Pink explosion markets in everything

When their new $70,000 princess-themed playroom is finished in March, Stella, 4 years old, and Presley, 2½, will have a faux gem-encrusted performance stage, a treehouse loft, and a mini-French cafe. A $20,000 custom carpet with colorful pathways will lead the girls to the various play areas.

“It’s going to be a pink explosion, with hearts and bows and crowns and tassels,” says their mother, Lindsay Dickhout, chief executive of a company that makes tanning products. The playroom will occupy about 1,500 square feet on the ground floor of the family’s 7,000-square foot home in Newport Beach, Calif.

Upstairs are the girls’ royal bedrooms, in which Stella sleeps in a $6,000 custom-made castle bed, and Presley’s pink-and-white striped wallpaper is illuminated by a crown-shaped chandelier.

Princesses have long enchanted little girls. But cultural flash points in recent years, such as Disney ’s blockbuster “Frozen” and Prince William’s royal wedding, have fueled demand for increasingly elaborate—and expensive—fantasy rooms.

Enjoying the spoils are interior designers who specialize in decorating kids’ ultimate bedrooms. Specialty furniture companies deal in lavish royal-boudoir accouterments, from $3,000 Cinderella lamps to $35,000 carriage-shaped beds. As the style becomes more popular, more mass-market companies have rolled out crown-shaped cornices, tulle canopies, and Rococo children’s furniture.

The full Katy McLaughlin WSJ article is here, the photos are superb.  For the pointer I thank Samir Varma.


So, should they tell their kids how much money they make?

In this case, the obvious - to everyone, even the kids, is too much.

Shocking to see such tackiness from the CEO of a company that makes tanning products.

just think what shallow, unimaginative lives these children would live without five figure fantasy rooms.

Remember, these are our betters.

But if we raised marginal rates a bit, they may only be able to afford 2 or 3 fantasy rooms. Think of all the luxury interior decorators who may lose a commission. This is clearly the highest utility value of money.

Yeah, the photos are great alright. Daddy in photo #16 looks stressed from having to fund this monstrosity. I've definitely not going to show these photos to my little girl, just in case she gets the wrong idea.

Dad is beta loser to find this crap; needs a soft harem instead

I think mom is funding it, she's the CEO.

Did you look at the pictures? I bet her "company" has two people.

Admittedly no I didn't, I can't say this topic is that interesting. Rich people waste money on their kids, stop the presses!

@msg, isn't there just the tiniest twinge that we should increase taxes on these people? I know, I know, but that twinge...

@ Brian D: luxury taxes are like any other, sometimes a good idea and not if they are too onerous. Also, perhaps this kind of obnoxious consumption argues for a VAT instead of income tax? Tax them when they spend it on stupid stuff not when they earn it...

What's the problem with these crazies spending money on their daughters? It's not like they're hiding the money in the mattress or flushing it down the toilet, they're BUYING THINGS from others, paying the outfit that sells the elaborate beds who employs guys to build them. Isn't that what an economy is all about?

@ Brian D: At least carpenters and electricians get paid out of this. Sending the money to Washington would only line the pockets of politicians. Why encourage them?

Seriously, does anyone envy these kids?

Yes, probably their slightly less spoiled friends.

I wouldn't in a million years spend my money that way on my kids...but I sometimes wish I could afford to.

I have the same gut reaction, but how much of that is just relativism? There are people in the world who think the same way about you when you buy new toys for your kids.

Remember when there was an MR post about $500 parties (which struck many as pretty normal) and people came here to talk about parties where kids eat spaghetti from the ground for fun? I may have their story a little confused (I was confused by it at the time), but the point was that they were astounded by people spending $20 a head on a party. Everything's relative.

I grew up thinking the big birthday present from your parents cost $25. Now people I barely know feel perfectly fine providing a $50 gift for my kids.

@ Lord Action: fair point. I don't lose sleep over it, it would just be nice to be making the decision not to buy that stuff for reasons of taste not reasons of affluence. Too clever by half way of saying I'd like some more money, please.

