Monday, May 6, 2013

The Bliss List

The big design news this month is that Restoration Hardware (now named RH) is once more reinventing itself—with a dramatic new Boston gallery, surprising new catalogs, and an alluring and international collection of new products. 

Come and take a look. I’ve selected highlights and some of my favorites.

This Spring offering is a compelling new product line-up, with a new way of seeing interiors. I think you’ll find many must-have pieces—whatever your style, your location, your budget.

New are handsome plaster busts of Greek goddesses, one-of-a-kind crystals and geodes, strange and compelling architectural maquettes, along with new outdoor furniture, tableware that arouses the appetite, light-as-air wine glasses, oddities, and madly curious objects. RH speeds into the future—and pulls us along. 

Just when you thought you knew Restoration Hardware, along comes a brace of seductive new catalogs. And I’ll let you into some RH secrets. 

Over the weekend, I received an invitation from MoMA and MoMA PS1 to a special celebration for the US premiere of 'Rain Room' by Random International, It's the much-talked-about art installation, with ‘rain’ that seems to respond to human presence. Everyone in New York is talking about it.

The art is fascinating, but of special interest to design and art fans is that the event is in honor of Gary Friedman and Carlos Alberini, heads of Restoration Hardware, which now owns this important art installation.

The secret is that RH is embarking on several new ventures, including offering fine art, opening a Chelsea gallery. Watch for the opening in September.

There might even be an RH hotel in the planning stages. I’ve viewed plans and I’m looking forward to hearing more.

RH is also signing up musical artists, I’m told by someone close to the company. RH exclusive musical offerings are in the planning stage.

Look also for specialty foods, a wine bar, potentially a restaurant or two. A New York gallery, when the right location becomes apparent.

It’s all very exciting. It’s impressive to see a design firm expanding far beyond sofas, garden furniture, Italian sheets, and Belgian-linen upholstered chairs.

Gary Friedman is leading the charge. 

Gary Friedman, photo by Alex Farnum.

Curious and Curiouser: Objects of Style

Every room needs an unexpected punch, a kick in the pants—a personal collection, a flea-market find or two, old books, a family heirloom or three, an over-scale piece—and the new RH catalog of ‘curiosities’ is a superb offering of quick-witted delights. 

It’s also an international treasure trove—with original and reproduced selections of handsome plaster horse heads and gestural hands, and enough branch ‘coral’ and botanical artistry to fill an avid collector’s shelves.

A grouping of white plaster busts—Ariadne, and Artemis (Diana) and a Greek goddess or two—would give a library or study or living room mantel instant distinction. Love these.

There are architectural adornments, fantastic architectural maquettes (like the ones Axel Vervoordt collects), as well as dramatic French clocks.

Natural horn frames are understated. I love especially the antiqued mirror frames (incredibly chic homage to old Venetian mirror frames), and the series of 19th-century cartographic prints (extremely fine reproductions). Framed botanicals (like the ones we used to find in Paris flea markets) will convince even the pickiest collector.

And for animal lovers, the series of hand-carved wood big game trophies are dramatic and very deer-friendly. 

Antique collectors Mark Sage and Rudi Nijssen (Antwerp) are masters of the art of reimagining one-of-a-kind objects. Yes, fine reproductions. Particularly well done. For RH, they discovered a rare and unusual German 1920s-era Light Bulb Voltage Tester that they reconceived as a bar for wine and spirits. The duo’s unique items also include grandly-scaled wood architectural maquettes and an intriguing array of French glass cloches showcasing eclectic finds such as chemistry tubes-turned-light sculptures. Yikes, these alone will save you an early morning trek to the Antwerp street fairs and vintage shops. I love this quirky and eccentric look. 

But it’s not all vintage-inspired. Ceramicist Sara Paloma (Emeryville, California) creates tall bottle forms with glazes and a neutral palette inspired by walks on the beach. Paloma’s study in form and texture make her stoneware vessels and nesting bowls organically dynamic and evocative. They're an ideal contrast to all the timeworn antiquity.

I thought I was rather tired of decorative coral, but for the Objects of Curiosity collection, artisan and collector Caroline Davoy (Coufouleux, France) has created a collection of meticulous sea life replicas that bring the category to life. I admire her South Seas coral specimens, sustainably harvested and stained sea fans (quite lovely) and towering, reclaimed wood oyster Branches. They bring graceful and lithe energy to an interior.


