Monday, December 18, 2017

Exclusive Design Report: RH Opens a Dramatic New Gallery in West Palm Beach

RH unveils RH West Palm, The Gallery at CityPlace — a four-story, 80,000-square-foot compound in Florida that reflects a dynamic new RH direction.

RH West Palm integrates all of the RH departments and businesses – RH Interiors, Modern, Outdoor, Baby & Child, TEEN, Interior Design and Hospitality. It also debuts a new concept, the Rooftop Restaurant, Wine Vault and Barista Bar by celebrated restaurateur and founding president of RH Hospitality, Brendan Sodikoff.

Public Art: The dramatic black-on-umber mural on the exterior of RH West Palm is by RETNA, the noted Los Angeles artist, Marquis Lewis. The imagery/graffiti, inspired by ancient texts and writings, greets guests as they arrive at the gallery.

The Gallery

Customers arrive at the new RH West Palm and valet park their car. This private entrance is cooled by a 14-foot-high wall of water inspired by the refreshing wall fountain in New York’s Paley Park.

On the exterior walls of the gallery is a 70-by-140-foot art installation by international contemporary artist, RETNA.

Customers arriving at the south entrance can walk through tropical gardens with loggias and terraces displaying RH outdoor collections.

An extensive designer service is offered here, so that customers arriving to plan a new bathroom or kitchen can spend a morning with a designer selecting hardware, flooring, accessories, and materials.

Three floors of interior installations include new chandeliers, walls of mirror styles, multi-media storage, handsome lacquered bamboo cabinets and tables, vignettes showing variations of bedroom , and arrays of sofas and dining tables.

RH rugs and carpets and inventive floor coverings are displayed.

RH Modern

RH Interiors

RH Interiors



RH Baby & Child

RH Baby & Child

Rooftop Restaurant

Guests dine beneath a soaring glass atrium with heritage olive trees, with to the sound of fountains in the rooftop restaurant. On offer: a glass of Rosé or Cabernet in the dramatic Wine Vault, or a favorite coffee drink and pastry from our Barista Bar.

“This is an experience that activates the senses and cannot be replicated online,” said Gary Friedman.

RH West Palm marks the ongoing RH signature collaboration with architect James Gillam of California-based Backen, Gillam & Kroeger. The architects have designed most RH galleries around the US.

Rooftop Restaurant

The Vault

Barista Bar

An Interview with Gary Friedman: Future Plans of RH

In a series of conversations with Gary Friedman, he spoke of the forward momentum of RH. It’s ambitious and exciting.

Friedman believes in galleries and stores. For in-depth design knowledge and for customers to understand the design process, an in-store experience is essential, he said.

“A consultation and the on-going planning process with our designers result in better planning and creativity for bathrooms and kitchens,” he noted.

RH, which is based in Corte Madera in Northern California, has plans in the Napa Valley.

Friedman described the concept for a new design/wine gallery and a Maisonry community gallery/garden in Yountville, Northern California (very close to The French Laundry).

Opposite the inventive new Yountville gallery (now under construction) there will be a series of small discreet guest cottages, hidden behind tall hedges and beneath native oak trees. It’s all very much in keeping and style with the ‘small town’ and low-key aesthetic of Yountville. Guests there can enjoy the Wine Country with an understated RH design aesthetic.

New RH galleries are set to open in Aspen and Portland.

And, most ambitious of all, RH is set to open a new gallery and a 14-room ultra-private guesthouse, all designed by RH. Hermes is also said to be planning a new store in the neighborhood.

Early elevations and plans and ‘virtual reality’ presentations of the low-key RH guesthouse offer insights into the elegant, chic and forward-thinking ways Friedman wants to approach the concept of hospitality. The plan includes a discreet, hidden-from-view rooftop terrace.

The guesthouse location at 55 Gansevoort Street (the former meatpacking district, reflects a downtown vibe and a Manhattan adventure. The evolving historic neighborhood will be a discovery for many guests.

There will also be a highly original donut counter, as part of the concept for this location. Very witty, very delicious and with limited daily production is the plan. ‘When it’s sold out, it is sold out,” said Friedman, with a smile.

