Monday, May 28, 2012

A Point of View: A private visit to meet Restoration Hardware’s brilliant chief, Gary Friedman, at his California homebase

Restoration Hardware chairman and co-CEO Gary Friedman has created an ultra-private haven overlooking San Francisco Bay. Here he refreshes his energy, and dreams big, certainly of the next great Resto catalog and product collection.

You’ll see every swoon-worthy room – full of ideas and inspiration. 

The sunset view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which celebrated its 75th Anniversary yesterday, from Gary Friedman's hillside home. 

On a sun-struck hillside in Belvedere, sheltered by pines and native oaks, Gary Friedman has created his extraordinary domain.

Light-filled and relaxed, the villa-style residence epitomizes Friedman’s ideals of symmetry, harmony, and balance.

It’s a lively interview, and I’ve also listed Gary’s inspirations, and Gary’s Style Signifiers. So, make a cup of tea, pour a glass of chilled Prosecco, or do as Karl does and sip Diet Coke, as you’ll want to read the whole story. 

Morning Mist: On the stone terrace just outside his dining room, Gary Friedman can watch as yachts set out from Sausalito toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Sofas by David Sutherland. 

With its discreet Howard Backen-designed architecture, lush landscaping, and infinity pool, the house offers Friedman, his family, friends, and staff a splash of glamour just half an hour from the city and ten minutes from Restoration Hardware headquarters in Corte Madera.

“I’m an early riser, so my favorite thing is to walk out onto the terrace and watch the sunrise,” said Friedman, relaxed, tanned, and dressed head to toe in Brunello Cucinelli. The golden sun hits the hills above Sausalito, and the magical scene looks like Portofino. It’s very escapist. 

Gary Friedman
Restoration Hardware recently filed to go public and Friedman has revved up his usual fast pace, criss-crossing the country, planning and inspecting potential sites, even a restaurant and wine bar under discussion. He’s also checking in on spectacular new design galleries, in Houston, East Hampton, and Los Angeles, and watching the progress of the handsome new gallery in Boston, opening in the fall.

As always Friedman is seeking out talented craftspeople. His obsession is innovative furniture, lighting and objects to add to his current roster of 24,000 products in the Resto line.

Under Friedman’s direction, Restoration Hardware has grown to eighty-six galleries and stores, including Baby & Child boutiques and outlets.

A pair of sinuous vintage Scandinavian chairs is juxtaposed with newly introduced Deconstructed sofas and intentionally exposed burlap underpinnings and tufted muslin. The antique Belgian glass and rusted iron lamps inspired a Resto lighting collection. 

After the dramatic debut of the first Gallery in a Palladio-inspired villa in San Francisco’s design district, expansion followed. Plans to open galleries in Miami and Manhattan are underway.

Resto recently mailed out its latest Sourcebook and its hefty catalog compendium, fresh and full of new listings of modern furniture, along with the new color, denim blue.

Friedman’s long-term vision for the company includes a Restoration Hardware-style hotel and restaurant (in conjunction with a gallery) and an even broader diversity of products and styles. 

Not surprisingly, Friedman’s house epitomizes the best of Resto, with a pair of the latest Deconstructed collection sofas taking pride of place in the living room, new muslin upholstered Deconstructed wing chairs in the dining room and all beds afloat with the company’s luscious embroidered white Italian linens, fresh and inviting.

Over the intense five years it took to complete the planning, designing, building and interior architecture of the 7,000 square foot house, Friedman, always obsessive about arcane knowledge, learning and insider expertise, received the equivalent of a Doctorate in Architecture from the genial and opinionated Napa Valley-based architect Howard Backen and his longtime partner, architect Jim Gillam and their team.

“The moment I first drove up to the site with Howard, he took one look and sketched out the siting, the entrance, the intricate placement of rooms, the orientation to the views,” said Friedman. “We were looking at a bare slope, not yet excavated, and Howard could see the built house. I was very inspired.”

As refinements were made to the structure and floor plans, hundreds of tons of soil were excavated from the steep hillside.

The house, with its two-foot thick walls, deep window and door reveals, and ochre-colored stucco walls, nestles comfortable into the surroundings. 

“Howard squeezed the maximum views from the house—to the east, the south and the west—and we have all-day sun,” noted Friedman. “Many people would have had picture windows, and decks everywhere. That’s not my thing or Howard’s.”

Instead of vast expanses of glass, Friedman and Backen devised folding doors framed with rich mahogany to give the rooms an intimate, enclosed feeling. When pushed open, the doors disappear and the kitchen, dining room and bedrooms open directly onto sheltered and beautifully framed terraces. 

Doors in the multi-purpose kitchen open to a balcony with views of Mt. Tamalpais. Wing chairs, table by Resto. 

“I did not want to lose any view in the kitchen, so I forbade kitchen cabinets,” noted Friedman. Instead, he and his team made an apothecary of the large and practical kitchen island, hiding utensils and cooking equipment in custom rolling drawers and under-counter cabinets. 

Friedman’s nine-year-old twin daughters, Alexis and Arianna love to hang out in the media room. In the mix: an antique China cabinet, tufted Deconstructed chair, and a side table made from scavenged architectural fragments. 

Most impressive is the complete integration of architecture and interior décor. Backen’s rooms are perfectly proportioned and minimally detailed to create a calm and graceful background for art, antiques, collections and comfortable furnishings. It's welcoming.

“The whole house is lived in,” noted Friedman. The travertine floors throughout and Venetian plaster walls also give the house a tranquil, cohesive feeling. He worked with designer Kendall Agins Friedman on the décor. 

A textural composition of lichen-covered leather pedestal table, graphic art, and lacquer lamp in the entry. 

