Category Archives: Behind the Design

A Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek at Pottery Barn Catalog Shoots

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on a Pottery Barn photo shoot? It’s exhilarating and exciting — everything you’d expect, and more. But it’s also a lot of work — shots almost never turn out perfectly on the first take. Plus, there are plenty of elements to work around — like weather, or location geography — so it can be unpredictable. Take a look at some of our recent behind the scenes shots to see what lengths our talented photography crew goes to in order to create our beautiful catalog.

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Photographing furniture on a windy day is no easy feat, especially when that day’s subject is our umbrella collection.

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Peekaboo — there’s the crew! This kept everything in place until our photographer got the perfect shot.


And here’s what the final shot ends up looking like — a beautiful display of our outdoor umbrellas.


We’ll go to pretty much any length to get the perfect photo — even if it means standing tippy-toe on a ladder to make sure it turns out just right.

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Isn’t it amazing what just the right angle will do? This beautiful image is part of what brought indigo to life at Pottery Barn this spring.

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You might’ve caught a glimpse of this shot in our April Fool’s post, but we wanted to show you the entire behind the scenes process. Sometimes orders just don’t come through when you need them — even when you’re a professional! We only had one set of benches arrive in time for this shoot, so we shot them on one side of the table …

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… and then the other!


A little photo magic (and a little bit of restyling) resulted in this gorgeous shot. Perfection!

December 2013 in Cabo, shooting Summer 2014

Here’s a snap from the set of our recent summer shoot. We wanted to make it look like some of our new lanterns were floating on water, so our photo crew built platforms under the water for the lanterns to sit on.

December 2013 in Cabo, shooting Summer 2014

Our talented photographer perched himself in the hot tub to find the right angle.


After staging and waiting for just the right light, here’s the final result — the image that made us fall in love with the glow of summer.



Behind the Design: Our New Marrakech Drink Dispenser

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Warm weather brings out our deep love for drink dispensers. What’s not to love? They’re a great way to host cocktail hours, luncheons or dinner parties. They’re the perfect solution for easy entertaining — guests can serve themselves, and you only need to mix up one batch of drinks.


This summer, we’re particularly proud of our new Marrakech Drink Dispenser. This beautiful piece isn’t just an entertaining must — it’s a beautifully designed object that you’ll cherish for years to come.


The Marrakech Drink Dispenser is inspired by the shape and style of Moroccan lanterns. When it’s empty and held up to the light, you’ll see why — the depth and quality of the piece diffuses light beautifully.


Each Marrakech Drink Dispenser is handmade with a historic technique. Every piece of solid brass is hammered into place and detailed by hand. The glass is actually blown into the metal design, creating a single, sturdy construction. The hole for the stainless steel spigot is sandblasted, rather than drilled, for a cleaner cut.


It’s a labor-intensive piece, but the visual result is well worth it. Our favorite part? The separate, bowl-like stand that can be filled up with fruit, colorful accessories or even a few flameless candles to give an evening party extra glow.


Since the Marrakech Drink Dispenser is made by hand, every piece is different. The slight imperfections in the intricate metalwork add character. It’s a true piece of functional art that we’re proud to share with you this summer.

Behind the Design: Our New Kai Shell Lamps

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To us, summer is just as much a state of mind as it is a time of year, and we want our summer collections to feel just as warm and relaxing as the season. Our new Kai Shell Ambiant Lamps certainly epitomize this feel. This new lighting for summer sets the mood with a soft glow.


Artisans in the Philippines make each one of these intricately designed pieces by hand. Take a look at a sketch from one of the original designers of the Kai Shell Lamp design, below. The floral pattern is based on the shape of cut shells from water snails common to the islands.


These snails (white vertagus and black faunus) are found along the beaches and often used for food. The leftover shells are cut either horizontally or vertically, and the inner skeleton is glued on to a resin lamp base by hand in a floral pattern. A resin laminate covers the shells to protect them, and then the lamp is wired and packed for shipment.


When complete, the black shells almost look like they’re tattooed onto the lamp base, while the white shells mimic lacework — especially when they’re switched on and emitting their soothing glow.


We’re excited and proud to share these new lamps with you. They’re the perfect way to start welcoming summer into your home!


An American in Paris: Interview with Photographer Rebecca Plotnick

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Rebecca Plotnick fell in love with Paris at first sight. “I love how beautiful and photogenic the city is,” she says. “The city constantly surprises me with its beauty.” Five years after her maiden voyage, she followed her dream of becoming a travel photographer back to the City of Lights.


Plotnick’s latest collection for Pottery Barn highlights all of Paris’s beauty, both big and small. “I love how the color of the rooftops change in the light from gray to blue in Paris, depending on the sun,” says Plotnick. “When I’m there, I take endless walks on the streets of Paris and it feels like its treasure box is constantly replenished.”


As a photographer, Plotnick finds herself drawn to color and repetition, which is why she’s often inspired by Parisian food and flea markets.


