Nearly seven years ago, I wrote a blog post, the shocking Truth About Restoration Hardware. Just before that post came out, they switched their name to RH, but now it says RH on their website. However, RH sounds a little pretentious. I prefer the more affectionate-sounding word “Resto.”
Did you know? RESTO is an acronym for:
Ridiculously Expensive Stuff To Order
When I innocently wrote the post in the summer of 2016, I was unprepared for the tsunami of interest in RH. What’s interesting is that in the ensuing years, their stock prices soared through the roof. Good for them! I admire the things this company does right. We’ll get to that in a sec.
Please also understand that what I’m about to say is based on my opinions, and are not meant to be a statement of fact. You might see things differently, and that’s okay.
However, if you remember the 2016 post, and please feel free to refresh your memory by reading it, you might recall that back sometime (before the flood), in the mid to late 1980s, I lived a mere stone’s throw from the RH of yore. In those days, they actually sold a lot of hardware. The store was the retro version of Pottery Barn when they used to feature— pottery.
When I moved to the Boston neighborhood of the Back Bay, I was fully aware, in brilliant irony, that I lived a short 4-minute walk from one of Resto’s stores. Forgive me– “galleries.” Although, there’s nothing to forgive, as one cannot purchase anything in the store and bring it home, not even a candle. Therefore, “gallery” is, perhaps, a better descriptor.
What RH does better than any other retailer is marketing their stuff.
They are selling a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that appeals hugely to many affluent young Americans, particularly those in their 30s – 40s.
Everything about their branding feeds into the mystique of this company.
1. The enigmatic initials RH evoking sophistication and style.
On one of Cale’s visits in the last year, he innocently said, “Hey, Mom, we need to go visit the RH Museum over on Berkley.”
I said, “RH?” Darling, that’s Restoration Hardware. (trying not to laugh) But, yes, it used to be the Natural History Museum. I can understand how you might not realize what RH stands for.
Let’s continue with what RH does to entice its customers.
2. Their use of luxurious-looking materials. Yes, on the outside, many of them are. However, beyond that, from what I’ve heard, appearances can be deceiving. I’ve heard dozens of stories of poor quality and expensive pieces falling apart shortly after purchasing. However, I gather enough of it stays intact, as they are still selling it.
3. RH’s glossy, exquisitely photographed catalogs, where you can purchase their wares, present their products in the best light. Other companies can learn from their example.
4. The sheer scale of most of their furnishings makes everything seem larger than life and thus luxurious.
excessively flamboyant, beautifully appointed galleries are often found in historical buildings.
All these elements give the consumer the illusion that what is being sold here is “important” and thus something of great value.
6. RH’s “exclusive” members-only pricing, where for a relatively nominal annual fee of $175.00, one can purchase everything at 25% off– all of the time, including sale items. That’s because their markup, I’m presuming, is quite high. I mean, the money has to come from somewhere to pay for the expensive real estate.
Ahhh, but there’s a catch. Actually, it’s several catches. ;] It’s in their Terms & Conditions.
- You must agree to receive all of their marketing crap via email. Can you opt out? Well, by law, one has to be able to opt out. However, they say it takes ten days to process. Sorry, not sorry, but that’s bullshit. It doesn’t take ten days. It doesn’t even take ten seconds. It is supposed to be automatic the instant you hit “unsubscribe.”
- You also are agreeing not to sue them for any reason.
- Another perk for forking over the $175 is you will not be allowed to return anything– ever. Yes, that’s what it says!*(*I stand corrected. As pointed out to me, they meant that the FEES are not refundable. However, their wording, I feel, is ambiguous: “All sales of the member’s program are final.)
In addition, this annual fee will automatically be renewed every year without your knowledge.
That is, unless you specifically go into your settings and ask them to stop. They are banking on a certain percentage, not doing that, AND not noticing that the charge has gone through. But, if you do opt-in to receive notifications, your membership is about to renew, in this case, you only get three days’ notice. This is, instead of the ten days it takes them to process your opting out of their marketing.
So, of course, you know what’s coming, right?
Yes, indeedy. Laurel took a little field trip to the RH Gallery on Friday with my mobile device in hand. I wanted to see for myself what this place is all about.
