Restoration Hardware: Our thoughts

Clocking in at 1" thick, 3+ pounds and over 600 pages, the new Restoration Hardware catalog is hard to ignore. The clear direction that the company has taken is the topic du jour and we'd love to know your thoughts. Joni, Megan and Linda chat about our thoughts on the style direction of RH and how long-reaching we feel this trend to be.

We also learn (thanks to Joni's intrepid nephew!) that RH offers trade professionals a 20% discount. So too do Pottery Barn (under their Williams Sonoma banner), Crate and Barrel, and Ballard Designs.


Podcast Powered By Podbean



Splendid Sass said…
Can you believe the catalogue?! Like the old Sears book.
I knew about Ballard but not the rest. Glad to learn that!!!
As for the new RH, I think I like it. We will see.
Have a nice Sunday, Linda.
innerspace said…
Did you notice that the price has been reduced on much of the furniture in their mega-maga-catalog?

Makes you wonder how well their product is really selling...and whether or not it really appeals to a broad consumer base...
Karena said…
I agree a lot with Megan and Linda as far as the "look" lasting in design.

The idea of mixing pieces is great. They are huge and expensive. The Leawood Store is fabulous. I feel like a midget when I walk in though Ha!

All in all great change, marketing and furnishings!

Thanks Ladies as always!


Art by Karena
katiedid said…
RH does have the best discount I have found (I have them all! Haha! Cost Plus and Pier 1 also have them). It is really worth getting the discount at RH if you are buying for clients, especially for the bath hardware. BUT the discount does not apply to sale items.

I agree with you gals....I think the quality is beautiful, many of the items are great, but it needs mixing with other things to become more personal and a little "happier".

As far as longevity, I think they will evolve with the times. They'll have to, won't they? Their upholstery could look updated in other fabrics, and their leather is pretty timeless for the most part. It is the overscaled rustic wood furniture that will most likely need an overhaul in a few years.

Great discussion!
Anonymous said…
How funny - - I'd actually hoped this might be a topic you'd discuss!

I was at my parents' house when their catalog arrived. My mom (who is 68) was horrified at the change in RH - she hadn't been in one for a few years and was unaware of the huge changes. While I can see the appeal of this trend for some people, the catalog itself is just SO dark and dreary, to the point of almost being creepy. I completely agree with the previous comment - - a mix would make it so much more appealing to someone like me (who far prefers the New England look Linda refers to.)

What I find interesting is that this trend - which it surely is - has already hit Target. How long, then, will it appeal to higher end clients?

Again, thanks for an interesting discussion! Can't wait for the upcoming shows . . . looks like you have some wonderful interviews lined up!

Anonymous said…
I just can't get past the scale of the furniture. I am average height and most of the seating is too big for me and too big for most homes. You need a faux chateau type home with huge rooms. I also think that investing so much money in this trend and fake industrial things is not a wise use of your money. What do you have when the trend is over?-Too Short for RH
Anonymous said…
Ladies, get a grip. This company and some bloggers are in business to sell something new. ALL will be found in consignment stores soon enough!

How soon will those to die for kitchens be out of style or dated, such as the 2000's or '10s ?

Look at your own homes? How much changing having you each done?

