At one time it was respectable to furnish an apartment piece-by-piece as the budget allowed. Now there's no need to be so patient. There are credit cards and discount stores with items sexier than their price tags. Unlike many outlet stores, Crate & Barrel doesn't have stock that recalls the stragglers left at the bar at last call. It has the odd-colored painted ceramics and bed skirts sans matching sheets, but those aren't the norm. Most shelves hold desirable items at bargain-basement prices. Besides the expected glassware, bar accessories, and dining supplies, the Crate & Barrel Outlet also has furniture for the whole house, linens for each room, and a plethora of magazine racks (does no one read anymore?).
Target, the most progressive of discount stores, has increased its toniness with several new lines of furniture, kitchenware, fancy dining room chairs (some with tony prices still intact), and the Michael Graves collection. The designer offers up slate-blue plastic, brushed aluminum, and honey-colored wood products with lines so sleek and graceful that even the pot scrubbers are a work of art. Target's also amassing enough high-quality drawer pulls and bathroom fixtures to make Restoration Hardware proud in a sensei-to-student sort of way.