Monday, November 18, 2013

Electrifying the Culture — RH: From Chic Furniture to Compelling Art and Music

RH (Formerly Restoration Hardware) Aims to Become a Cultural Force for Inspiration, Entertainment, Pleasure and Fun

California-based Restoration Hardware (now known by its acronym as RH, though still called colloquially ‘Resto’ by its clients and fans) has re-invented the concept of a ‘furniture company’, broadening its offerings to include lighting, hardware, children’s furnishings, one-of-a-kind collections, reproductions of notable sculpture and antiquities, as well as outdoor furniture and small-scale designs. Now, after making its mark with handsome sofas, dramatic chandeliers, and chic carpets to collect, the company is looking to the worlds of music and art to find company growth (it’s publically traded now), new concepts, and a world of creative possibilities.

Last week, RH Contemporary Art launched its first art gallery, in New York.

The company recently announced the debut of RH Music (exclusive music to download).

Come with me to find out more—and to see the notables, art collectors, and truly talented party animals that turned out in gallery-hopping regalia for the New York opening night party. 

The handsome brick exterior of the new RH Contemporary Art gallery, with restoration and remodel by architect, Peter Weed.

RH has its world headquarters in Corte Madera, in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco where I live.

I’ve been writing about the company since I met its original founder. Stephen Gordon started the company because he saw a market and need for traditional hardware (think doorknobs and window latches) for historic houses under restoration. Thus the name.

Now the company has significant furniture galleries in major cities, including Boston, Houston, LA and San Francisco. Twice a year, it ships millions of catalogs featuring exclusive new furnishings, bed linens, hardware and lighting, outdoor furniture, baby and child décor, objects of curiosity and tableware, even special collections of furniture and accessories for ‘small spaces’.

I continue to write with interest about RH. The company is in my territory, Northern California, and its new concepts are dreamed up just a few miles from my office. And while there are those who continue to carp about the company, I find RH refreshingly venturesome and sometimes risk-taking (geodes, massive white plaster horse head sculptures, polyhedrons in bleached wood) but always turning out cohesive collections, quality products (the Italian bed linens are so elegant in pure white), and an evolving but restrained ‘look’.

In my design focus I’ve got to know many of the talented staff. It’s a company that’s dynamic, curious, enthusiastic, experimental, always moving forward and taking design into new territory, changing and evolving, and that’s very compelling to me.

The New RH Contemporary Art Gallery Opened Last Week in Chelsea, New York

“We aimed for an art collection of the highest level,” said Gary Friedman, at the opening. “We want to be part of the global art conversation, and to appeal to very sophisticated collectors as well as enthusiastic new collectors. We want to turn our millions of customers into passionate and curious and bold art collectors.”

I attended the opening and met the highly articulate and charming artists, viewed their work—and joined in the celebration.

Exclusively here, you’ll meet the notables at the opening party (top editors and influencers like Margaret Russell, Glenda Bailey, and Michael Boodro) and see the great couturier Ralph Rucci, beauty magnate Georgette Mosbacher, top model and fashion trend-setter Tatiana and her husband, international art dealer Serge Sorokko, RH execs, noted NYC artists, musicians and art collectors and friends.

Artists featured in their first solo exhibitions in New York were Nathan Baker, Toby Christian, Peter Demos, Samantha Thomas and Natasha Wheat.

Read and scroll down to learn more about RH Music. Lots to learn this week. Being the first in the know is always powerful.

At the RH multi-level art gallery in Chelsea, the company introduced five new artists, their exciting art, and new way of encountering art collections, of finding art online, or simply making an appointment with a specialist to enjoy, view and acquire fine art. The price range is from $4,500 to $26,000.

RH Contemporary Art will be available for viewing and acquiring online, through a new quarterly catalog, and at the gallery.

It’s an exciting moment for the company, with Gary Friedman swiftly and boldly moving from chairs and mirrors to paintings, sculptures, a handsome gallery, and a great new crew of musical performers. 

A second group of artists will be featured early new year, with a new focus, new collections.

“I want to thank Holly Baxter,” said Gary Friedman, at the lively dinner that followed the vernissage. “She convinced me that if we wanted to attract and show world-class artists we would have to create a world-class gallery, and must create an effective website and catalog. We’re built the website, and we’ve published the catalog. We come to this with a level of humility, trying to be true to out vision.”

This first collection is somewhat modernist, and the second collection in 2014 will have a broader spectrum of paintings and media.

“We did not set out to have a black and white collection for this first show, but we’re very happy with it,” said Holly Baxter, vice president of RH Contemporary Art.

Toby Christian, 26, the youngest artist in the first show, lives in Glasgow. He is the first artist in residence for RH, taking up residence in the spacious Williamsburg apartment/studio to paint. There he can create and perhaps ponder where his art and motivation has taken him. He previously showed in exhibits in Sao Paulo, Rio and London.

Samantha Thomas, who lives in Culver City, Los Angeles (pictured above with Gary Friedman), is also a surfing instructor. She was the first artist selected. “I present painting as sculpture,” she said. “My interests are always tied within the history of painting, allusions to the landscape, the larger world of ideas and the unconscious,” said Thomas.

artist Peter Demos

artist Natasha Wheat

Glenda Bailey
“Being successful in one genre—and then making a success in another discipline—is remarkable.” — Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief, Glenda Bailey

Michael Boodro

“I haven’t seen work that’s so elegant from a young artist in a long time. Natasha’s work is very impressive.” — Elle Décor editor-in-chief, Michael Boodro

Gary Friedman and Margaret Russell, editor-in-chief, Architectural Digest
Carlos and Andrea Alberini

Gary Friedman, Holly Baxter, Carlos Alberini

Tatiana Sorokko

And then it was a swift drive to The Lion restaurant, where, surrounded by paintings and musicians, DJs and social butterflies and noted collectors, everyone celebrated the brightness and boldness of the evening’s gallery launch.