RH will crash and burn sooner or later. The brown furniture hated by the Texas blogger will survive only because English antiques survive generations; French antiques trend,
as do resort destinations.
cecilia said…
I received 3 catalogs - one for me, one for my company, and another one - which I thought was another drop shipment of the same catalog with a different cover? Home Goods has all of the Belgian linen white-washed furniture too. I have to say that I disagree a little bit with Linda on not seeing this type of furniture in New England. This summer on Nantucket, I saw several rental homes furnished in head-to-toe RH furniture (indoors and outdoors). It seemed like a movement from blue/white interiors to rustic/industrial/beachy. For me, if my clients can afford the RH upholstery, I recommend it because of the eight-way hand tied construction (as oppossed to Mitchell Gold or some of the Crate and Barrel upholstery). And again, me personally, yes, I love a lot of their stuff. I've used their bathroom lighting, table lighting, hooks and knobs, fireplace accessories. But, that said, I don't like it when people pick entire rooms right out of the catalog - which I saw in homes in Nantucket (which may make sense for rental properties - everything, gets shipped - which is easier, as Nantucket logistics are difficult when it comes to furniture). Linda, the RH store in Chestnut Hill hasn't changed much and it's not worth the trip. You should check out the RH Outlet in Wrentham - still pricey, but some good deals. As far as the catalog goes, I'm not a fan of the industrial aviator look, but agree with Megan - that I liked the editorial capsules i.e. the Ben Soleimani rug collaboration.
Unknown said…
You can really tell this company is run by a MAN who's hobby is AVIATION...or so it seems, as I posted on Johi's blog today. It's too much sepia for me although I do love many of their pieces. Once this look hits the big box stores, it's out. They should be defining the next trend, not soaking this one for all it's worth.
ChampagneMaker said…
All I have to say is the way we decorate will always go "out of style." Otherwise, we'd all be out of business. We NEED it to go out of style. I'm in the antique business and we sell the same antiques, just style them different ways.

Personally I just went from a student accommodating home (read that 10 senior boys hung out all over my family room every Friday wiping their hands of chip salt on the arms of it all.) to a lighter CLEANER look. I used all the same furniture, just new fabrics with the addition of a chaise lounge and HandyHusband built a low bookcase for the tv and we moved the armoire, closed, to the other side of the room. Even though my room is lighter, it is somehow cozier... AND CLEAN! YAY. My point is my style changed when it was time to redo but not the bones. Good bones last. BUY ANTIQUES! I'm just sayin'
Very interesting conversation ladies!!What do I have to say about all this?!
As a Belgian decorator and owner of a Belgian cabinet and furniture makers company for the 4th generation, I have to say that we are very proud of our Belgian craftsmanship!
The RH catalogue on its own is ok to me! Beautiful pictures, a gorgeous styling and lay-out! Nothing wrong with that!
But, people who have really seen the Belgian furniture and have taken notice of the quality of our furniture pieces, will certainly have felt and noticed the difference of the real Belgian furniture and the Belgian styled furniture that RH (and lots of other companies)presents in their catalogue.
To me you really can not compare this furniture to the high quality masterpieces of our Belgian furniture, who have a 'soul'. Where is this furniture made?!! In Belgium and if it is, by who???By Belgians??!!
I certainly will not undermine the RH concept!! Oh no, this is fantastic! You are right to say that within a few years it will be done with this kind of furniture, but I do think that the RH people are aware of that and maybe they will change their offer of products very fast, even faster than we will think. The group of young people, who love to change their interior from time to time, is their target.
I would never give up my antique Georgian console table for a RH Belgian look-alike , an imitation. Every piece of furniture in the RH catalogue looks fantastic, but is only a look alike to me. For people who can live with these pieces, no problem. I couldn't.
Here in Belgian there are yet so many companies who imitate the style of our talented decorators, that most of us, Belgians, are really done with this kind of imitations.
I am sure that Brooke Giannetti (I mention her here because I thought you were talking about her in the interview) has noticed the difference and felt the real Belgian craftsmanship and had seen and touched the high-quality masterpieces during her stay in Belgium. I do think you have to see and touch it with your own eyes to make your conclusion.
There really are a few US designers who have understand what the Belgian style is all about. And then I think about designers as Kay Douglass and Peter Block (I love his Belgian collection.)
But again RH is a very well conceived concept. There is nothing wrong to buy only a few of the pieces but I woudn't recommend to decorate your entire home with RH furniture. It would be overdone.
Within a few years...? Belgian handmade furniture will last, I am sure of that, but I do have my doubts about the Belgian furniture presented in the RH catalogue. We will see...
Joni, I received my catalog last week and it is quite a whopper! I have to say I was somewhat disappointed though. Everything was brown, gray or beige. Rather dreary to me. I enjoyed listening to the Round Table discussion.
I heard a rumor that RH is leasing the old Louis' space on Newbury Street in Boston. Wouldn't that be a potential game-changer for them in this market.
Anonymous said…
I actually had other designers call me the day it arrived to say, "Go check your mailbox, you are never going to believe this." haha
I have an interesting story to tell about this whole reincarnation of RH. I was at market a couple of years ago and as is my norm I had shopped for 2 days and on the last went back to place orders. I walked into the first showroom to buy this fabulous giant pier mirror from salvaged woods only to be told that they had sold out. Excuse me? Sold out at market... with 3 days left of the show?????? Never have I encountered that. So I left with a confused (read frustrated) look on my face and went to the next showroom to order a chandelier.. you guessed it... we are sold out. This happened 3 times. I circled back to company #1 that I had the longest relationship with and said,"OK what is going on here?" And the answer was,"You must have unknowingly been following restoration hardware's buyer around. They are buying everything we have." hmmm
Needless to say I changed my direction but never have I encountered anything like it before. Honestly, I think it was a smart move for them that created more buzz than anything I've seen in a long time but I am in full agreement about the total lack of thought concerning scale in the upholstery division. I look like Edith Anne (remember her) sitting on all of their stuff.
One has to wonder if the idea is to re-invent every 5 years. Sounds kind of fun.
WOW! That was a really long comment. LOL
Wonderful, insightful, conversation. Dark wood has a place in decor but as with any design, decor, or accessories- in balanced moderation. Unique individuality will never be accomplished through catalog reproduction decor.

