Friday, January 30, 2015

RH - Visit to Atlanta's New Restoration Hardware Gallery

You know you're getting old when you can remember when IHOP was the International House of Pancakes, KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken, and RH was Restoration Hardware. Of the three, the rebranding of Restoration Hardware probably makes the most sense. IHOP still sells pancakes and KFC is still all about chicken, but RH's hardware selection is dwarfed by the store's inventory of beige linen-covered furniture. As a part of RH's rebranding, the company is leaving the malls and opening stand-alone stores around the country. The stores are understated, quaint, and restrained in the tradition of Candy Spelling, Marie-Antoinette or Mariah Carey. That is to say, not understated, quaint, or restrained in the least.

Right before Christmas, I received an email from RH announcing the opening of its Atlanta store. I give you understated:

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 It's called "The Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead," which makes it sound like an English country home and not like a retail store located next to Cheesecake Factory (a closed Cheesecake Factory, no less).  Here is the description from my email:


RH had me at the "decomposed granite" (which I am not fancy enough to recognize as fancy landscaping materials, but instead makes me think of decomposed bodies). Naturally, when my friend Elizabeth suggested that we make a day of gawking at the grandeur of The Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead and then eating at The Shack of Shakes at Across the Street from The Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead, I was all in. 
One thing I should say is that I own some RH items that I use and enjoy as much as you can enjoy utilitarian household goods. When we renovated our house, I bought RH sconces for the bathrooms, RH knobs for two of the bathroom vanities, and RH towels for the bathrooms back when RH made bath linens in colors other than shades of brown and grey. But, sometimes between 2006 and today, RH started selling stuff like "deconstructed chairs" for $1200:

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and, I apologize for being all "get off my lawn," but the chair has no sides or back and for $1200 I want my chair to have sides and a back. I feel about this chair the same way I feel about sky-diving. For the cost of sky diving, I could probably buy a round-trip plane ticket, go someplace nice, and not have to jump out of a plane. 

But, not everything is deconstructed and decaying at RH, and the store is very impressive in person. From the outside, it looks like a classically designed museum built out of concrete instead of limestone or granite. You drive around the back of the building where you can drop your car with a valet, or, less conspicuously obvious, pull into the garage (which I expect they pronounce GAH-raj). Adjacent to the driveway is an expansive outdoor area that looks like the perfect setting for a wedding reception (aside from the fact that it's next to a parking garage). I didn't get a chance to take a picture, but here's one from the promotional email RH sent out:

In case you were wondering about the decomposed granite, here it is. It's hard to know whether the Bosque Elms
are really not so towering, or if they just look small when compared with those gigantic lanterns.
We valeted and entered the "grand entry's 36-foot-tall open air oculus - awash in natural light and lit by a dramatic 8-foot crystal chandelier at night..." To wit:


Again, the picture and blurb are from the promotional email RH sent out about the new store. The space is impressive, but I was torn between liking the appearance of the furniture, while simultaneously resenting it for its impracticality and inability to survive the conditions in my house. You know how long that gigantic white sofa would last in my home? Zero seconds because it wouldn't fit through my door. Even if we wedged it in somehow, it would take up the entire downstairs of our bungalow. And don't get me started on the white linen upholstery.  This sofa is like the cute boy from high school who will never go out with you. I am so Taylor Swifting this sofa. (Just so you know, Taylor Swift is now a verb. I can make up words, too, RH. OCULUS.)

The sales person (who I'm sure is called a customer liaison guide or something) recommended that we start on the top floor and work our way down. The sixth floor is the famous "rooftop park and conservatory" that we heard about in the promotional email. I agree that the rooftop park and conservatory do offer "stunning views of the Atlanta skyline." But, I just kept thinking, "this is a store." I'm not so sure that I need stunning views of the Atlanta skyline increases my desire to buy furniture.

Rooftop terrace with trickling fountains.


