Restoration Hardware Roars Back!!

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The big news this week is that Restoration Hardware is back and they're swinging for the fence. On Wednesday morning I attended a press breakfast at their flagship store on Broadway, saw everything and spoke with Gary Friedman, the CEO and charismatic force behind "Resto" since 2001. Since then, I emailed out a ton of pics (below) and heard back from a ton of readers (also below)....

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After a few years of distress, during which the company was acquired by Catterton Partners & Tower Three Partners, and jettisoned Brocade Home, Gary has "followed his gut", taken a bold step and totally overhauled the company's product line and identity, pushing up the style and the quality.

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The store is virtually unrecognizable from what it was.

Rather than chase down prices in the face of a recession, Gary's taking a page out of his mentor's play book (Mickey Drexler of J Crew), and aiming higher, with "spectacular, large-scale, inspirational products that are handmade by an international roster of of artisans." Prices, too, are higher, but not crazy high. Consider them mid-tier, similar to WS Home.

The result is very impressive, and, as a designer, it's really, really nice seeing someone aspire to something greater during this difficult time. It may just be the jolt we need. It certainly felt so yesterday.

It is also a good sign that Resto has focused on raising their quality levels, because in recent years their style not only seemed a bit out of step, their products often didn't work well and/or needed to be replaced. We commented on this malaise back in 2006 in this post: Restoration Hardware Bummer.

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Here are pics to share with you from yesterday. You may not recognize the store, and if you have a strong opinion, let me know: maxwell@apartmenttherapy.com with RESTO in the subject.

Things to look for:
• Bigger scale
• Less stuff/more room on the floors
• Ralph Laurenesque grand styling
• Green features in recycled materials and paints
• Bigger baby and kid section

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FROM READERS THIS WEEK:

Sent in by Jimmy N.

"I gotta say, I have worked at Resto for almost 5 years (recently laid off) and in the time I was there, not a single thing changed. The walls were still Silver Sage, everything was very bland and boring. I was for sure that we'd lose our client base if we kept this up any longer.

This new look, that I've heard but have not had time to visit "my" store since the fall-floor set, looks fantastically amazing. I love the absolute REAL "newness" that they have presented. It truly does look like a new Resto. And it really does look like they have their own niche and "brand/image" compared to the rest. Before, people could shop at either Resto or Pottery Barn and mixed the pieces.. but now Resto can really stand up alone and be recognized."

Sent in by Inger H.

"I got the new Resto catalog a week or so ago, and while I did note the prices were a little higher, the more dramatic thing to me is that it seems that the furniture is HUGE! All of these over-sized pieces that will never, ever fit in my small San Francisco apartment. We don't all live in 4000 sq foot suburban homes. Sales, potentially lost. And frankly, we all know they can't afford to lose too many. Here I go, back to Room and Board...."

Sent in by Charlotte E.

"My problem with RH is that it promotes ‘fake old’. If you like the look of antiques, buy antiques – houses filled with ‘fake old’ stuff just don’t look right. It’s not AUTHENTIC. I’m all for supporting artisans, but there are plenty of wonderful artisans who look forward at the same time as looking back and reinvent the traditional and create something new. I just didn’t see that in your pictures, although there were a few lovely, simple pieces in there that stood out. But stuffed leather sofas? Stuffy and pretentious. Where’s the wit?"

Sent in by April M.

"I am now a very big fan of Restoration Hardware. They are now showing a different kind of home furnishing that embraces timeless age of furniture and style. I can't think of any main stream stores that carry that type of aged look. I believe it sets itself apart. However, I really do wish that they could work on the children's department and do something different other than the polka dots and stripes...."

Sent in by Karen W.

"t's good to see someone fighting for their business, but would you really call WS Home- mid-tier pricing??? While 10% of America is unemployed and I am struggling to make a living with a duel income and a Master's degree, I'd never call WS Home or 'Resto' mid-tier. I think they are expensive. Let's call a spade a spade, especially on a site such as Apartment Therapy, which reviles in great deals and bargain decorations.
Just my two cents.

PS - I do like their new stuff"

Sent in by Carolyn B.

"Holy Cow!! There were a few photos that left my jaw agape! They've somehow sorced items that I hunt antique and vintage stores to find!!! I love it!!

My favorites: The flat files and wooden bowling pins photo, the desk that looks like a grand scale luggage trunk turned desk, and the vintage look globe with amazing weathered chair....i'm drooling!!"

