The imaginary world of 'Catalog Living'


  • Photo 1 of 7

    This image comes from Serena & Lily: Erdman's caption on CatalogLiving.net: "Gary always resented the bird for being the least useful of the living room wildlife."

    - Courtesy Serena & Lily

  • Photo 2 of 7

    This image comes from the Arhaus catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "Gary and Elaine ran down to the water, giggling like children in anticipation of the first dresser of the season washing ashore."

    - Courtesy of Arhaus

  • Photo 3 of 7

    This image comes from the West Elm catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "...and that was the last time Gary was put in charge of the Decorative Holiday Shelf."

    - Courtesy West Elm

  • Photo 4 of 7

    This image comes from the West Elm catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "Sweetheart, the Turners will be here any minute now! Did you put the plate of figs under the table?"

    - Courtesy West Elm

  • Photo 5 of 7

    This image comes from the Pottery Barn catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "Elaine was mortified that she didn't have time to knit the other two bottles their hats and scarves in time for Christmas and knew they must be freezing."

    - Courtesy Pottery Barn

  • Photo 6 of 7

    This image comes from the Ezibuy.com catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "In her annual end-of-season ritual, Elaine sent the outdated summer cushions out to sea."

    - Courtesy Ezibuy.com

  • Photo 7 of 7

    This image comes from the Wallpaper catalog, but Erdman rewrote the caption on CatalogLiving.net: "Gary and Elaine realized that hiring a deer as their babysitter was unorthodox, but at $8 an hour how could they resist?"

    - Courtesy of Wallpaper

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: You had enough of all those holiday shopping catalogs jamming your mailbox yet? You'd think that in this digital age we'd be done with them. And yet, they keep coming with their scarily perfect pictures of somebody's idea of interior decorating nirvana. The pictures -- and their perfectness -- gave actor and comedian Molly Erdman an idea. It eventually became the website, Catalog Living, about a fictional couple living in the world of furniture catalogs. Molly, welcome to the program.

MOLLY ERDMAN: Good to be here.

RYSSDSAL: You need to explain this one a little bit to the folks because it's a little odd. It's a website and a storyline, I guess you could say, based on shopping catalogs.

ERDMAN: Well I have this website and I started it based off of coming home late one night and looking at a West Elm catalog and thinking there were some pretty ridiculous scenarios being put out there. Specifically an outdoor patio setting where there was a tray of figs under the table on the ground. And I think that was sort of my breaking point. And I just thought...

RYSSDSAL: And you just snapped?

ERDMAN: Yeah. Who lives like this?

RYSSDSAL: Let's run people through sort of the experience of seeing the site. So you go to CatalogLiving.net and it's a bunch of pictures taken from actual catalogs.

ERDMAN: That's right.

RYSSDSAL: And you?

ERDMAN: I do a new one every day and just create a one-sentence caption that is either said by or about Gary and/or Elaine, this couple created for the website.

RYSSDSAL: Yeah. Tell us about Gary and Elaine. Who are they, these people you've created?

ERDMAN: They're sort of this, probably in their 40s couple, very wealthy because they have...

RYSSDSAL: Because it's all really expensive.

ERDMAN: An incredible amount of furniture and real estate. They have an unknown number of kids, but it's a large amount varying in age from infants to teenagers. Gary is sort of the bumbling fool and Elaine, you know, hands on her hips always telling him what to do.

RYSSDSAL: The happy homemaker?

ERDMAN: Right. Exactly.

RYSSDSAL: This idea of perfection, though. It's all so perfect in these catalogs and yet, really, we can't ever get there.

ERDMAN: No. And that is what has struck a nerve doing this website. It's because I for years would get these Pottery Barn catalogs and things like that, and look through them and think, 'Oh, if only I had this bedside table.' You know, things would fall into place and my life would be perfect. And so you try to live up to these standards that are in these catalogs, so taking them down a peg seems to please people.

RYSSDSAL: You brought some catalogs with you. I see a bunch of them in front of you. There's Pottery Barn, right?

ERDMAN: Pottery Barn, to me, sort of says it all. So they have a lot of holiday gift ideas. If you are concerned with the warmth of the tops of your bottles of wine, they have scarves and hats to put over your wine bottles.

RYSSDSAL: Oh my god, look at that. It's a little hat. All right. Wait. I have to look for the price tag here, hold on.

ERDMAN: Probably more than any bottle of wine.

RYSSDSAL: It's a Santa hat and scarf set, 8 bucks not bad, so I'll take three of those, right? And then $25 out the window.

ERDMAN: Right.

RYSSDSAL: I sound so cheap here, but anyway these catalogs, these picture, do kind of lend themselves to the bizarre. What are some of wildest things you've seen?

ERDMAN: There has been a strange trend in animals in rooms. The Pier 1 catalog, I think just before the holidays, people just kept sending it to me because there's a living room with a miniature unicorn in it, just standing there.

RYSSDSAL: I have one in mine, you don't have one in yours?

ERDMAN: I'm getting a new one.

RYSSDSAL: Yeah, you had to put the other one down.

ERDMAN: Right. Right.

RYSSDSAL: Is it a little bit of laughing so you don't cry?

ERDMAN: Kind of. And I think that's why people enjoy the site is instead of being like, 'Boo-hoo I can't have these things,' then it's like, 'Oh why would I want those anyway?'

RYSSDSAL: I don't want them anyway. Molly Erdman, the website is called CatalogLiving.net. We've got a slideshow of some of those pictures Molly was talking about. And also a link to her blog. Molly, thanks a lot.

ERDMAN: Thanks for having me.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...