But, before we go inside the bastion of gray, a little background.
RH’s swanky location in the heart of the Back Bay is housed in one of the oldest buildings (1863) in this area, built on landfill in the 19th century.
For decades, it was the building known as the Boston Society of Natural History. Or, the Boston Museum of Natural History. You can read more about it here.
It was the sister building to one of the Rogers MIT buildings before MIT moved to a far larger campus in Cambridge around 1900. The Rogers building no longer exists. However, the museum, which also moved to Cambridge, became home to some retail stores, such as the defunct Bonwit Teller.
I’m not sure of the entire history. However, Resto took over the building in 2013.
And, then, renovated it to suit their image. Naturally, since it’s in the heart of the Back Bay, they were up against the BB Architectural Committee for approval of all exterior changes.
Above is the eastern facade of the building, facing Berkeley Street. BTW, this is not the first time I have shared a pic of RH. You can see a lovely nighttime shot on New Year’s Eve, 2021.
The main entrance is on the north side of the building, on Newbury Street. That makes sense since it gets more foot traffic than Berkeley Street. The glass and steel Portico serve two purposes. It makes it clear that this is where to go inside. And also, it’s a preview of what you’ll find a lot more of inside the store.
Up the stairs, I went into a vestibule, and then, through these iron doors. Aside from the crystal chandeliers and velvet sofas, it has all the warmth and charm of a minimum-security prison.
As soon as I entered the main gallery, I was greeted by a friendly,
guard, young associate. “Welcome to RH, he said.”
Looking around, I gave him my sweetest smile and said, “What a beautiful store— is it okay if I take a few photos?”
“Sure,” he said, But please look up.
So, I did.
After a brief convo with the nice salesman, I spent the next 80 minutes walking through every section of the
store. Sorry, I keep forgetting, GALLERY’S four floors. That includes the basement, where the baby-teen furnishings are detained. I mean contained.
So, let’s take a look around RH Boston.
Indeed, the architecture is stunning. Of course, it is. That is why this spot was selected. That, and its location in historic Back Bay, and close to the South End and Beacon Hill. The latter is where nothing from RH except a lamp or a mirror will make it up any staircase or fit in an elevator if there is one.
This furniture– well, most of it, is MASSIVE.
Well, most of it is. The super deep seats (35″ deep without the cushions!) are for those who are either at least seven feet tall, or those who prefer to use their sofa as a bed. They are not for the average-sized human who wishes to sit and converse or watch TV in the classic “couch potato” position.
I sat on a number of these very deep sofas.
For those of you who complained about slipper chairs, you must never go anywhere near one of these monsters. They will eat you up in one giant gulp.
You have been warned. ;]
However, there is an option to purchase normal-sized furniture. Although, most of that was found in the kids’ section. I’m not joking. You will see later on. Still, I did find one quite comfortable, not bad-looking sectional. (above) They have the gall to call it “petite.” It is not little. The overscale pieces are called “luxe.”
But, what bothers me more is that the sofas either have no legs or at most a stump of a block leg.
The best and classic high-end sofas typically have a leg of at least 3″ (usually higher) or a skirt. Yes, even a sectional. Don’t believe me? Please take a look at Serena & Lily’s sofas. With the exception of one or two, they all have real legs. The ones with a skirt have real legs under the skirt.
I do love the looks of this dining or occasional chair. Is it comfortable?
Not terrible, but not great, either.
Maybe a small pillow for the back would help. It is also quite hard, for an upholstered piece. However, it’s on casters. In fact, I almost started skating across the slick concrete floor.
I love this floor with its huge four-foot+ square sections scored on the diagonal. I’ve admired this look for the last 35 years since I saw this done by the legendary architect, Michael Graves. You can see Michael Grave’s cool concrete kitchen floor in this post about the best kitchen floors.
One thing about the gallery that I loved was these smaller, more intimate areas. But, gosh. Everything is gray, greige, brown, beige, white or black.
However, Resto does have a good balance in most of the vignettes, along with gold accents.
Even the trees on the top floor look silvery. BUT, that prison bars elevator. I seriously despise everything about it. It’s a freaking cage, for God’s sake. Yuck.