I love the selections of copies of large-scale old clocks. Curators Mark Dvorak and Gary Spain (San Francisco) searched the world for crusty old industrial and shop clocks. They’re the kind of characters you always want to find at Clignancourt, but Spain and Dvorak found them first. There’s a five-foot tall French tower clock, and clocks that look as if they originally chimed the hour in a Bavarian railway station waiting room. All evoke their original purpose and place. 

Opening and Re-Inventing in Boston

Last month, RH opened The Gallery in the historic former Museum of Natural History at 234 Berkeley Street in Boston.

The 40,000-square-foot landmark, designed in 1862 by architect William G. Preston, was only the second building to be erected in Boston's famous Back Bay.

The neoclassical building’s exterior and interior were restored by stripping back decades of structural modifications, auxiliary mezzanine levels, and pedestrian elevators added willy-nilly during its history. 

The space has been reimagined (thanks to California architect James Gillam) consistent with its original vision as a museum. A pavilion of glass and steel designed by Gillam, in harmonious accord with the building’s neoclassical facade, creates a dramatic new entrance on Newbury Street.

The new gallery building, most recently the admired Louis of Boston store, and its park-like setting, are framed by Berkeley, Boylston and Newbury Streets 

The re-opened central atrium centers on a reinterpretation of an 1892 traction and counterweight elevator inspired by the iconic model in downtown Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building. Soaring three floors, the steel-caged glass cab highlights the interior’s new unobstructed vertical openness and dramatic interior architecture. 

The Gallery’s interior lighting was created by designer and artist, Bentley Meeker, who has designed events for MoMA, the Guggenheim, and New York's Natural History Museum. He has exhibited at the Whitney. 

The building’s luminescent exterior lighting was created by award-winning lighting designer Ross De Alessi, who specializes in illuminating historical monuments, including The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

The landscape has been restored and preserves the original flowering magnolia trees, and with new brick paths and an outdoor sculpture garden. 


The restored original vaulted and iridescent gold-coffered ceiling, which adds low-key luster in contrast with the subdued tones of upholstered furniture and accessories.

The reinterpretation of an 1892 traction and counterweight elevator has opened up the interior to give a sense of spatial lightness.

Boston also houses the first Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley Wine Bar. The concept was founded originally in Yountville California, by vintner Michael Polenske, and features Blackbird wines and Polenske’s curated decorative objects.

There are four Clubrooms, including the billiards room, complete with a refurbished vintage Brunswick table, open for play.

The Music Room, a tribute to the days of vinyl, rock ‘n’ roll and Motown, is also home to a 100-year-old beer bar salvaged from a local Boston pub.

The Library is filled with design and architecture books for reference and inspiration. Bookworms can hang out here, away from RH fans testing chairs and bouncing on beds.

The Cinema celebrates the art of film.

The RH Baby & Child design showroom, well-known in Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, makes it first appearance on the East Coast.

Also in the Gallery is a floral boutique, as well as a salon/studio for personal consultations and RH interior design services 

Simple Elegance for the Table

I’m especially impressed with the new tableware collection, with fine craftsmanship by master artisans, glassblowers, woodworkers and metalsmiths from around the world.

The RH dinnerware collection features a palette of four translucent colored glazes, in addition to white. Available in three shapes—round, square and coupe—each piece is hand-dipped and kiln-fired at extremely high temperatures of 1300° C. Yikes, that makes it tough. Organic variations in color are unique to each piece. Lovely. 

RH’s English silverplate collections—classic English Fiddlehead and Classic English Baguette—are crafted in Sheffield, England. These reproductions of historic patterns are weighted for the perfect balance and plated to a superior 10-micron thickness. Exceptionally durable, each collection is available in three finishes—brushed, polished and rumbled. The 1920s Titanic collection reproduces the vintage reed-and-shield pattern used in dining rooms aboard the luxury liner RMS Titanic in 1912. Stainless flatware is also offered in polished, brushed or blackened finishes. This oxidized finish looks incredibly new and chic. 

Reminiscent of rustic ironwork, the Hammered Steel Rivet Collection, created by San Francisco metalsmith Jefferson Mack, is hand-forged from stainless steel with a contrasting pounded brass rivet. Very Jefferson. The complete flatware assortment also includes collections defined by organic materials such as horn and bone. 

