Monday, June 13, 2011

Oh, Baby!

New Design Store I Love: Restoration Hardware Baby & Child 

Restoration Hardware debuts its new Baby & Child gallery in Corte Madera, Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from the new Resto gallery in San Francisco.

It’s chicer than chic, a childhood utopia of dreamy, aspirational gilded lanterns, plumped up duvets overflowing on antique-inspired beds and walls stocked with pristine white linens.

The Palladian-style gallery draws customers in through the arched interior doorways and galleries with shimmering Venetian-style mirrors, brilliant crystal scones, fantasy beds a la Polonaise, baby-sized and whacking-big chandeliers, graphic polyhedron lanterns, optical tests turned into wall graphics, and enough industrial-inspired desks and bunk beds to fuel teenage lust forever.

Love it. 

Resto opened the store a couple of weeks ago—and it is a profoundly bold statement.

A new RH design gallery is opening in Los Angeles in two weeks, followed by more Baby & Child galleries in Southern California. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Pink and blue, let alone any pastels, have been banished. This is not pretty-in-pink, My Little Pony or Hello Kitty land. Rather, it is a cohesive and cool taupe-walled dream of classic Libeco Belgian linens in white and cream. (Resto is said to be the largest retailer of fine Libeco linens in the U.S.).

The gallery, a down-sized version of the Palladian San Francisco RH gallery (originally Ed Hardy Antiques) is a rigorous plan of sisal-on-concrete floors, and a glitter of chandeliers and tranquil pale wood. Cribs are in white with all-white linens. Louis XV-style chairs are upholstered in pale natural linens. There’s no pattern, no gimmicky, no prints or frou-frou in sight. 

Gary Friedman

I can only imagine that Gary Friedman, head of Resto, called a meeting with his design crew and directed, ‘No pink, no childhood clichés, no bubblegum colors, no fear of spilled paints, just dream and make it elegant.”

Probably he was also thinking about what his twin girls might love—or at least his wish for what they should have. I can only imagine hordes of new mothers are going to follow. 

Interior designers are buzzing.

“It is so fabulous and thought-out,” said noted San Francisco interior designer Stephen Shubel, who attended the gala opening party. “It looks like a baby boutique you’d see in London or Paris. The concept is daring. They really pulled it off.” 

Some of the Baby & Child collections, shown in the store in complete vignettes, are mini-me versions of the adult-size furniture in the catalogs.

Restoration Hardware Baby & Child collections include the industrial loft bunk bed, Jameson and Flatiron desks, mini 1950s Copenhagen chair, Belgian linen bedding, grand mirrors, chandeliers and desks. 

And before anyone shouts ‘Axel Vervoordt’ let’s go over this 'Resto copied Axel' misperception once more. I corrected this canard in my earlier feature on the new San Francisco Restoration Hardware opening, (click here).

Axel Vervoordt is not a decorator. He told me so himself. He sniffs when he says it. “I am not a decorator. I don’t ‘decorate’. I’m an antique and art dealer.”

Nor did he invent, and nor does he own the natural Belgian linen/poured concrete floors/sisal rug/ linen-covered overscale sofa ‘look’.

Anyone who has been within miles of Antwerp or Brussels or Bruges would know that natural linen and bare floors and plaster walls are time-honored and ubiquitous there. It's practically a required national style. It’s a wonderful antidote to French gilded glitz and rococo Italian antiques.

Belgians like sober, unflashy and plain decor. Done! Resto pulls off plain hand-crafted plaster walls, lavish use of linen (it's the Belgian national fabric), and plain wood, with the bold scale and understated approach to interiors that is centuries old in Belgium. Page after page of interpretations are on display in Beta Plus design books (produced in Belgium) that decorators collect by the dozen.

Let’s get this: Restoration Hardware adopted a low-key, beiger-than-beige, natural linen aesthetic, but it is rather their antidote to elaborate gilded excess, not ripping of Axel.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject: a design editor reported to me from the latest High Point market that ‘everyone is ripping off Restoration Hardware now’. And so design goes. 

Design inspiration: Important to note that clearly much of this Baby & Child collection is created from re-imagined French and Danish and other European antiques.

Four-poster beds, curvy sofas and Louis XV-style are all familiar. Industrial-inspired chairs and desks and bunk beads are also part of the common contemporary vernacular. No-one owns that look, the tradition-inspired style, the pretty Frenchified curvy benches or the Flemish slipcovered sofas, all now following centuries of decorating history.

Industrial design, by nature, was mass-produced. Modern lighting, crystal chandeliers, and turned wood tables are in every High Street design shop. 

This is a great look applied to children’s rooms and newborns’ cribs.