Gary Friedman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer RH

“RH West Palm reflects our quest to blur the lines between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, home and hospitality, and to integrate food, wine, art, and design.

At our galleries, clients can touch and feel and review all products in person. They can have an in-depth consultation with our designers. They can examine bathroom and kitchen hardware, and touch sheets and test sofas and chairs.

They can be inspired by our accessories and mirrors.

We want our clients to learn and see new ways to decorate, and understand new styles, to expand their design knowledge and information. They can linger, enjoy lunch, meet friends, try a new wine, get an espresso with the newspaper, plan a new home, learn about materials and proportions, find new inspiration, dream, budget, and discuss. All at West Palm. 
In particular, our clients can become experts by consulting with our designers. And designers can find us a useful resource as well. Getting new ideas is just the beginning.” 
–RH Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman

On the Menu at the Rooftop Restaurant

At the opening party for RH West Palm, guests walked through the store—and gravitated to the top floor Rooftop Restaurant. Many gathered around the handsome standup espresso bar, and others decided to taste the wines.

Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects created a dazzling rooftop restaurant that is both indoor and outdoor. Guests can dine alfresco in a leafy loggia—or gather at a table beneath vaulted ceilings. Chandeliers add dazzle and a tongue-in-cheek counterpoint to the seriously traditional inspiration for the interior architecture.

Wines from California, New Zealand, Argentina, France, Spain and Italy are on the menu.

Cuisine includes casual morning preparations. The ‘RH Scramble’ (Gary Friedman’s favorite) includes scrambled farm eggs, crème fraiche, avocado, and chives, on Texas toast.

As well, highlights include salads and vegetables, cheese boards, a Lobster Roll, Chilled Stone Crab Dijonaise, as well as a massive burger, a Prime Rib French Dip, and other classics.

The menu, which also includes morning and afternoon tea, and a series of elegant coffee preparations, includes cold pressed juices.

RH Design Atelier

About RH

RH is a designer, manufacturer, curator and retailer of luxury lifestyle products including furniture, floor coverings, hardware, leather collections,

The company offers exclusive collections through its retail galleries, source books and online at,, RH Baby&,, and Waterworks.

The company is based in California. Modern new retail galleries are located in major markets, including Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.


Photography courtesy RH.


RH West Palm is located at ‪560 Okeechobee Boulevard‪ in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The gallery offers valet parking and can be reached at ‪561.804.6826. Open Monday through Saturday from 10am–8pm, and Sunday 11am–6pm.

Monday, November 13, 2017

San Francisco Opera: Fall Season Continues to Delight — A New Production of ‘Manon’ by Massenet

Soprano Ellie Dehn and handsome tenor Michael Fabiano, make their role debuts as Manon and Chevalier des Grieux.

I attended ‘Manon’ on Friday night. The curtain rose at 7.30pm, and there were two long intermissions and a series of complex stage set changes. The vivid story, with complex motivations and emotions played out, is dramatically illustrated and performed. It’s engrossing and engaging.

The curtain fell at almost 11pm, and the audience rose in applause and countless bows, bouquets, and curtain theatrics. A wonderfully entertaining evening.

Opera stars Michael Fabiano and Ellie Dehn make a strong impression in complex and dramatic roles.

San Francisco Opera Presents a New Production of Massenet's ‘Manon’ through November 22

‘Manon’, which took place in Paris (fictionally) in the early 18th-century, and is presented in a new production by French director Vincent Boussard, is a co-production with Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Israeli Opera.

Boussard designed the costumes, which are witty and frisky and bold, with élan and verve.

I was especially impressed with creative lighting by Gary Marder, and set designer Vincent Lemaire’s use of a reflective effect that felt like a surreal commentary on the opera’s action and motivation.

French conductor and Massenet-specialist Patrick Fournillier lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. 

About ‘Manon’

Massenet’s romantic opera follows the ascent and fate of a beautiful young woman, her lover, his father, and her retinue of followers. It's set in timeless Paris, in locations like rue Vivienne and the Church of Saint-Sulpice and the Cours-la-Reine, which can be visited today.