RH glassware features elegant crystal stemware collections by Riedel, the German family-owned company that has set the standard of quality and innovation in glassware for more than 250 years. For the bar, finely faceted crystal glassware and decanters from the Boulevard collection are mouthblown and cut and polished by glass artisans in Slovenia. 

RH features Belgian linen and cotton table linens. The Stonewashed Belgian linen hemstitch collection is woven from traditional Belgian flax, accented with simple hemstitching, in twenty colors. 

Selections from the Outdoors Collection

Selections from the Newest Catalog: Small Spaces, Big Ideas


Images courtesy of Restoration Hardware, used with express permission.  Photos from The Gallery in Boston by Kathryn Barnard/Restoration Hardware and Jared Kuzia/Restoration Hardware.



Splenderosa said...

Hello Dianne, you have surpassed yourself with this splendid post. I love what RH has done, their 1st concept store opened in Houston and we are all thrilled to see it here.
They are doing amazing work. AMAZING.
So happy you've endorsed them, lots of designer/decorators in Houston have had many snide comments which I don't think is very nice. All us regular people think it rocks!!

Karena said...

Hello Dianne,
RH is moving forward in a most dynamic way. This is a comprehensive posting of their new genres.

I do of course love their very special Flagship Home.

Art by Karena

The Devoted Classicist said...

Truly fabulous, I must agree.

Squeak said...

Checking online, I was so excited to see the collections of minerals, imitation coral and imitation turtle shells and looked forward to purchasing some the next time I was in Vancouver. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the Vancouver store didn't have any of them. I know I can buy them online, but I'm one of those people who likes to see exactly what I'm buying. Maybe the Vancouver store will finally have them by the Fall.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Marsha--Squeak and Karen-

Thank you so much for your appreciation and enthusiasm.
Cheerfulness and enthusiasm--will get you through life! Truly. I love enthusiasm, especially.

Yes, RH is now offering so many stylish accessories--and Squeak you perhaps will have to order the crystals and geodes online. I'm not certain that they will be in every store--as they are such limited quantities, all one of a kind. Good luck and keep me posted.

Dear Friends--I am so happy that you are longtime readers of THE STYLE SALONISTE...for you I have many more lively stories coming up soon. best DIANE

Mary Constant said...

Oh my god! I weighed the catalogues that filled my mailbox(multiple catalogues in one wrapper)...over 7 pounds. I remember meeting Gary when he was at Pottery Barn explaining his vision of creating beautiful affordable furnishings for anyone to own. The former Louis building finally looks the way it was meant to look...stunning! You have certainly written a fabulous piece about Gary.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Mary--up there in your special hilltop over the Napa Valley.

Thank you so much for your insight and thoughtfulness.

Yes, I agree. Gary has the very strong attitude of 'create style and quality for a broad audience'.

Yes, those catalogs --twice a year only--are weighty, but they are intended to be references for a broad range of people, from designers to new home owners, to architects' offices, to hotel designers to people with second or third residences, and to young people starting out with a new apartment.
I love the Italian sheets, and now I'd love to dine on the horn-handled silverware. I love the Riedel glasses, don't you!
The curiosities collection is so interesting--with a lot of European creative eyes offering new ideas.
BOSTON: Oh, my, that is a handsome building--even more noble and gracious than it looks in these great photos.The renovation did Boston proud, no question.
lovely to hear from you--and hope to see you soon, DIANE

Reggie Darling said...

That is a lot of splendid stuff, indeed, and I am thrilled that RH has restored the old Bonwits/Louis of Boston building to its former glorry. Vacant for the better part of 5 years, I was concerned that this landmark would find itself badly muddled and turned into something like a TJMaxx! Bazz Lurrman would approve, I think, of the merchandise display! Great reportage, DD! Reggie

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Reggie-

Love your AD story! Mitch's report is informative and insightful. Design and house are as-one. I espec love the balustrade/chairs detail.

RH: I like to inform and enlighten and enjoyed editing this selection of new product. The catalogs are very rich in detail--a friend weighed them in at 5 lb)--and many readers on FB and on email etc have said that my edit clarifies.
Yes, the Boston gallery is handsome. As it happens, I have known and admired the architect, Jim Gillam, for a long time, and he has returned it to its nobility and grace. As much of the furniture is beige/taupe/ivory/white, it looks less like a 'shop' than a calm and tranquil gallery. I hope you'll visit when you'e next in Boston.
More inspiration follows in coming weeks.
OK, now back to another reading of your story.
best D