Couches/sofas that are too deep present a problem for everyday use. The free falling into comfort tag is not conducive to comfort. We made the mistake ordering custom deep couches- not good. Apartment size furniture most definitely has a market. I agree, not everyone is six feet tall.

Great conversation, views, opinions, and points, ladies!
Anonymous said…
This is a potentially snarky comment about listening to this podcast. Have any of you considered taking a public speaking class or perhaps joining Toastmasters? A tiny bit of work would go a looooong way to improve the "listenability" of your podcasts. The quanity of fillers used (uhm, you know, ah, uh, etc.....) is unbearable. Or maybe just listen to the podcast, start to finish, and count each and every "filler" word used. Sometimes that exercise is all it takes to eliminate this horrible speaking habit.
Wow, great discussion. I'd actually love to hear you ladies talk more about brands.

I'm in my 20's and so a little young to remember the old iteration of Restoration Hardware but I have to say that I'm not loving its reinvention.

I feel like Restoration Hardware is pretty much exclusively for people who live in stucco McMansions. The price point of Restoration Hardware is priced for such. Somebody who lives in a truly spectacular style would go to B&B Italia for a sofa, not Restoration Hardware. Restoration Hardware is a little too aspirational for me, like the poor man's version of Ralph Lauren Home.

RH is fake luxury priced for the middle class to buy on credit. And I think if you look at their demographic, you'd see that's the case.

I'm also not enthused with their knockoffs of mid-century classics like the Egg and Swan chairs. It's all just fake stuff... I find that a little embarrassing. Can you imagine buying a fake antique bust?

And as someone concerned about my footprint, I will not be patronizing any company that drops off half a dozen huge catalogs like they're phone books... recycled paper or not.
I reread my comment and wow, it came off as really snotty. That wasn't my intention. I think what I was trying to say is that RH feels just feels like it's for strivers -- not for people who want to live authentically. And that doesn't necessarily have to do with how much money one has, but to engage the whole Belgian Estate fantasy takes quite a bit of money -- just like getting the Bunny Williams look takes money.

There are some aesthetics that just don't work on a budget. And I think that's why RH feels so phony to me. Their products try to give the impression that they're something they're not -- that's the very definition of "pretense." It's pretentious.
72 and sunny said…
Loved hearing from Greet. Thanks for stopping by with your expertise in the subject. You're right, this isn't really Belgian furniture. It's a regurgitated, 'inspired by' line.

anon 9:05 - this is a potentially snarky retort: no. We spend enough time on this 'hobby' the thought of paying someone to train me out of my, 'likes' and 'ums' so that this show is more bearable to someone, doesn't really interest me. And, I'm sure I'm the biggest offender here. My advice, is for you to start your own show.