Vincent Boussard’s theatrical interpretation of ‘Manon’, and the costumes, were proclaimed “a collaborative work of brilliance” by The Baltic Times at its 2016 Lithuanian premiere.

The production features sets designed by frequent Boussard collaborator Vincent Lemaire.

Boussard noted: 
“As a director, I try to create bridges between periods of time to make the story seem more immediate. I am led by the quality of the music and the singing. We’re trying to build bridges between the time of the story (the beginning of the 18th century) and the time of Massenet (1884) and today. I’m trying to give the character of Manon a chance to be imagined and received by the audience as if she could also be a lady of today.”

American tenor Michael Fabiano, who was recently praised by the New York Times for his “sensitive, vibrant lyric tenor,” adds the role of Chevalier des Grieux to his expanding repertory. Known for his portrayals of Italian roles such as Rodolfo in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ (memorable on the San Francisco Opera stage) and the title role of Verdi’s Don Carlo, Des Grieux will be his first French role with San Francisco Opera

Ellie Dehn last appeared before San Francisco Opera audiences last summer as Musetta in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’. 

* * *

The San Francisco Opera 2017 repertory season continues through December 10.

Still to come, the debut of John Adams’ new opera, Girls of the Golden West on November 21. 

In repertory, Turandot, a thrilling highlight of this year’s productions, brings the season to a close on Sunday, December 10.

* * *


Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


San Francisco Opera Presents New Production of Massenet's ‘Manon’, through November 22, 2017.  Information, tickets and schedule:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

California Retro: Will Wick and Jen Kelly Wick Add Style and Verve to Their Sausalito Residence

Two design dynamos create a knowing retro glance at sixties and seventies California style directions and San Francisco’s laid-back luxe.

Jen Kelly Wick and Will Wick rented a spectacular California retro house high above Sausalito.

Jen is the VP of Creative Development at RH and has worked there for seven years. Her small team works on everything creative within the company.

Will is a leading interior designer based in San Francisco, with work all over the US.

The three bedroom house was said to have been built in the early 70s by an Italian ship builder. Clear redwood, terracotta tiles, boat fittings.

The top level is a large beautiful roof terrace with fireplaces in both the living room and master suite. Additionally, there is an elevator from rooftop to the master suite.

About Will Wick

I spoke to Will recently about changes in his business:

Will told me:  “Our team recently looked inward and refreshed our brand design presence. We also transitioned from Wick Design to Will Wick to encompass a greater variety of work. The result is a fresher, more modern take and better reflects where we are as a design house today. Our offices are in the SF Design Center in The Mission, located in the same place as Battersea, my antiques showroom that’s named after a centuries old, now defunct power plant in South London.

Will Wick and Battersea operate independently of each other, and they are deeply intertwined, as I often use what is on the showroom floor of Battersea in my designs.

Battersea is a visual chronicle and repository for all my travel finds. I buy what speaks to me – from 18th century lighting, to French Art Deco club chairs, to saber tooth tiger skulls. I founded the design portion of my company in 2000, and Battersea opened in 2008. Between the two, we’re a team of eight.”

Design Credits — List of All Major Furniture


Custom shearling and silk velvet sofas designed by Will and Jen (silk velvet B Mori, shearling Auskin)
Floor Lamp — Restoration Hardware 

Carl Springer Parchment Side Table

Sergio Rodrigues Sherriff Chair — Battersea

Hanging Table — Coup d’Etat

Petrified tree stumps — Artefact Design and Salvage

Carved hand chair — Battersea
Collection of skulls amassed over the past 8-10 years

Black painting contemporary — RHCA


Saarinen Tulip Table

Bega Dining Chairs with Scalamandre Tiger Silk

Vintage Bar

Will and Jen’s Approach to Design

“We rented the house empty. It felt like a vintage 70s Italian cruise liner, so we wanted to keep that feel and add some sex appeal. The topless fire dancer we hired for a party for newly engaged friends was very fitting. 

