Do you have a Chloe in your house? How about a Harry, or a Scarlet?
I'm not talking about your children or pets, but your furniture. Ever wondered how and why retailers come up with names for the things you buy for your home?
The concept's not new, says Antonio Larosa, the furniture chairman at Savannah College of Art & Design.
"Throughout history, furniture pieces were given the name of a monarch, such as Queen Anne or Louis XIV, to gain favor and influence," he says.
In modern times, naming furniture is just good marketing. "It's appealing and friendly to have a 'Jasmine Chair' in a catalog rather than the 'XY 9811.Y Chair,'" Larosa says. Aside from the visceral connection that consumers might make with a name, it's also a lot easier for everyone from manufacturer to buyer to reference.
In Europe, Larosa says, designers instinctively treat their finished product like a family member. "They feel they've put so much passion into it that it isn't just a piece of wood or metal, but an integral part of the home." That's why you saw feminine names grow in popularity during the 1960s and '70s, especially in Italy: Sottsass' Valentina typewriter. Mendini's Anna G corkscrew for Alessi.
There were variations: Poltronova's "Joe" leather chair, designed in 1970 and now re-edited by the U.S. company Heller, paid homage to Joe DiMaggio.
Mary Rose Gearson, Crate & Barrel's director of product and sourcing development, says, "We do try to convey an emotional connotation to the product - quirky, clever or provenance - which we hope will resonate with the customer. Caldera, meaning volcano, becomes a lava-colored Murano glass bowl. And I'm in love with Lola, our Mexican etched goblet and tumbler - the name just says it all!"
Becky Weber, upholstery buyer at Crate & Barrel, provided some additional insight: "We named our new wing chair Astaire because it's covered in soft shimmery leather that reminded me of an elegant ball gown - an old-school, iconic dancing reference.
"The Ian white leather sofa pays tribute to Ian Schrager, who pioneered the concept of hotel lobby as 'club.'"
And Scarlet, a voluptuous chaise, evokes Tara's heroine, Gearson says.
With 10,000 products to name, IKEA has the process down to a science. Names are gleaned from dictionaries, atlases and even birth announcements, and a computer wrangles the database of new, used and retired ones. Since the same names are used in IKEA stores all over the world, it's a tricky task. Names can't be too long or short, and mustn't be offensive in any language.
All have Scandinavian origins. Beds have Norwegian place names; seating and dining tables have Swedish ones. Your Klippan sofa is named after a pretty town in the southern countryside. Girls' and boys' names are used for fabrics, some office furniture and shelving - that's why your bookcase is a Billy.
Descriptive words for spices, fruits, fishes or a product's function go on accessories and decor, while a lot of lighting features nautical terminology.
Kevin Sharkey, executive creative director for merchandising at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, says products' names are "an important part of creating an experience for our consumer. A lot of thought goes into names that suggest a way of life that's inspired and welcoming."
Stewart's Ingrid and Larsson furniture groups for Home Depot have a Scandinavian sensibility, while the kitchens designed for the retailer evoke the style of Martha's own homes.
Even the paint colors have a backstory: Sharkey Gray is named after the executive who came up with the hue for Stewart's daughter's apartment in New York City. He says his favorite name is #2 Pencil. "It's just the perfect name - when you hear it, you know exactly what the color is."
And as for that Chloe chair? Crate and Barrel's Weber smiles: "It was just a pretty name, and it suited the chair."
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