Gary Friedman, in full expansion mode, travels often and heads to Europe or Asia with his design and research teams to source new products and meet with the designers and artisans and specialist manufacturers who help him reinvent the style and texture and products of Restoration Hardware.

In Los Angeles there’s the charming Ben Soleimani of Mansour, now creating stunning and well-priced collections of floor coverings for Resto.

In Belgium, Friedman has a partnership with Raymond Libeco of Libeco-Lagae, the top linen company for which Resto is a major client. (All of Friedman’s curtains and upholstery is from this centuries-old company.) And there are traditional bed linen companies in Florence, antique dealers in London and Paris.

“When I return from a long trip, it is very escapist and tranquil to be alone in this house,” said Friedman. “It’s a great gathering place for my family, and it’s ideal for business meetings with discussions going on into the night. But when I’m alone there’s a Zen-like calm feeling that I love. 

A Resto four-poster bed is a bold element in the guest suite. 

Gary Friedman likes to think of Restoration Hardware as a renegade company, daring and fearless. For his staff, he offers an inspiring set of Resto Rules. Here are some key points:

Vision is Everything
We believe vision leads the leader. It ignites and fuels the fire within

Those with Vision lead and inspire us to boldly move forward and chart new courses

We believe Vision is everything

No School for Cool

We believe in being cool

We believe you’re either cool or you’re not

To be cool, you have to do cool things

We believe cool has to come from within

There is no School for Cool 


Watch: Panerai Chronograph

Wardrobe: Brunello Cucinelli, and obscure Japanese sportswear designers

Footwear: Heschung

Leather bracelet: Resto Rules, custom made for Resto team members.

Jeans: RRL by Ralph Lauren

Cologne: Bulgari

Gary Friedman in his living room, with the new Resto Deconstructed sofa and Moroccan pillows. In the dining room Friedman’s mix of vivid Thai lacquer bowls, an antique French monastery table, an antique Chinese cabinet, Restoration Hardware side chairs, and the newly introduced muslin-upholstered Deconstructed host chair. 


All photography by Lisa Romerein, used here with express permission.

Meet the Photographer: 

Seattle-born photographer Lisa Romerein lives in Santa Monica, California, where she specializes in food, travel, architecture, interiors, gardens, portraits and lifestyle features for a client list that includes: C magazine, Casa del Mar, Chateau Sureau, Clarkson Potter, House Beautiful, Los Angeles, Kallista/Kohler, Martha Stewart Living, Meadowood and The Napa Valley Reserve, More, Santa Barbara Magazine, Shutters On The Beach, Sunset, Town and Country, Vanity fair, Veranda. Her photographs have appeared in numerous books, among them, Ann Getty: Interior Style, the cookbook Small Bites, Big Nights, a collaboration with chef Govind Armstrong and Santa Barbara Living.

Lisa recently completed a very exciting project, photographing Ann Getty’s interior design projects for my new book, ANN GETTY INTERIOR STYLE, which will be published by Rizzoli in October. (It’s already offered on, click here!)

Lisa and I spent several weeks photographing Getty-designed houses that have never been published, and documenting all of the details of Ann and Gordon Getty’s museum-quality art and antiques collection. The images are luscious, and readers will enjoy a close-up view of the most fascinating paintings, porcelains, furniture, rooms, and décor. I’ll be showing a preview of images on THE STYLE SALONISTE soon.

For more information on Restoration Hardware, the new design galleries, store locations, Baby & Child, or to request a new catalog:


peggy braswell said...

Hmmm how divine + I read every word of this post. said...

I remember this company before he came on board, it was not a place I went into much, but now I look forward to his stores and the other plans in works...

My husband grew up on that Island and it is a magical place... If we lived in California it would be there.....

thanks for the more in depth article and "rock on Gary".....


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Melissa--
Hello, Peggy-

Lovely to hear your enthusiastic and positive comments.

I agree with you that Resto before Gary was rather tired and certainly needed an update and re-think.

Now it is is thought out...and it has great style.

I have visited the new RH galleries in Houston and in Los Angeles--and I could not be more impressed. They are original, stylish, inspiring--and they present new ideas with spirit. Both have attracted top local designers (like Michael S Smith) who find Resto well priced (very...) and classic with an edge.

Melissa, you are right. "Rock on, Gary'...

all best, DIANE

Frances Schultz said...

A perfectly exquisite post, Diane. I'm so glad to have found your blog for I have long been a fan. Looking forward to reading you - and to your Ann Getty book in October. Long a writer, I'm fairly new to blogging and am so grateful for inspiration like yours. (I think we have a mutual acquaintance in Grant Gibson?) Warm regards, Frances Schultz

JMW said...

What a place - the view is breathtaking. My favorite bedspread is from Restoration Hardware - I hope it lasts forever!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Frances and Jennifer!

I love positive ideas and I love positive thoughts.

I love cheerful readers like you as well. There is a lot to like in this architecture--somehow splicing this house into a postage-stamp hillside and giving the property views and a sense of privacy as well.
I like the way it all opens out--so that the dining room and the kitchen open completely to the views. On a sunny warm day, there is nowhere on the bay more beautiful and welcoming.
Thanks to friends also who have sent enthusiastic comments about Resto. Michael S. Smith loves the company and uses a lot of their products, as do many other top designers.
Wonderful to hear from you. Do stay in touch, DIANE

columnist said...

Hmm, love so much in this, but particularly the Corinthian columnar re-jigged floor lamps, (natch). I notice a lot of Thai and Indochinese pieces scattered around, and whilst there is a profusion of it in this part of the world, it is refreshing to see it used discerningly.