Room for Thinking- great, great points. No, ideally, I wouldn't want to own a fake Egg Chair (and the price isn't even that great for a fake). But if I had a limited budget, I wouldn't have a problem buying something, inexpensive that's "inspired by" the real thing. For instance, Ikea has a nice Saarenin 'Tulip' table knock off. And you can find all kinds of Betrtoia knock offs on Amazon. But they're all around $150.00 and less. Now, that, I'd do if I had to for $$ sake.

It all reminds me of the Gap in the mid90s they sort of had a last hurrah, with their, "Khakis and Gray T-shirt campaign" - Then they never really recovered. They still seem to be trying to figure out what their 'look' is.
Meanwhile, Jcrew marched right along and evolved into a creative, yet conservative, identity that works across the board and appeals to a varied audience of consumers. I can't imagine that, throwing a few faux Egg Chairs in the mix of the Faux Belgian is going to garner the kind of audience that's going to sustain them.
Anonymous said…
Loved your show. I was just at the RH Outlet in Vacaville, CA this last Saturday, and it was a madhouse. Everything was selling. They were giving (on top of their usual 30% off) another $25 off for every $100 you spent. I shop at their store at the Galleria in Roseville and I just think it's too dark for shopping, their upholstered pieces are too big, and the industrial pieces will soon be out of trend, and a lot of their chandeliers are way too overscaled.

I worked at RH before they transformed themselves, and at that time it was the rumor that Sears was buying them out. They pushed their sales people and watched every move you made. Did not like working there at all.

Keep up your great roundtables. I enjoy them very, very much!
Anonymous said…
Styles are regional. "Brown" furniture, as Joni calls it, will never be out of style in eastern USA. White slipcovers will!!!!Trends will be trends.
Anonymous said…
Megan, you never fail to take the bait. If you listen to any conversation, whether podcast or around your dining table, you will hear a lot of filler words. The three of you are not trained professionals who make design speeches or commencement addresses every week - quite the contrary.There are times when the conversations have meat and others not so much. There was not much meat in this one because each of you seemed to be in agreement on the viability of RH's new look. What isn't new to the mix, is your insipid attitude. That somehow never changes. I agree that anon. 9:05 makes valid points about the pauses and fillers, but hey it's free so she should not complain. It is more off putting that you seem to hold your opinions in such high regard and yet your personal portfolio only shows a true talent for mediocrity.
Scribbler said…
This commentary turned into quite a snarkfest.

I keep my catalog in the car to look at if I am stuck waiting somewhere. The furniture is too large for both me and my house, and I would kill myself if my home looked that dark and dreary. Many of their individual items are nice enough, but I agree that if one is going to buy RH furnishings, they should be mixed with other things to avoid that gothic-vampire abode look.

Greet is right. If you want a Belgian interior, go to Belgium and hire her to help you buy over there.
Anonymous said…
It's all just very trendy, period. They think they are on the edge in bringing fake stuff like this to consumers but they are not. This is only going to sell to the few that want to spend that kind of $$ on the fake stuff. There can't be many of those out there, especially in this economy. They really need more of a mix to appeal to more people and to inspire also. You look at a Ballard Design mag. and you can see these things mixing with some of the things you already have and some new items that you have your eye on. You can make it your own and love it! RH does not give you that same feel. Funny they are going dark and dreary when everyone now wants light and clean, and lets not forget easy to keep clean with less clutter.