Guests included the great couturier Ralph Rucci (Tatiana Sorokko was wearing one of his new gowns), Estee Lauder exec. John Demsey, artist Hunt Slonem. 

Ralph Rucci, Tatiana Sorokko, Michael Boodro

Artists Peter Demos, Samantha Thomas, Toby Christian and Natasha Wheat

“Enlisting a worldwide curatorial team to seek and discover international artists, RH Contemporary Art will be commissioning complete bodies of artists work. We have also launched a dynamic online platform. Our concept of introducing art to our existing worldwide audience includes showing videos of studio visits, including in-depth interviews with artists and critical writing in our art catalog. We want to raise artists’ visibility and to build recognition for each artist and their practice.” — Gary Friedman

For additional information on RH Contemporary Art, please visit

RH Music

“RH Music will offer music by emerging artists from around the world. We’ve chosen authentic musicians that we love, and we're giving them the opportunity to create the music they do best, original and compelling. They will be instrumental in their own journey and the path forward for RH Music itself. Our motto, going into 2014, is For the Artist, by the Artist.” — Gary Friedman

WHAT: One Friday evening this fall, Restoration Hardware launched RH Music with a live concert at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. RH Music launched a new platform for emerging artists.The concert featured performances from high-energy, musicians, all selected by RH Music.

WHO: Performers: 
British singer/songwriter Edei
Vintage pop duo The Brixtons (Donna Missal and Ken De Poto)
Swampadelic sisters Larkin Poe (Rebecca and Megan Lovell)
WHERE:  The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California

Notable guests joining Gary Friedman, RH chairman, creator, curator and co-chief executive officer, and Carlos Alberini, RH co-chief executive officer and their associate Eoin Harrington, RH Vice President Music included Mark Harmon and his wife Kimberly; Hilary Newsom and her husband film producer, Geoff Callan, Octagon sports agent Doug Hendrickson and his wife Shyla Hendrickson who is CFO of the Pelican Fund; The Battery's Jesse Tombs.

Also enjoying the music were CEO of VSP Capital (and former SF Mayoral candidate) Joanna Rees and her husband tech and music entrepreneur John Hamm; Paul Pelosi Jr., Honorable Hydra Mendoza, Alison Sonsini Turner, Susan Dunleavy as well as owner and partner of Wilkes Bashford, Tyler Mitchell, and his wife Stephanie Oshana, and CEO of Popchips, Keith Belling, and Grant Wernick, along with RH team associates.
The new music company will launch online early in 2014.  For more information:

Launch Party at The Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California

With a distinctive funk-laden, hip hop sound and a spectacularly soulful voice, British singer/songwriter Edei has been touring internationally and watching her single “Loved” chart as Record of the Week for five straight weeks on BBC Radio 2. She is currently recording in the United States with world-famous music producers, songwriters and DJs such as Mark Batson (Eminem, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews Band) and Samantha Ronson (Roc Nation). Her new album will be released in spring 2014.

A regular fixture on radio charts across Europe and the backup band of choice for the likes of Elvis Costello and Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Larkin Poe’s music is a brand of ‘swampadelic soul’ with tight vocal harmonies, dizzying instrumental riffs and insightful lyrics. Born and raised in Georgia, sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell are the charismatic soul singing/songwriting duo behind Larkin Poe. Their debut album is slated for release in late 2013.

Their New York retro pop sound is a unique hybrid of soul, rock and classic pop. The Brixtons regularly play to packed crowds at such Manhattan clubs as The Bitter End, The Bowery Electric and The Studio at Webster Hall. The duo consists of Donna Missal and Ken De Poto, both from New Jersey After graduation, Donna focused on developing her songwriting talents, and then she met her guitarist and writing partner, Ken. Playing guitar and trumpet since the age of 7, Ken was raised with eclectic musical influences, ranging from the Violent Femmes to Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Cramps. Ken and Donna’s music blends their backgrounds in different genres to create a one-of-a-kind vintage pop sound. They are currently recording their debut album slated for release in early 2014.

Ali Turner and Amanda Corfman

Ben Soleimani and Gary Friedman

Andrea and Carlos Alberini

Catherine Macfee and Justine Macfee

Courtney Seashols and Damien Hadley 

Jennifer Strom and Heather Bennett

Greg Spencer and Katya Sorokko

Marcy Karpowitz, Lisa Oberwager, Edei, Michael Polenske and Kimberly Miller 

Shanena Gunn, Charleston Pierce, Dana Finegold and Jamie Finegold

Susan Dunlevy, Gary Friedman and Tatiana Sorokko

Tyler Mitchell and Michael Polenske

Images of guests at Greek concert in Berkeley by Drew Altizer,
Images of artists performing at Greek concert, courtesy of RH Music, by Drew Altizer and Paige K. Parsons.

RH Contemporary Art gallery architecture and interiors by Peter Weed.

Images of guests at RH Contemporary opening night party by Patrick McMullan,

All images published here with express permission of the photographers.


Karena said...

Dear Diane,
What an amazing event. I applaud RH for their support of the arts! This is what is so needed: artists having the opportunity to shine, to be successful, and exposure to collectors. Bravo!

The Arts by Karena

Unknown said...

Wow, the gallery turned out beautifully. Love the post, feel like I was there :)