Each beautiful photograph reminds her of why she loves the city so much. “My photographs are the best souvenirs from my travels,” says Plotnick. “I’ll continue to come back to Paris until it stops surprising me.”


Last fall, Plotnick started a new series where she brought a bunch of bright red balloons to different places around Paris. “I love the response from people of all ages when they see the balloons,” she says. The spirited photos will be part of a Pottery Barn collection later this year.

See Rebecca Plotnick’s full collection for Pottery Barn.

Behind the Design: Our New Barcelona Pillows and Dinnerware

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Inspired by a recent trip to the Park Güell in Barcelona, one of our head designers came back to San Francisco with a camera roll brimming with ideas. Park Güell was built over the course of 14 years by famed Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí, and is one of the largest architectural works in the world. The masses of curving stone, covered in tiny broken bits of tile caught our designer’s eye, so she snapped some pictures to take back to PB HQ. Take a look at a couple of her inspiration shots below:


The majority of the park is covered in broken tile, carefully plastered together in intricate patterns and designs. There’s a unique mix of patterns and shapes on almost every surface.


The curving shapes and bold patterns felt like a natural fit for a textile design. After perusing these photos, one of our in-house designers experimented and painted several new patterns inspired by these colorful, curving, tile designs.


Here’s a few snapshots of her paintings. Aren’t they beautiful? Some patterns took on a life of their own, expanding into several different designs. Others were just one-offs.

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Several of the paintings (the two at the top of this image) lent themselves to an all-over repeating pattern. Our textile team scanned in these paintings and carefully engineered a pattern based off her designs in warm and cool color palettes.


The result is our new Barcelona pillows, dishware and table linens — part of our latest summer collection. The design retains the original tile-like shape and painted style of the pieces that inspired it.

See the rest of our summer preview, here.

Behind the Design: Our Benchwright Dining Table

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The table in Stefano del Vecchio’s grandfather’s work room was perfect for the 20th century Italian artisan. Its sturdy construction could stand up to any type of work, and the dents and dings only added to its beauty.

When del Vecchio’s grandfather couldn’t use the table anymore, del Vecchio moved it into his personal home office. Surprisingly, the antique table felt right at home in the more updated space. Del Vecchio, a Pottery Barn designer, started thinking about its other applications — the worn patina, smooth surface and artisan construction felt like a natural fit for a dining table.


Today, this family heirloom lives on as our Benchwright Dining Table, one of our best selling items.

When designing the new construction, del Vecchio and the Pottery Barn team made sure that the Benchwright design would have the same worn look as the original table. Each table has pieces that are fine-sanded by hand and finished with a 12-step finish for a deep, comfortable patina.


“The mixed materials of the metal and wood really speak to the artisan heritage of this table’s original design,” says Pottery Barn furniture designer Brice. The metal turnbuckle in the middle supports the table’s slanted legs, and stays true to the original table’s hardware.

“This table is great because it doesn’t look like it belongs to a specific period of time, or style. It has clean lines, but it’s not modern. You could put this in a Napa house, a country house, a coastal house, or a city house,” says Brice.

Now, the Benchwright Dining Table is available in new sizes and finishes to suit every space.


Watch this video to learn more about the Benchwright design from del Vecchio himself.

Studio Tour: New Orleans Artist Elise Allen

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Elise Allen’s path to fine art didn’t exactly follow a straight line. Once a professional faux finisher in New York, she took a break from her career after getting married, having children and moving to New Orleans. It wasn’t until she met an inspiring fellow artist in the Big Easy that everything changed, and her painting career came to life. “The floodgates opened and I just kept painting and painting,” says Allen.


Eventually, she tried her hand at faux finishing again — focusing on Venetian plaster — but this time working on custom wood panels. “You can’t do Venetian plaster on canvas — there’s too much pressure when applying the plaster.”

This unique technique is now Allen’s artistic mainstay. Making each piece requires hours and hours of careful work. “There’s up to 200 layers of plaster per piece,” says Allen. “Venetian plaster is very thin, so there’s a lot of layering, and layering and layering.”


“I like the abstract element of Venetian plaster,” she says. “I like what comes up when I’m working on it. Every pass brings up something new and interesting,” she says.


She has two studios that she works out of: A small work studio off her bedroom at her house. “I work on smaller pieces there. I like that because I can work early in the morning or late at night.”

“I usually work on 4 to 5 paintings at once. I work on something, let it dry, and then work on something else,” Allen says. “Sometimes I get stuck, and then leave it for a few weeks until I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and get inspired again.”


Allen also works in a studio in downtown New Orleans, on Julia Street (pictured in this post). “It’s a huge, open space. There’s great light and it’s very peaceful and relaxing,” she says. “I keep a very calm place, and I think you can see that through my paintings.”


Despite the dramatic transition from the Manhattan art scene to New Orleans’ vibrant artistic community, Allen loves the beauty and color of New Orleans — it constantly inspires her. “Every time I walk around the neighborhood, I see a new house and a new color. I’m constantly surprised and inspired by the beauty around me.”

See more of Elise Allen’s art at Pottery Barn.