JCPenney looks for a home run with designer housewares

If you'd told me 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that I'd be happily anticipating seeing a house outfitted with JCPenney housewares, I don't think I'd have believed you. JCPenney was one of those stores that carried a stigma in my mind, because it was one of the "sensible" stores my mom would drag me to for school clothes. Hard to get rid of those associations. (Is it just me? Maybe so.)

But I'd been excitedly awaiting JCPenney's latest home lines from some of my favorite (but sometimes out-of-my-price-range) designers -- especially Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler, but also the Danish kitchenwares of Bodum, British designer Terence Conran's collection, and the designer perhaps most associated with competitor Target's stylish home collaborations, Michael Graves.

Over the weekend I attended Dwell magazine's Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles, where a full 700-square-foot Method Homes studio -- one of many prefab units on the show floor -- was furnished by JCPenney. And it was everything I'd hoped it would be: fun and modern at nondesigner prices (though maybe not quite as reasonably priced as JCPenney shoppers are accustomed to). Click here to go to the slideshow.

Of course, just because it's a hit with me doesn't mean that it will strike a chord with a broad audience. The JCPenney design initiative is the brainchild of former Apple executive Ron Johnson, who was brought aboard as JCPenney's CEO to revitalize the brand -- and then was fired this spring, just 17 months later. The company is now following what Bloomberg dubs "Johnson Lite," since it's too far along the design path to go back now.

We're curious what you think. Take a look at the slideshow of products, then let us know in the comments: Did JCPenney hit a home run? Where should the company go from here?

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