Perhaps you’ve heard of the company Restoration Hardware (RH). It’s a longstanding and very popular home-furnishings company in the U.S. that has its headquarters in Corte Madera, California. Corte Madera is a town in Marin County just south of San Rafael.
RH sells all kinds and styles of home furnishing products via their company website, catalog, and in retail stores. That being said, here are 25 things you probably didn’t know about Restoration Hardware:
RH Since 1979
The company was founded in Eureka, CA way back in 1979 by Stephen Gordon. At the time, Gordon was in the process of restoring an old Victorian home. He found that locating high-quality yet affordable fixtures and hardware was difficult at best. So, Gordon put together a binder that contained photo-copies of vendors’ catalog pages and got an inexpensive sign made that said “Restoration Hardware” and hung it on his porch. His plan was for selling hardware to other people and thereby financing his own needs. At the time, somebody told him that, if he doubled the price on everything, then he’d be okay.
So, that’s how he opened his first-ever Restoration Hardware store right there out of his home, building it into a chain that these days boasts revenues of over $1 billion. In six months, he rented a 300-sq. ft. space and paid $300 a month for it, while still tending bar at night and working the store days.
And, that was the start of Renovation Hardware. So, Gordon started honing his merchandising skills over the next ten years. He expanded gradually into Boston as well as into Northern California, and then raised additional capital from a company called Cardinal Investments, which then allowed him to accelerate the expansion. In 2005, Gordon left RH in the wake of lagging sales and several bids for additional capital causing the CEO position to go instead to Howard Lester. At that point in time, RH’s founder became CEO of the Sundance Catalog Company owned by Robert Redford.
In 1998, when Restoration Hardware went public, Gordon and his company were operating 47 stores. The chain rapidly expanded and, by the end of that year, the total stores had reached 65. The expansion continued and in 2001, RH was operating 100 stores in 31 states.
More About the RH Founder
Gordon grew up in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and the members of his father’s family were merchants with three local stores in their small town. Like many parents, his parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer, so ironically they just kept him away from the stores.
He acquired a counseling psychology master’s degree but, as it turned out, he really loved the theory and the study and definitely not the actual practice. He says that he would find himself having lots of entrepreneurial thoughts when he should be having empathetic ones that were client-focused. He quit counseling and became a carpenter, specializing in cabinetmaking in Eureka, CA, while also tending bar.
Besides starting RH out of his home, Gordon also almost went bankrupt. But then, of course, he not only launched but also nurtured the startup RH chain into the giant that it is today. And now, he has progressed to a second startup called the Guideboat Co. That company sells American vintage boat renditions, as well as other related nautical collectibles.
1994 & the Switch to Selling Home Furnishings
By 1994, RH began to sell home furnishings rather than hardware products. They started with decidedly American products that were manufactured using quality craftsmanship. The company’s products were solid oak and had dovetail joinery. At the time, many other furniture stores were selling mass-produced furnishings made of veneer. Gordon once said that his highest calling was to simply have excellent radar along with the and obsession to provide quality items to the public. His idea of home furnishings is an updated New England classic style that is comfortable, spare, and symmetrical.
A Widespread Presence
By November 1, 2014, the company was operating a total of 59 galleries, six full-line design galleries, and three babies and children’s galleries. In addition, this far-reaching organization now also operates 35 outlet stores both in Canada and the U.S.
Sears Involvement in RH
Sears Holdings Corporation purchased a 13.7 percent share of Restoration Hardware in 2007. The purchase prompted some serious speculation about the possibility of Sears Holdings attempting a total takeover of RH. However, following the 2008 U.S. housing market bubble bursting, the closing of two RH stores was scheduled. One of them was its very first store in Eureka, CA. They opened a new one in Canada and the transaction did not include Sears Holding but instead included Catterton Partners.
RH Goes Private
After June 18, 2008, RH ceased to be publicly traded. During the same year, they also launched their baby and child line. RH later went public again and is currently traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
2010 Up-Market Move
In September 2010, RH made a major focus change for the purpose of going “up-market”. They started focusing more on furniture gallery items with higher price points, wanting to be distinguished from some of their competitors such as Pottery Barn. RH started adding the word “Gallery” to many locations, thereby indicating this upscale change.
At the time, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that one of RH’s key strategies, which set the company apart from other retailers, was its inventory choices. They also reported that RH was creating a very different model from their competitors who mainly designed everything in-house. RH actually has only one full-time in-house designer, Suzi Bolognese. RH instead finds certain artists that they love and curates their work. For example, they have created partnerships with designers and artisans in the production of the RH lines. RH is clearly a disruptor of the marketplace, according to many experts, and sometimes even to the point where it can disrupt itself. Others say that RH is actually reinventing the brick and mortar store concept and that includes using massive flagship stores in unique locations, like Boston for example.
Purveyors of the Unusual
From knobs and pulls to antique iron calipers and so much more, RH sells enough a wide range of unusual decor items and oddities to start a museum of things like torture-chamber-chic decorating. If you ever visit a Restoration Hardware store, like so many others have, you could end up walking out with anything from an opulent chandelier to an English coal mining lantern.
Approximately 65 percent of the RH products are imported from overseas, especially from southern Chinese contract manufacturers. In addition, RH is the country’s largest importer of Italian bedding and Belgian linen. Those two countries produce some of the finest bedding and linens in the world.