JAMRC: you're (sometimes) better than this, step it up. Too obvious and you spoil it, try to get back to your more Colbert-ish trolling.

To me the insane part is not that they spent the money -- hey, they're rich -- but rather that they agreed to talk to and be photographed by the WSJ.

@ Curt: you would think, but then consider that if you're the kind of jackass that buys this stuff you are probably also the kind who likes to brag about it, and to be in the paper.

I've always told my kids, strive to be rich if you want that, but being famous is just terrible.

"assertive" mating? Isn't that what Yes Means Yes is for? Damn California, foiling my plans to be rich yet again!


If you were born when I was--in the early 80s--inflation largely explains your observation. $25 in 1988 is $50 today.

The issue isn't inflation (that's why I used different nominal dollar amounts), it's parents versus strangers. What my parents used to get me is now what co-workers or somebody who shows up at a dinner party brings my kids.

This is the equivalent of not vaccinating your kids for measles.

And once again, Tyler the libertarian nudges me ever so slightly more in favor of a progressive consumption tax.

lol, well my real problem is that those girls should be out working in a mine or learning a STEM subject!

Let's just increase the depreciation expense!

If we have to tax, and libertarians generally agree that some government services do need to be provided (otherwise they would be anarchists) then a progressive consumption tax is probably more acceptable to libertarians than other forms of taxation since it avoids many of the deadweight losses of a payroll based tax, plus basic utility theory says that consumption is what gives utility not savings.

But I suspect what you mean is that this article makes you more in favor of taxing rich people not to fund government but because you disapprove of this behavior. As the phrase goes, scratch a left winger and underneath you will find the puritan.

Myself, I am perfectly comfortable with people spending money on this kind of stuff if that's what they want to do. I would not do it myself, but I defend the right of others to do what they want with their money. It's kind of a freedom thing.

Actually I take a Robert Frank view of the situation, if you will. This is exactly the kind of positional good, conspicuous-consumption arms race behavior that keeps us all working and consuming far above where we would like to. I'm not denying that it might be individually rational for the people in the article, but it is collectively irrational. It's why we're 4x richer than we were several decades ago and yet we still are busting our butts (and now the wife is too!) trying to "make ends meet."

People (including the ones in the article) and their working, saving, and consumption decisions don't exist in a vacuum. They depend heavily on what everyone around us is doing. Governments exist to solve collective action problems like this. It's conceptually not all that different from using taxation to fund the military.

(For the record this is an issue where I go back and forth a lot, because it's not simple. But these cases nudge me in favor because they starkly illustrate the extent to which we're working just to feed a zero-sum positional good game).

"This is exactly the kind of positional good, conspicuous-consumption arms race behavior that keeps us all working and consuming far above where we would like to."

LOL. Nope. Almost no one feels compelled to compete with the jones on kids furnishings.

If that were true, kids furniture would not all be cheaply made with cheap price points. (If you doubt, this try to enter the industry. Price points for kids stuff are always hard to hit because of this: you can't add a lot of value because parents are all imagining the item will be destroyed or grown out of in 2 years.) Kids black board easels are another great example. The price point for those are now ridiculously low.

This is simply a case where someone has a lot of money and would like to spend it on this particular issue for their kid.

Just like some super rich guy wants a gold toilet. No one else will rush out to buy that.

BTW, that gold toilet was a super-rich Taiwanese guy who would show off his eccentric stuff on TV. When asked why he did this, he just said that he liked to show people what money could buy. He didn't mean that in a show off way - more like he wanted to share things that people could imagine but not buy.

I think this is an important function of wealth. It creates super-expensive architecture, products, etc that some normal people can gain some tiny amount of pleasure simply from the photos. "Ohh, what a cool work studio in the forest" without the actual bills.

To be clear I'm not suggesting that everyone is gonna try to run out and one-up the princess bedroom now. Even among the "merely" affluent this is a bridge too far, and fortunately normal people, as you say, go for cheap when it comes to kids furniture. But (just restricting ourselves to the case of children here) whether it's real estate in "good" school districts with big houses, summer camps, birthday gifts and parties, the ever-escalating price of college education, and so on, the spending arms race is real and hugely sub-optimal, and it's only getting worse as income inequality widens.