While we were testing out all the furniture in the conservatory, our friend Maureen joined us. We all liked this terrarium:


I suspect we all liked it for different reasons. I liked it because it reminded me of the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot. For something completely different (not really), the furniture in the conservatory was all white linen. I think they were slipcovered, though, so there's the illusion of washability.

The next floor was reserved for "small spaces" and it's the floor that I took most seriously because the furniture is scaled to the side of an efficiency apartment, which means there's a slim chance it will fit in my house. The interesting thing is that it was probably the least appealing floor, aesthetically. After walking through rooms with 14-foot ceilings and sitting in furniture made for a clan of giants, the "small spaces" rooms seemed slightly cramped and claustrophobic.

The floor devoted to children's furniture was far more entertaining. Here's what you can buy for your (diaper-wearing, spit-up spewing) baby to not sleep in because babies prefer sleeping in an infant carseat to a crib:


Between the lighting and the draping, it all seemed like a baby altar from the Dauphin collection. Everyone complains about how kids today act so entitled. Well, maybe it's because their parents are putting them to sleep in a baby shrine underneath a gigantic crown.

The crowns were a reoccurring theme in RH baby & child land. Here we see some crowns made of heavy felt on the table:

I do think that a padded bunk bed is a good idea so that when the kids play WWF and
someone gets tossed into the bed they'll only sustain a first degree concussion.
Those crowns aren't tacky enough to attract any of my children. (The girls, that is. The Boy has a thing against costumes.)

I sort of scratched my head about this decor choice:


Ummmm. I just feel like my children would be upset if their stuffed animals were decapitated and mounted on their walls. Also, aren't elephants and rhinoceros endangered? Do we really want to encourage our children to engage in poaching? I'm not going to even say anything about the scale problems of a bear head only being a teensy bit bigger than a rabbit head. Well, I guess I just did.

I can't remember what the next floor was called, so I'm going to call it the Alice in Wonderland Drink Me floor. The furniture was so comically big that when Maureen sat back on a big leather sofa, the end of the seat cushion was at her ankle, so her legs stuck out straight. Elizabeth and I are taller, so we fit somewhat better:

I'd give that giant petrified koosh ball five seconds in my
house before someone threw it at someone else.
The furniture was nice, but between the small spaces floor and the Alice in Wonderland floor, it was like there was some Goldilocks and the Three Bears business going on. I feel certain that was not what RH was going for with The Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead.

We wrapped up our visit back in the oculus on the first floor. I tried to reconcile my feeling about The Abbey at the Palace in the Grove on the Stream over the Woods in Buckhead. It's totally amazing and beautiful, to be sure. However, it did not make me feel more enthusiastic about buying RH products than when I went to the nice store at the mall. There were also spaces, like the rooftop patio and the decomposed granite garden, that were more memorable for the how the space looked in its entirety, rather than for the furniture. In other words, the space wasn't about the furniture and the furniture didn't really enhance the space.

As we were leaving, I asked one of the customer liaison guides about the new store.

Me: So, are you going to, like, rent out the space for parties or events?
CLG: You know, a lot of people have asked me that. I don't think so. I think they're worried about the liability.
Me: Oh, of course. That rooftop deck, for sure!
CLG: Also, we had a party for the grand opening and it was a nightmare to clean up. Red wine stains, you know.
Me: (to myself) Well, duh! White linen upholstery! (aloud) I bet!
CLG: There is talk about having a restaurant or a wine bar in the store. You know, make it like an all-in-one destination.
Me: Oh that would be great! Just like Ikea!
CLG: (condescending laugh) Oh, yes. Just like Ikea.

With that, we adjourned for lunch at Shake Shack, where I thoroughly enjoyed my burger and shake even though there was no decomposed granite or soaring views of the Atlanta skyline.



3 comments:

  1. Shake Shack has a rooftop terrace too. Not quite as fancy as RH's. But, I'm sure they'd be cool with serving red wine up there.

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