Small Spaces Source Book
In 2012, the RH Small Spaces line was created. It was made up of scaled-down home furnishing for smaller spaces. In 2014, the Small Spaces source book came out and depicted 18 different smaller homes in Europe and the U.S. The company also released a 2013 catalog called “Objects of Curiosity”, which included artifacts, unique décor items, and unusual character pieces,. Then, in 2013, the company also released their new tableware line.
Criticism of the sheer length of it came from Time magazine. They said that the 992 pages were simply a waste of paper. The 2014 catalog did weigh in at 17 pounds with 3k pages. RH, however, said that they combined all of their separate sourcebooks into just one for the purpose of reducing the carbon footprint. Some critics still felt that it was wasteful.
RH Enters the Art World
In May 2013, RH announced the opening of an RH contemporary art platform. The company was acquiring the first edition of Random International’s Rain Room and had the North American exclusive showing rights. Then they loaned the piece until that July to the New York Museum of Modern Art for its U.S. premiere.
Design Gallery Opening
RH opened a new store in Atlanta in 2014 that had 70,000 square feet. Atlanta Magazine dubbed it a full-line design gallery for the next-generation. It could actually rival the Boston store in amenities, which include a 50-foot infinity pool.
In 2001, Gary Friedman joined RH as CEO. He previously served as CEO for Williams-Sonoma.
Where is He Now?
Following an alleged inappropriate affair in 2012 with a female employee who was younger than Friedman, he resigned. He was then reappointed in 2013 as co-CEO and, when the other co-CEO, Carlos Alberini, resigned and accepted a CEO position at Lucky Brand Jeans, Friedman once again became the Chairman of the Board and CEO of RH.
Net sales had reached $369.5 million by 2001 and RH had annual revenue in 2016 of $2.135 Million! Under Gordon’s successor, Gary Friedman, RH has been successful at growing into a publicly traded corporation with 85 stores, $1.6 billion in revenues in 2013, and profits of $18 million.
RH has become so big that it currently has almost 3000 full-time employees.
A Restored Boston Building & So Much More
The Restoration Hardware store in Boston’s Back Bay is actually located in the restored iconic New England Museum of Natural History built in 1864. It’s located at 234 Berkeley Street, has 40,000-square-feet of space, and opened on March 7, 2013. Their goal was to offer a brand that would literally succeed in blowing wide open the door of unusual decor items for sale. The grand opening was so outrageous that police had to shut it down.
After years of planning, the massive wild and crazy Boston store opened in 2013. Now shoppers have access to literally an endless supply of crazy features, decorative flourishes, and architectural details. The amazing things that you can see at the Boston RH Gallery include the following highly unusual accouterments.
The Elevator to End All Elevators
The atrium in the center of the building was opened up for the purpose of recapturing the amazing views from the ground floor level and extending them all the way up to the beautiful coffered and gilded ceiling. The 70-foot-high space now houses a glass elevator that was modeled after the elevator in the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. That particular building, which was built in 1893, happens to be one of the RH CEO’s favorite landmarks.
Not only is the RH Boston elevator a showstopper, it actually did stop the show for a time. Why? Well, because some issues with that elevator stalled the planned opening of the store. But, anyone who has ever visited the store and been on that amazing elevator will say that it was entirely worth it.
The exterior lighting for the Boston store was designed by none other than Ross De Alessi. He’s the man who has literally been responsible for illuminating numerous historic monuments that include San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. And, as far as lighting that is for sale in the store, there’s no lack of that, including 150+ chandeliers.
Iron, Brass, Glass, and Steel
In addition, this iconic Boston store also features a steel and glass pavilion that was beautifully designed by a super-talented architect by the name of James Gillam who is a partner in Backen, Gillam, and Kroeger Architects. The store also features huge 18-foot-high mirrored archways that reflect no less than 12 sparkly crystal chandeliers, all of which were inspired by the Palace at Versailles.
The store also has a massive well-appointed library that features archives of newspapers and design magazines from all over the world.
Cinema & Popcorn
And, who would expect to find an actual cinema in a home furnishings store like the one at RH in Boston? It is also complete with an antique popcorn machine from the World’s Fair in the 30s.
Flowers, Music & Gardens
And, if flowers are your thing, the Boston store also offers a fresh floral boutique. In addition, there is an amazing sculpture garden and a music room designed for paying tribute to the good old musical days of rock ‘n’ roll. Add to all of that an indoor conservatory complete with olive trees, magical fountains, and a massive 24-foot Eiffel Tower replica that is made of steel and fully illuminated, and you’ve got a place where shoppers can sit back and relax while surrounded by the magnificence that only RH can duplicate.
Beer, Wine & Pool Anyone?
One other feature in the RH Boston store is a beer bar that is 100-years-old and was once a part of an iconic local Boston pub. Add to that, a billiard room that contains a vintage Brunswick table that has been completely refurbished, and you’ve got a good time anytime, especially since it’s open for play. The store also includes a complete wine bar that features some excellent wines from Napa Valley.
So, whether you get the opportunity to travel to Boston to see the amazing RH store there, shop at one of the many other RH stores, or simply shop online, you’re sure to find some truly unusual items to grace your very own home decor.