I think many commentators on this are going out of their way to be non-judgmental and refusing to see what's in front of them.

Of course there is keeping up with the joneses for kids parties. If your child is invited to a birthday party with cake and soda, you don't need to do much more to look good to the other parents. If the other child has fine catering, a Disney Princess, and a petting zoo, then you will be much more inclined to put on an extravagant show as well. The idea of conspicuous consumption is nothing new...
The family highlighted in the article obviously has significant wealth. Their friends and neighbors, and the classmates of their children, likely have wealth as well; I'd be very surprised if any of the other families are in the bottom 99%. And I have no doubt that many of them have flashy, expensive baubles for their children, although not to this extreme.

J - I see the people making the "positional goods" argument as basically envious people complaining. It is like entering a chess tournament and then whining that other people winning make you feel bad and force you to study up on chess positions in order to be able to compete. If you don't like to do this, then don't enter the tournament. I for instance have decided not to enter the tournament for fantasy kids bedrooms. But I am not going to prevent people from entering that tournament if they want to.

The other issue is defining exactly what is a positional good. Almost everything we produce could have this quality since all we really need to survive is small shelter of a few square meters and some plain food. Is everything other than that "positional'? Like reading books for instance, it makes some people feel bad that some people read more than they do. Drinking wine, perhaps that is positional versus someone who would normally have been perfectly happy with beer. What about someone who drinks Champagne versus sparkling wine from California, should we ban that?

Both as a principle and as an empirical matter, I think we are better off with the freedom approach and should forget about meddling with other peoples decisions.

Why? Your position is equally arbitrary. It states that your preferences (not envious) are superior to others (envious) and therefore policy should cater to you. That does not follow.

I am always amazed that people participate in stories like this, and don't realize how they come across - but I guess I shouldn't be. Also, I would love a tape recording of them explaining to their little kids why the WSJ is filming their tea party and that's a good thing.

Don't they know, or maybe they do know, that the color pink

Will make these girls

Very non-aggressive.

Here is a link to the effect of pink on reducing aggression for prison inmates:

I just don't understand why Obama wants to increase tax rates on the wealthy.

George Soros couldn't agree with you more about open borders though...

So he can dole it out to his supporters, who then can build rooms like this.

But that's why we need legalization. Then they would be *legal* street drugs. Problem solved.

President Obama has actually been very moderate on most issues, check his record. It's the GOP who have moved to the extremes so that anything in the middle now looks like the far left. I think even you can see that when we have this insane level of wealth inequality people just end up wasting money that could be taxed and spent on infrastructure or at least used to raise wages and give the money to people who actually need it for basic necessities. This Princess bedroom is what Republican policies produce.

You don't actually have any knowledge of the level of wealth or income of this family. The $70 K these people spent on the bedroom could be a substantial portion of their personal wealth but, goofy as it might seem, it's their money, to spend as they wish, not as others desire. What's Al Gore got into his house? Or Billy Jeff and his harridan Hillary? It's okeydokey for John Kerry to use the proceeds of his gigolo business to buy a yacht but this woman can't put together an adolescent bordello for her daughters?

Exactly! People are mad at the tanning lady*, meanwhile Bill Gate's house cost $40M to build, Jay-Z & Beyonce lost a bidding war for a $70m beach house (the Minecraft guy won), and Zuckerberg owns 7 houses in San Francisco he plans to demolish.

*She's a milf. That drives women readers crazy. See Palin, Sarah.

Is not Beyonce a MILF? I often think her attractiveness is overrated, but still think she is quite attractive.

You are just a spambot that inserts "GOP extremists" and "wealth inequality" into every comment you make, reuses a couple words from the post, then goes back to stealing credit card numbers for Russian identity thieves.

The funny part is the kids will probably hate Disney princesses by the time they hit middle school.

The life cycle of these kind of rooms have to be very small. Are these families going to spend $200,000 every three of four years as their kids grow up and move onto the next thing?

