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You're watching a movie. The characters are in their spacious home with their nice new, trendy furniture... then they start talking about how hard up for money they are, or the "rich people" across town.

Pottery Barn Poor is when you see a family who are implied to be poor (or simply think they are), but the decor of their house does not even remotely match their claims. Nothing is worn from use, nothing is broken, everything looks new and out of the box. This often happens as a result of Product Placement — the moviemakers can defray costs by showcasing a furniture chain's decor line, even though it doesn't make much sense to the actual poor families watching the film. The discrepancy is simply Handwaved.

Can be Truth in Television, if the family is spending every last red cent trying to "keep up with the Joneses" and look wealthy. Perhaps the trappings of wealth are remnants of more fortunate times. What sets this situation apart is that the reason for the discrepancy between the lack of money and the obvious wealth is never explained in this trope.

Related to Improbable Food Budget and Friends Rent Control.

Examples of Pottery Barn Poor include:


Film

  • In the film version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg and Rowley go off to the "rich part of town" on Halloween because its families give away more candy, when the decor of their own houses (including Rowley's Cool Starship bed), tends to say that their own section of town isn't too badly off.
    • In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie Diary book about the making of the movie, it is pointed out that Greg's pants were specifically faded to show that his clothes are hand-me-downs from his older brother, Rodrick. We can only assume that it's just the pants because all of Greg's shirts look brand new.
  • In Nanny McPhee, the family lives in a huge farmhouse complete with food animals, a vegetable garden, and servants. To quote Roger Ebert, "only in fiction could this be the residence of a man facing financial ruin."
    • The point being that this is stuff they inherited or bought while they were wealthy (thanks to a rich aunt who doesn't want to send money any more), and the father just isn't willing to sell any of it to help lighten the upkeep.
  • In Transformers, the Witwickys are described (by Sam's roommate) as being "poor." In truth, they're just cheap.


Live Action TV

  • For as often as money troubles popped up on Married... with Children, the Bundys' house was certainly outfitted well.
    • YMMV. The appliances were always at least a decade out-of-date, the wallpaper was tacky, and the furniture all looked second-hand, or repainted. Al's car was also a junker that barely ran. On the other hand, the house was far larger than a shoe salesman working at a mall could possibly afford.
  • The Heffernins on The King of Queens consist of a UPS IPS truck driver, a secretary and an old retired man who never worked a job for more than a month at a time. Despite this, aside from their rather spacious home, in a neighbourhood decent enough for Lou Ferrigno, they also have ongoing plots revolving around Doug's widescreen plasma tv and home cinema system and the den devoted to it.
  • Friends was based on the premise of six twentysomethings struggling to make it in New York City, even though Manhattan apartments like the ones they lived in are far from cheap (outside of shows like these, that is). The trope was literally applied in one episode, when one character decorated their apartment in Pottery Barn furniture and another one didn't like it.
    • Possibly the Trope Codifier in that Monica's white wooden bed was IRL from Pottery Barn. (And it cost upwards of $1200.)
  • The CSI episode "Two-and-a-half Murders" had an in-universe example. The characters were investigating a murder on the set of a sitcom, and Grissom pointed out that the main character of the sitcom was supposed to be a struggling single mother and yet drove a Ferrari. Apparently the sitcom writers had tried to justify it by saying that she won it in a radio contest, but given the upkeep costs of a Ferrari, this trope would still hold.
  • The main characters of Charmed own a large manor house in San Francisco. 3 bedroom houses in San Francisco go for upwards of a million dollars. Yet apparently during the time after their mother died, they were barely scraping together enough to live. Admittedly, there are mystical reasons not to get rid of the house, but there is no reason they wouldn't have sold the house in between when their grandmother died and they got their own powers.


Western Animation

  • The home of The Simpsons may not be anything fancy, but it's still a reasonably-sized detached house with a nice garden, despite only Homer having a job (several of which lasted for one episode), and numerous episodes focusing on their bad finances. (And yet, this show heralded a trend of more down-on-their-luck sitcom families.)
    • Negative Continuity might kick in, but in one episode the house is explained by Grandpa selling his house and giving Homer the money (on the condition that he be allowed to live there...which only happened for three weeks). Also, Marge stays home all day, so she'd have time to tend to the garden, which looks basically unchanged from when they bought it IIRC.
    • Frank Grimes lampshaded this, noting that the Simpson family is much better off than they realize, and specifically their house is upper-middle class despite them acting (and believing themselves to be) like a lower-class family. They also have more than enough money for Homer to frequently be absent for work to take up a new hobby or career whenever they feel like it, and Marge herself goes through part-time jobs at only a slightly slower clip.
    • The house is also shown to be in rather shoddy condition several times. The walls are so thin the entire family can converse casually from their own bedrooms with the doors closed and Bart knocks several holes in the walls easily to demonstrate the point a few times.
    • Homer is a supervising nuclear safety technician. Arguably, sufficient income to support an upper-middle class lifestyle for a family of five is the only part of his job portrayed realistically (including the fact that Homer Simpson can do it).
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