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If this story had a doormat, it would say, “THE REST IS SEARCH HISTORY,” and you might ask where I bought it. Welcome. Take a seat. Would you like something to drink? And would you like to hear the whole story of how I tracked down the Murano glass in which your drink is served? If so, you have come to the right place.
The Rest Is Search History stems from my inherent nosiness: I want to hear about other peoples’ hyper-specific search terms, guarded like sapphires at the Smithsonian, their laborious and surprising journeys down various shopping rabbit holes, and the elaborate shopping strategies they’ve honed over time. This week’s theme is homewares (yesterday, we tracked down Dakota Johnson’s tea set!), and today’s guest is a woman of exquisite taste, Jenni Lee, the sock designer behind Comme Si.
Jenni Lee, Founder & CEO of Comme Si
Your shopping rabbit hole: A floor lamp for my “home office.”
During the day, my apartment gets great natural light through our skylights—our reward for living on the top floor of a walkup—but I’ve been working irregular hours lately (my work day is more spaced out because of my corona feeding schedule), and I want to find a good floor lamp.
Is it possible to be *allergic* to overhead light? Overhead light sparks a visceral reaction from me, and I’m surprised that I don’t own a floor lamp already.
Can you walk me through what going down this rabbit hole entails? For context, my “home office” = my dining/living/sitting/TV room. Our walnut dining table is now a shared desk, and I’ve swapped our matching dining chairs—which need to be replaced—another rabbit hole for another day—with two Herman Miller Cosm chairs that I brought over from my office when it became clear that quarantine would be happening.
I have a logical/methodical approach to making purchase decisions, guided by a Vitruvius + Kondo philosophy: Is it beautiful, substantial, and useful? Does it bring me joy? This will be no different.
It starts with my dream list: What would I buy if budget was not an issue? From there, I try to determine whether it’s worth a) waiting and saving for said dream item (I’ll be saving for an Ettore Sottsass Ultrafagola mirror for years), b) finding an alternative that’s more affordable and serves as a replacement for the dream item, or c) buying something that’s cheap and gets the job done, but isn’t for keeps.
My rabbit hole begins via “digital moodboarding,” a.k.a. Pinterest. I have a pre-existing board for interior inspiration, where I specifically hone in on images with lamps. Before I know it, I’m rapidly clicking to add more images to the board (the “More ideas” feature is very conducive to Alice-ing down the hole). Pinterest reminds me of collecting Pokémon and Sailor Moon trading cards—you see so many things, you want to hurry and catch them all, lest you lose them.
Looking at the board, I realize that lamps have distinct categories by shape, and I need to determine which shape is right for my space.
I try to imagine the personality of the lamp and what the lamp says about me. Does my floor lamp hinge at its midpoint, in the shape of a V? It’s reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, but at five feet tall, it’s not as cute. Do I like the slender sloping body of a U-shaped lamp? Am I a lampshade person? Is it just me or does it feel weird when a lamp with a shade is shorter than you when you’re standing up? Should the lamp be a conversation starter, or should it blend into the background? Can you tell that my moon is in Virgo yet?
On my dream list is a Frances Alder Elkins street lamp, either as a singleton or as a pair. Rather than investing in lamps as art, it seems that going with a well-designed, affordable option is the way to go.
I Google and Pinterest-search “interior design best lamps,” “floor lamps for designers,” “floor lamp designers” in separate tabs. I open each search result in a new tab, and it takes me to specific design sites like Flos, and retailer sites like Chairish, Lampsplus.com, Ylighting.com, and 1stdibs. Before I know it, I’m also on the desktop version of Instagram, looking through #floorlamps.
What ultimately satiates the quest? As I mark the ideal height of a lamp on the wall, I look up at my framed art and prints and decide that the wall needs a refresh, too. I’ve been staring at the same William Eggleston/Untitled (cocktail on airplane) print for too long. It just reminds me of how much I miss traveling, and inspires me to make another cocktail, for which I do not need additional inspiration.
About six months ago, on a late-night whim, I purchased a vintage Rolex print ad with Yo Yo Ma, and now think that it would look better as a pair or trio of similar-sized frames on the wall. I search eBay and Etsy for vintage print ads: Rolex, Range Rover, Olympics. There’s something aspirational, romantic, and nostalgic about them. I decide to check out with a Chris Evert Rolex ad, and immediately feel a sense of achievement.
I’m going to sleep on the lamp decision, but I’d invested so much time researching and eye-shopping on the internet it seems wrong to not have something to show for it. It’s kind of like spending hours trying on Manolos and Chanels in Barneys (RIP) and leaving with a $30 hand cream on your way out, because you feel you should leave with something in hand.
Graphics by Lorenza Centi.