Resto is totally upfront about copying or adapting vintage and antique pieces they find in Asia and Europe or around the US.

About that ‘copying’: Like most other designers who work in a traditional frame, they find and buy and pick and scavenge everywhere for inspiration. Flea markets, vintage stores, auctions, pickers’ lofts, dealers’ dens, design magazines, design books (mine, included), antique shops, are all sources for them and every other design firm.

That is how design moves forward.

Few, indeed, are true originals. Top fashion designers like Azzedine Alaia (hello, Mme. Gres), Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Givenchy (Balenciaga-inspired), have all looked to antique, vintage and historic styles for ideas.

Top California designers like Michael Taylor (wonderful and often derivative), and Frances Elkins (loved Roche), and John Dickinson (an admirer of Jean-Michel Frank), and Rose Tarlow and Barbara Barry and others have all found and appropriated and adapted and copied historic and existing designs. It’s no secret. So does Resto. 

I love the white linen, the downy beds, the generosity of the scale, and the glitter of glass-framed mirrors and little chandeliers. The hand-troweled plaster walls are divine. Taupe, yes. Poured concrete floors make a fantastic background for furniture and family life. 

A couple of quibbles on the new Baby & Child products and store.

That massive antique wood double propeller-turned-wall-hanging is terrifying and heavy-handed. Reconsider. Please take it down. Or mini-size it and use it for a desk display. Or not.

I see it hanging on the wall, seemingly by a mere rope, and imagine it plunging and slicing and dicing an innocent child. There is the industrial repurposed look (the great-looking desks, the witty bed on wheels fashioned after an industrial dolly) but there is also clever gone wild. 

The zinc pots with the overly aggressively fake clipped topiaries are not worthy of these chic interiors. Silly. Please banish them.

Wittier, would be carved wood topiaries either in bleached wood or painted wood, antiqued somewhat. The faux zinc looks a bit heavy-handed, too. 

Welcome the new Baby & Child. It is off and running. I can’t wait to see what develops next in the fast-growing world Restoration Hardware. 

All photography courtesy of Restoration Hardware.

The Village at Corte Madera, 1700 Redwood Highway, off Hwy 101, Corte Madera, CA. It’s opposite the new Restoration Hardware design gallery.

The Baby & Child Gallery can be reached at 415.927.2659 and is open Monday through Friday 10am–8pm; Saturday 10am–7pm; Sunday 11am–6pm.


The enchanted home said...

Wow I am totally blown away!!!!! AMAZING looking, gotta hand it to him, he just keeps on getting better with his vision...very impressive, this is one store I would LOVE to get lost in:) said...

I Love restoration hardware more in the mini-version??!! Cheers to them and good luck with the stores..


Windlost said...

Diane, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and also your summary debunking of the stolen Belgian look. I think that RH just put it all together so beautifully. I think their reproductions are lovely. I have never had a problem with this store, which by the way brings pretty design, reasonably well-made and interesting to those of us who don't live in Europe or LA and don't have 20 antiques markets around the corner. I love their new Baby & Child store and think they are genius. I do agree that the oversize farm implements (or whatever they are) are a little too much. I thought a similar thing as you - about an oversize heavy mirror falling on a child!
I do find their main store a little masculine and overscale for my tastes, but the Baby store has just enough softness to be adaptable to most homes or to either gender. Wish I could visit but it will likely be a while getting to my mid-sized Canadian city!

Great post - loved hearing your perspective on this!
xo Terri

meredith etherington-smith said...

Marie Antoinette's baby princess goes minimalist! The store should be called 'Le Petit Hameau' after the make-believe farm the queen had at Versailles. Meredith E-S

peggy braswell said...

RH for baby & children. Since I live in LA am looking forward to seeing the shop.

Brillante Interiors said...

Different approach to children's rooms, I love everything here, from the beautiful entry to the last detail. So important what you said about Axel V.and Belgian style. Love your blog!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Meredith-Loved hearing from you. You are the expert on Axel Vervoordt, having authored his first book that was so very influential. Marie Antoinette: yes, there is fantasy in the B&C story and I love that--the gold crown, the Versailles counter-balanced with super-practical sisal rugs and white woodwork and the quite tranquil and understated taupe background. So much of childhood today is garish--clothing, gear, rock videos, jewelry, trappings--that this low-key fantasy 'Hameau' is a fine direction.
Terri--love your comments. Yes, this is not Axel.
Peggy-coming soon to Melrose. Opening June 24.
Melissa--loved your comments.
Thank you to all--always delighted to hear from you.

Kristine Alana said...