We decided to embrace the architectural era of the house and run with it. Think 70s party pad. We heard stories of the current owner’s dad who had the house built — huge parties, naked hot tub parties on the roof, etc. Most of our art went into storage because we didn’t want to cover the stunning clear redwood walls.”

Living the Dream

Will told me:  “It took us a full year to get it all in place. Just in time for us to decide to move out. It was spectacular. We had insane views, across Angel Island, the city, the bay, the hillsides, open sky, sunrise, moonrise, rain, storms, bright sun, and unbelievable vibe. It was less than perfect for the 4 kids who had much less privacy in this house. We had more open spaces and we sort of stashed them in nooks.

The house lies on one of the best blocks in Sausalito’s Banana Belt, on the southern end of town. From most rooms in the house the views span from Tiburon all the way to San Francisco. Directly in front, Angel Island, and from the roof deck you can see the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge spires to Mt. Tamalpais.”

California Living

Jen has the final word:  “We lived on the roof deck all weekend and lit fires most every night in the living room while listening to music. 

It was very peaceful, calming and quiet. It was so relaxing it felt like being on holiday every single day.

We were never able to find the name of the architect. There was clear heart redwood everywhere and oak accents. And glass — tons of floor-to-ceiling glass on every level of the house.

This place was like a little rebellious, sexy hideaway. Made you feel somewhat naughty.”


The design and décor was created by Will Wick and Jen Kelly Wick.

Will Wick and

Jennifer Kelly Wick is VP Creative Development, RH.


Patrik Argast

Monday, October 16, 2017

Chic New Hotel in London — Reflections on The Franklin, the Exciting New Place to Stay Near Knightsbridge

This week I have an exclusive interview with hotel designer Anouska Hempel, speaking to me about her design for The Franklin. It’s a fascinating small hotel—and an exciting new London experience. Scroll down for images—and to hear what Anouska told me about her design, ideas, and philosophy.

I’m always looking for a small, private well-designed and quiet hotel in London. Recently I stayed at The Franklin. It’s just around the corner from Harrods in a very quiet residential neighborhood. It was designed by the fantastic and legendary Anouska Hempel, founder/owner/designer of Blake’s and The Hempel, and creator of trend-setting décor around the world.

The Franklin is truly original—and it also feels historic, as if it had been there for years. It overlooks the private and enclosed Egerton Gardens, in a very civilized only-in-London setting. Come with me for a visit.

Above, Anouska Hempel, a hotel design pioneer and now the creator of interiors and style for The Franklin hotel in London.

Anouska Hempel, New Zealand-born and long a resident of London, is one of the most influential hotel designers in the world. 

First she created the opulent private hotel Blake’s in South Kensington. It was London’s first boutique hotel. Her bravura curtain-swagged beds and luscious colors sent traveling style seekers into rapture. Everything was opulent, romantic, and boldly romantic.

Then she dreamed up The Hempel, a dream of pristine white interiors. Her ode to minimalism was emulated around the world.

Anouska Hempel recently completed a dramatic design for The Franklin hotel at Egerton Gardens in London. The décor, sparkling with mirrors, and art-directed in subtle and tranquil tones of poetic grey, will once more set trends.

It was Elisabetta Fabri, president and CEO of Starhotels, the Florence-based family company that owns The Franklin who had the brilliant idea to engage Anouska Hempel for the Franklin. Fabri worked closely with Hempel to create a breathtakingly beautiful hotel.

The luxury portfolio of Starhotels Collezione properties also includes Castille Paris, the Splendid Venice, and the recently acquired Hotel d’Inghilterra and Helvetia & Bristol Firenze, as well as 2 other small hotels in London.

The red brick Franklin, positioned in Knightsbridge a few minutes walk from the Brompton Oratory and Hyde Park, is decorated in tones of grey and ivory, with plush velvet upholstery, mirror-framed botanical illustrations, and large windows overlooking the gardens.

The refined grey tones of the interiors turn the focus to the grey and white ikat print cushions perched on charcoal sofas . The pale effect in the 35 rooms and suites is tranquil and calm, and comfortable.