Sent in by Jen

"Oh, thank GOD they went back to their 'roots'. I haven't been in one for a while, now I must go see!

I worked for Resto back when they first opened their San Antonio store, and since then, I've watched sadly as the product lines looked more and more like pottery barn and less like they had taught us as employees to expect (and to tell customers about). Us employees would show off the craftsmanship of certain pieces, and then we watched as the merchandise shifted....and became un-exceptional....

I've always felt that they were onto something in the beginning, and was sad to see the departure from those origins, I am excited to see them go with their gut and do a total re-vamp. Very gutsy, and exactly what they needed! phew!"

Sent in by Suzi W.

"Just wanted to share some perspective on the Restoration Hardware changes. For many boutique retailers, like myself, that have been sourcing and creating this eclectic mix of antiques, finds and the mix of creativity, one may assume that this would be the downfall of the independent retailer.

I, for one, feel that it will lend a certain amount of approval and authority to the general public on this style aesthetic. I think some consumers have "design insecurity" when it comes to mixing product, both old and new and this new collection of goods should lend some confidence to their decision making.

I would in turn hope that it would also drive sales to retailers like Collier West, ABC Home, Sprout, and the numerous other national establishments who have spent the time searching for the character and polish of years of collecting and curating."

Sent by Tula

"i love the design direction they are going (kind of a masculine anthropologie?, ), however, it's too bad the price point isn't lower (and, is in fact higher than former-restoration's prices). they were pretty pricey to start. also, it would be great to get these kind of pieces at affordable prices.

looking forward to browsing their fab new wares in person!"

Sent in by Sarah G.

"As a former employee of Restoration Hardware (I left in January), I was intrigued to visit the new Flatiron store after its renovation. Before moving to New York, I worked for three years as a member of the management team of company's store in Troy, MI, which had also gone under a renovation during my tenure. At the time, the company was aiming to be the source of beautiful products for those not working with a designer; to be at the level just below the trade showrooms.

After visiting the store this afternoon, I believe they have finally reached their goal. The impact of the gray walls and the stunning floor-to-ceiling drapery creates an alluring, sumptous atmosphere and allows the belgian-inspired wood furniture to make its mark in the space. The styling of each visual story is great with the added accessories, i.e. notebooks and pencils on the desks. This staging will make the sales associate's job much easier to show the customer how the items will look in their space...

I attend Parsons The New School for Design and I now work as an interior design assistant here in New York and it is clear that Restoration has kicked it up a notch.

It makes me proud to be a former member of the family and excited to refer people to its product offerings.

Keep up the good work, Team Resto! "

Sent in by Michelle

"When I got your email today I was rendered speechless. I’m not sure where this great bolt of “inspiration” came from but the new Resto is nearly a carbon copy of the independent home décor boutique I run in the San Francisco Bay Area (where their corporate hq happens to be). Many of the items featured in your post, mirrors, chairs etc. are on my sales floor right now. We even carry a line of zero voc latex paint! It is truly shocking.

I guess what is great news for Restoration Hardware’s investors isn’t necessarily going to be great news for small independents like the concern I work for. Or I guess I could look at it like we really got it right if they are running with our concept. I suppose that is the less sour-grapes approach."

Sent in by HMRosa

"I was just at our Salt Lake City RH earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised by the new collection...very nice...and fortunately the same salesperson still attends to me since I moved here from New York in 2006...I occasionally drop off the RH binge but overall it's cool and a go-to store for me...although, I MUST add that I just can't stand the baby line-or maybe it's just the look of the catalogs-can't figure that out/don't want to...they should think about changing that line too or maybe let it go..."

Sent in by Penny H.

"This, as well as the catalog I received heralding the new RESTO mega-vision, are disturbingly reminiscent of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. With collapse eminent and people starving, the nobility responded with greater and greater indulgence in excess and extravagance.

As an artist, I always appreciate good design and craftsmenship, but I found the new catalog to be jarring. With its gargantuan sized pieces, it read more as a caricature, a reflection of excess, than anything else.

sorry :-( Maybe it was better in person?"

Sent in by Karin M.

"We like the idea of updated, green and rustic modern…but PLEASE keep the heavy Ralph Lauren upholstery-studded pieces and Kilim rugs to a minimum. We are so done with that. Looking for more updated, fresh and modern feel…not so heavy like all the old ski chalets lobby’s and vacation homes that are strewn all over Colorado ski country. Very happy they are moving on and moving UP!."

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.