OH! To be a child again!
Better yet, an adult with a wallet...I'm heading there tomorrow ....thanks, Diane

Philip Bewley said...

Loved how you set some things straight. Also, it is brilliant to use the Former Ed Hardy facade as brand identity. Some witty vignettes...a fave with just a few elements: a crib, a Venetian baroque mirror and a few strips of cloth creating a thats a display that tells a story. Thank you for keeping us informed on the latest news of merchandising.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant post!
So educational; and perfectly described!
True; the facade of Ed Hardy's store is one of my all-time favorites.

and I hope he changes every one of your "quibbles" you are right on the money to my eye!!

Your admirer

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Dear Penny and dear Philip and dear Kristine-
Love your comments. Designers love the Baby & Child store. I'm pleased to hear their reaction. One designer even told me that his newest client 'wanted the complete Restoration Hardware 'look''.
Client said she wanted the look, but pulled together by designer and personalized. Interesting.
I also received this fantastic comment from the noted San Francisco artist Jane Richardson Mack. She does the most exquisite verre eglomise work and painted decorative finishes of great beauty:

"I grew up with beautiful imagery, from books that stimulated my imagination, not ONE dayglow, eyeburning color. Salutations, look forward to seeing this Baby & Child store, and lets be gentle on those newborn eyes."
Everyone has an opinion--'children's brains need the stimulation of color' or 'keep it calm'.
Either way--I think the key is to think it through, calmly, and do what is right for each child. Make them feel happy, engaged with people, safe and stimulated...and composed and confident and kind. cheers, DIANE

Irene Turner said...

Great post. saying that I think these look more like a designer's fantasy rather then actual children's rooms. Young children need stimulation, it's the way their brain develops and I find these to neutral of any kind of personality. As they grow and their personality comes out, then one can decide if they need more or less stimulation. But, these rooms are lovely to look at for sure
I do love your take on the difference between the Belgian look and the French. I agree completely

Love Your Homes said...

Good evening Diane,
tuning in at late evening from Stockholm.

I've often noticed that RH has been a source to Outdoor & Garden inspiration the last two years here in Sweden, hopefully the Baby & Child concept will follow.

It really should...I would have loved a nursing room with french rococo chairs upholstered in Libeco linen, trust me! A slight touch of vintage industrial design to go with the Louis XV style and I guess any mama will feel elegant.

Still you are so right about skipping the zinc and the topiaries.

I really still RH has pulled it off.
What do you know about Ed Hardy as their consultant, him being an expert on antiques?

Have a great weekend!
Stockholm is one rainy spot today.


The Devoted Classicist said...

Just when I was getting so bored with all the retail sameness! Very impressive!

Anonymous said...

I understand that "Resto" is the only retail furniture company that is making a profit.

I believe it. And our Diane D S explained it......

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Irene, John, Ingela and Penny-dear friends near and far--

Thank you so much for your great great comments. I so appreciate each and every one.

My report on BABY & CHILD has had such interesting responses and back and forth, fascinating ideas and poins of view.

There are the 'white is not stimulating enough for children' and the contrasting 'children need less color, and more tranquility'. I can encompass both concepts. It's a personal choice.

Ingela--you are so right. I think many mothers and fathers and children would have liked to have Louis XV-inspired chairs, and the wit and charm that Resto has dreamed up there.
Fabulous, too, that designers love it so much.

Lots more news coming up--you will be the first to know. cheers, DIANE

Square With Flair said...

I can understand designers liking the Restoration Hardware designs for the young. The quality is good and the prices aren’t unreasonable.

For those on a budget however, the same look is achieved for a fraction of the price, simply by using old American manufactured French Provincial furniture of 1960s or 1970s vintage from thrift and junk shops, for 1/10th the price. As for colour, I think it is wrong to impose a colour choice on the young. Unfortunately, given a part in the selection process, young girls will usually choose a very strident Barbie pink, and boys will also shy away from these soft tones in favour of the strong colour of sport logos. Same goes for their clothing. One might prefer them in a Lacoste polo and chinos, but they will always opt for things which to adult eyes are overly commercial and garishly coloured.

I’m not a fan of Resto Hardware…I find many of their furniture designs over scale, and the use of certain designs and accessories pretentious and fake. I remember being in recently and they had linen cushions everywhere that were made of copies of antique, distressed, stenciled linen bags with French text. I mean come on… Nothing looks worse than a copy of a very unique and special antique or piece of art.

For the basics, such as a plain leather sofa for a family room, or a plain canvas umbrella for the terrace, their simple designs, quality construction, and prices are commendable.

portable crib bedding said...

I Love restoration hardware more in the mini-version!! Cheers to them and good luck with the stores..