And for the back yard (or indoor pool), you can get "Red Beard's Revenge Pirate Ship Playhouse" for $52,000.

The great question is … what is it about princesses that is so appealing to young girls? Is it the perceived glamour? The life of luxury? The sense of being in a kind of exclusive club? Or just the shiny gleaming stuff?

My daughter wanted to be a Halloween princess at the age of 5, but it passed. Thankfully we've nudged her towards liking gymnasts, tennis players and engineering.

Not necessarily. There are good value transference opportunities for female engineers.

JAMRC, your outdated sense of hierarchy is amusing. Indians are the new elite in venture capital and tech management, and already own all the best real estate.

These quaint little Disney princess playrooms are a laughable prelude to the real action in this category: replicas of India's great palaces.

Now, please, sit down, enjoy a dosa and think about what you've learned today. Namaste.

Kill their parents and take their money.

Torture them to death and take their money.

If you were not already persuaded we need a progressive consumption tax, now you are.

i think most are in favor of a consumption tax so long as it is instead of and not in addition to all existing taxes.

Little girls just instinctively love inequality.

If these are transgender girls then all is not lost

New flash: people with money spend it on things that please them. The amounts here aren't any greater than one would spend on a fancy car. So what's the problem?

"Lindsay Dickhout, chief executive of a company": there would seem to be a spelling mistake in that surname.

If one lives in a disfavored geographical location, it can easily cost 100 to 200 K or more to provide one's son with access to the hockey challenges or basketball challenges that almost all successful pro and college U.S. hockey players and North American b-ballers need to avoid failure at the pro or college level. Football is cheaper (think comedy of the commons, not tragedy of the commons) and baseball is cheaper too (because it is so dependent on weird patterns of neuron firings (trust me on this)). In reality, though, all that a son or daughter needs is 2 good role models.

What in God's name is a "hockey challenge"?

Snoop Dogg's son just got a football scholarship to UCLA. Mr. Dogg sent his doon to a Vegas prep school that cost $12.7k/year on top of his apartment and Range Rover (ESPN produced a documentary series about them).

Dearieme - Number one hockey challenge in most of the U.S.- Finding ice your children can play hockey on. It is called "rink time" and it is very expensive south of the frozen North. The basketball challenge is getting your son from point A to point B in the travelling leagues - those leagues are responsible for many of the NBA players with middle class and upper class backgrounds, many of whom, I have heard, would be D-league at best if they spent the years from 10 to 16 playing in their local schools with the social studies teacher as the part-time coach and with 20 scheduled games of mediocre competition a year. (Tyler C or Alex T covered this a couple times, I think). In baseball, the competition does not limit how far you hit the ball or how fast you pitch or how quick you react to unexpected bounces, and in football (generally several magnitudes more popular at the high school level than all the other sports combined) every slightly overweight kid in the U.S. gets a chance to play as much as he wants to , usually for next to free.

One more reason to be an antinatalist.

If it had any significance
it would be disgusting.

The European aristocracy, whose tastes we imitate if we're tasteful, had over a thousand years to develop their taste. Give these guys another thousand yeara; they're just the nouveau riche. 'Course the wealth may have been dissipated by then.

This convinces me that our society would definitely collapse if we were to tax them a few percentage points more. *chuckle*

Seriously, forget about any extra tax revenue; if a higher tax rate can make sure this kind of monstrosity does not happen again, it's definitely welfare-improving.

Advice to a son: "never marry a girl whose father calls her princess"

Newport Beach has a major problem producing lousy kids with all kinds of psychological and drug problems and this kind of stupidity will just add to the problem.

You know, I have to say that as a parent of modest means, many of these rooms are not particularly outlandish. Yes, the huge castle bed and palace antiques are totally crazy, but most of these rooms are just not very difficult for a novice crafter to pull off. My daughter's room is very storybook thanks mostly to a lot of painting. She just asked for birds to hang above her bed, which will cost me another $15. It's good to know that I really can provide what is apparently the best of the best. To me, the takeaway is just how bad of a deal the parents in the WSJ article are getting from their designers.

Comments for this post are closed