All of the chandeliers are HUUUUUGE! MASSIVE! If you don’t have 14-foot ceilings– minimum, don’t even think about any of these. And, no, that is not a mirror image of the seating area. Look closely, and you will see the differences. The rooms go on and on.
Here’s the obvious thing.
This is Boston. Nobody has a place in the city that can accommodate this scale of furniture. So, why do they have so much of it? You absolutely cannot conceive how huge the scale is, in these ginormous rooms.
So, this has been a glimpse of all three floors of the Boston Restoration Hardware. I could show you much more, but it does get redundant after a time.
Incidentally, the first floor is designated as “Interiors.”
Floor two is “Modern.” The third floor is outdoor, along with the design atelier. I don’t see an appreciable difference between floors one and two. All of it is contemporary.
Since I always take the steps when possible, that is what I did to get from floor to floor.
Could they have made this stair railing any uglier?
No, they could not.
What kills me is that someone stuck some classical rosettes on the stringer. What, to pretty it up? Make it more classical? Hilarious!
However, looking down from the third floor, this view is pretty cool. And, no, I am not leaning over the railing. I have long arms. :]
Above are some of the outdoor furnishings, located on the top floor.
A lovely view from the 2nd floor.
Above is the design atelier where you can have a choice of cheeseburger, cheeseburger, or cheeseburger. Okay, there’s a little white, beige. and gold. (That must be the cheese.) ;]
But, then, I did spy a touch of teal. However, I did not see a lick of it or any other color, not even on a vase, anywhere in the store. Sorry, I’m done with “gallery.” Who are they kidding? It’s a freaking STORE.
I do like this shot taken from a third-floor balcony.
But then I turned around and realized that I had been incarcerated. This was all an elaborate setup!
Somehow, I managed to escape, and finally found the stairwell to the baby and teen detention center.
Phew, now I’ll get to see some color. Right?
Well, so far, only as an accent on the many pipes down on this level, and EXIT signs.
As you can see, no expense was spared to make this a warm, welcoming place to take the young uns.
They even went so far as to put in a baby gate. I love that kind of attention to detail.
Oh, gawd. I was met with this obscenely ostentatious vignette for the most spoiled little princess on the planet. Still, being a grown-up princess, I couldn’t resist trying out one of those things.
This one’s just right. Finally! I wonder if it comes in gray?
The boy’s barracks.
It’s never too soon to introduce one’s babies to a one-note gray world. But, be forewarned that they will rebel with riotous color, the second they’re out of parental control.
Infant detention center, for toddlers who refuse to sleep or use the toilet.
Okay, it’s time to pack up and leave our RH fantasy world, along with Laurel’s silly commentary.
In my final analysis, I’ve only been in one other over-the-top RH, and that was in Manhattan in 2018. But, these and the ones I’ve seen in photos look like the lobby of a large boutique hotel that’s trying hard to be urban, and trendy.
And, this is the thing. While gray is classic, the way they’re using it at RH is trendy, not classic.
Above is Furlow Gatewood’s exquisite dining room using gray in a way that is timeless.
So, as RH has done, in the past, maybe they’ll reinvent themselves. I think they’re going to have to, because I believe their palette is starting to overstay its welcome; I believe it already has.
It’s images like the one above that beckon me to call their style “prison chic.”
While I don’t hate everything about this RH penitentiary, the railings and elevator are seriously a massive failure, and disturbing additions to this exquisite classical building.
Remember the beautiful railings in the former Marshall Fields in Chicago?
Laurel, I thought you were going to share all of the Resto stuff found on Ali Baba.
Yes, I could’ve done that. I believe you can still find a lot of RH on Ali Baba. And, no, I’m not advocating that you purchase that stuff, either.
I’m also not saying, “Don’t shop at R HARDWARE.” In fact, if you guys have any interest, I will accept the challenge to put together what I think is a beautiful room using only furnishings from RH. I think I could do that and do it for a room with an eight or nine-foot ceiling.
I could also follow it up with a lower-cost resto version.
That would need to be two posts because both will take a while.
Of course, it’s also fine to let RESTO take a rest.
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