I was only 16 when the Friends episode “The One with the Apothecary Table” aired, but it taught me everything I know about interior decorating.
In case the episode isn’t etched into your memory like it is in mine, the plot went like this: Rachel, the ambitious executive, buys a gorgeous apothecary table from Pottery Barn. Her bohemian roommate Phoebe doesn’t believe in buying soulless, mass-produced furniture, so Rachel lies to her, saying she bought the table from a flea market. Phoebe eventually discovers where the table comes from because Ross buys the exact same one. (See what happens when you buy mass-produced stuff!) At first she’s enraged, but then she finds a really nice artisanal-looking lamp at Pottery Barn—which she buys.
The entire episode was designed to poke fun at both Pottery Barn’s faux vintage aesthetic, as well as yuppies who don’t mind buying things that only appear to be artisanal even though they are actually made by a large corporation. But here’s the thing: Pottery Barn is now in on the joke. And it has just announced that it is dropping a brand new Friends collection on July 30th online and in stores nationwide. It will include furniture and decorative accessories ranging from $12.50 to $1,000. And while the company won’t reveal all the pieces in that collection, the teaser photograph Pottery Barn has sent out reveals an exact replica of the apothecary table in Rachel and Phoebe’s apartment. No news yet on whether the company made a replica of the famous orange couch.
The collection is timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Friends this September. Netflix recently announced that it would be dropping the show by the end of 2019, sparking outrage among fans. That likely means a lot of people are scrambling to watch the series again and admiring the show’s fabulous sets that captured late ’90s cool. Some furniture from the show, including the apothecary table, have actually aged very well, partly because they had a vintage look to begin with, so they won’t look out of place in a 2019 home.
The Friends characters all had gorgeous apartments in New York City, despite some of them being close to penniless. (It was always a little unclear how Phoebe and Joey could afford such nice places.) For an entire generation of viewers, the aesthetic of Friends cultivated a sense of what the chic home of a thirtysomething should look like. Pottery Barn is smart to capitalize on some of this nostalgia, particularly because viewers who grew up with the show are now squarely in Pottery Barn’s demographic. Case in point: Me.
It’s a little eerie how quickly the sight of that apothecary table takes me back to that episode—and to an earlier version of myself, who aspired to one day have a beautifully decorated home, like the Friends characters did. Now that I’m in my mid-thirties and recently bought my first home, I’ve often faced the Phoebe versus Rachel decorating dilemma. I’ve tried to adopt the Phoebe approach to interior design by rummaging antique shops and flea markets. But it’s just too much work. So I always come back to the Rachel approach: I’ve bought a lot of vintage-looking pieces from Pottery Barn.
And now, I kind of want to add this apothecary table to the list.