying, wisdom I can relate to.

Revanche said...

Most certainly, I would agree. One of the basic tenets I find in frugality is taking pleasure in that which you already have and being satisfied, not wanting more (and more and more).

Shelley said...

I think anything you can afford to buy that you will love and keep for a very long time is in keeping with frugal lifestyle. I also love beautiful things, I just don't always need to own them. 'Cheap' is a word I tend to apply cautiously, remembering that not everyone enjoys the same means.

Frugal Scholar said...

@DejaPseu--I notice though that I would only consider an iconic piece of furniture. I have some trouble with iconic clothing or accessories.

@Budgeting--Thanks for the affirmation!

@Duchesse--Sometimes one only realizes that an economy is false AFTER the fact...That's why it's difficult.

@metscan--Thanks for the inspiration. Still hoping for a view of the kitchen...

@Revanche--I guess that's why cleaning up is so good--you re-discover all the things that got
buried in the back of the closet.

SLF said...

Mama, I'm loving all the links you've been adding to your blog! Also, thank you for making public your promise to get me the Noguchi table; now I can hold you to it :) I want to go to anywhere in Scandinavia! I remember when you first told me about your amazing trip to jealous!

--Frugal Son