“It was inspired by Venice,” Anouska Hempel said. “Every room makes you dream. Pure romance.”

A Chat with Anouska Hempel About Inspirations and Décor of The Franklin

DDS: Anouska, congratulations on The Franklin’s transcendently beautiful design. Tell us about your concept. 

AH: The vision was a very beautiful girl in a floating pale grey dress wandering through Venice, lost in the mist. She could see the soft watery colors, and an old stone well, and a marble floor pattern, reflections, canals.

DDS: The Franklin is a unique world. It’s petite, but rich with design concepts, craftsmanship, detail, and handsome materials.

AH: Yes, and my color schemes are grey on grey on grey. A little bit of white. I love entertaining people. I like captivating them, showing them something they’ve never seen before. This grey tonality is new for London. I have had the great experience of owning and running luxury hotels. I would like to go back to wearing my hotelier’s hat again and do everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. I know what it takes to look after people. 

DDS: Most successful concepts include the charcoal gray background with mirror, the Venetian gothic shape of mirrors. There’s a very residential feeling. 

AH: That was the client’s request, to make it look like an Italian residence in London. My fantasy is perhaps a nice rich Contessa hopping around in great style in London and flitting back to Florence and Venice in the summer and taking her English boyfriends with her. 

DDS: Every inch of the hotel is new…but it feels historic.

AH: I worked with all the talented decorative artists I know to be able to do this. We layer and layer. I stand there and watch and then I get the right one and I encourage that to be done again and it is all individually done with a lot of very clever artists from my London group of out of work actors.

DDS: Your use of color is magical. 

AH: Grey on grey! Earl Grey, Dorian Gray, very grey, dove grey, off-white, dust, charcoal, the older-you-go grey, any grey you like. Every which way was grey. And it’s blurred and soft. 

DDS: Your use of mirrors throughout is elegant and transformative. Placed beside windows, mirror ‘screens’ add dimension to suites. 

AH: That was the plan. Thank you for noticing. Reflection, reflection! Life cannot be boring. Change the mood, rearrange the mirrored shutters. Just pure magic. Smoke and mirrors.

DDS: The entry is welcoming, with its enormous central table. Guests can sit there, read a book, chat with a friend, and take tea. 

AH: That was the idea, so that it looked like a sort of Italian living in London with all her books in a whimsical splendor. I encourage the staff to do the same, to treat all guests as though they were the guests of a great Contessa. 

DDS: There’s very little pattern. There’s a decorative monogram. Whose is that monogram you use on window shades and on wall decoration and other locations around the hotel?

AH: The monogram is Lord Egerton’s lover, Joseph Hermann. That was in the day of Oscar Wilde and friends. It’s a little bit of heritage, and I thought it belonged very beautifully to the history and culture and story of Egerton Square and the DNA of The Franklin. And Rosalind Elsie Franklin was the name of the scientist who discovered DNA. She was part of the research. She died very young and therefore is largely, sadly, unrecognized.

DDS: Which aspect of the design are you most pleased with? 

AH: I love the use of big tables. I’ve placed an enormous table in he lobby and in meeting rooms. Sitting around a table, talking around a table, eating at a table is energizing. Gathering around a table is always enjoyable.

DDS: Guests love to discover and hide away in the jewel-like study/office/library/gathering place just off the lobby/entry. 

AH: I positioned a large banquette beneath the bay window, and threw in more natural linen with a dash of emerald silk velvet to give it a softer more relaxed feeling. It’s somewhere to meet a friend and have a chat or play a board game after a day of museums and galleries. 

DDS: Everything is very planned and intentional. But the overall feeling is relaxed and inviting. How did you achieve that?

AH: With a very talented international team of designers and artists, fine craftspeople and specialists in flooring, upholstery, framing, decorative painting, and have course a calm, tranquil color scheme of grey-on-grey.

DDS: Anouska, thank you very much. We can’t wait to return to The Franklin.

AH: Diane, it was a pleasure.

Where to Find:

The Franklin
24 Egerton Gardens