Even though they are trying to sell to the upper class customers, most of them are not going to be into this type of look. I do think Pottery Barn has it right and that will be where more are shopping at, not RH with the some of the same pieces that you can get somewhere else much cheaper.
Kare said…
Way to masculine for me. There is no femininity in any of it. That being said, I snapped up one of their leather chairs at the local consignment shop for my home office and couldn't be happier. Daughter just purchased bed linens. She loves them. They are beautiful. Be selective as always and I think teh quality is there.
Linda Merrill said…
Hi Red Brick Building - yes, I heard after we recorded that they signed a lease on the Louis building as well. It's a huge space and certainly iconic. Am looking forward to seeing what they do with it!

Innerspace Interiors - I didn't notice that the prices had gone down, interesting...

Toastmasters Anon - I mean... haha, just had to throw that in. I hate how many people are starting sentences with that. And yet, I find myself doing it sometimes too. Your point is well taken, but what it says to me is that I need to do a better job at editing - you should hear the raw recording!

Thanks everyone for your excellent insights and thoughts - keep 'em coming!
I think they were in big trouble, and had the guts to collect themselved and reinvent..... They did a marvelous job... I know one of their suppliers and I will tell you this.... They make their suppliers adhere to very green standards and also they way they treat their people.... It is amazing..... No look will stay forever, but it will be interesting to see them tweak it down the road.;)
RH said…
Rita Distinctive Mantle Designs
LOVE THE NEW LOOK AND THE BEAUTIFUL CATALOGUE!! I want to make the stone mantels to go with this new look. Just the fact that there is this much dialogue in a store, tells me it is hot! People say it is too expensive and too trendy but you don't have to furnish with a lot of pieces to get the look.
Heck, who cares about RH ... I'm just delighted you gals are back with another podcast!
Amy Chalmers said…
I heard the word "trendy" "trend" about this company's position but not the word "fad". Trends last 7-8 years, fads are short lived lasting only a year or two...if RH is a trend, then the company plunge might make sense...but even Ballard changes their tune to keep up with fads and to keep their customers coming back. Totally agree about brown classic furniture, I have it next to my white slipcovers! A New England resident who likes certains trends and other classics, mixed together. By the way, I loved the big bird cage chandeliers!
Unknown said…
I love it! I look through the catalog any chance I get, planning for my non-existent "future home". There are a couple of pieces that I really want but will be ordering them in the cream linen instead of the brownish color. It totally changes the look of the products to see them in cream or white. I want one of those long huge tables too! I will mix these pieces with my modern ones like mirror tables and cream leather chairs. I love the hard and soft, rough and lux mixes that you can get with this easily accessible brand.

Thanks for your fun pod cast!
Cindy Logan said…
It is the most drear and depressing decorating I have ever seen. The store at the Plaza in Kansas City is a beautiful old theater with gorgeous plaster moldings and they painted it all to go with this look, and it is hideous! I used to love to go to RH and loved, loved, loved their furniture. Not anymore! I think RH has jumped the shark. I can't imagine how much they have spent to switch over to this look, but I think it is a last ditch effort that will not work.
Funny that you talked about the old store with all of the gadgets and toys. I just got in the mail today a third “Gifts” catalog. Everything from a leather jacket and a motorized bicycle to monopoly and old retro tin toys. At the same time I got the big catalog I also got the “Spring Source Book” that is very large as well.
Our store in a St. Louis area mall just got a repaint from bright white to dark grey paint and out with the old line and in with the new. A very simple rework of the store.
What’s wrong with the masculine look of the offerings in the catalog you have dozens of other companies to choose from for a more feminine look. I love it but that’s coming from a guy…….
Anonymous said…
My curiosity piqued, I ordered all their catalogs. And then I went into the Dallas store. I am a lover of french style furniture, but cannot afford to buy genuine antiques, so much of what I have is repro. Charles Faudree & Betty Lou Phillips are my design icons.

That being said, my initial foray into the RH store left me disappointed and missing the quirkiness of things they had. Where are my stocking stuffers?! Used to love their gardening accessories. And I was initially so overwhelmed by the darkness of the store that I was in and out in 10 minutes. However, once I perused the catalog, there were things that interested me enough to go back for another visit. While I think everything there is generally too masculine, there are some components that I might like. The drafting table, much of the wrought iron stuff. Overall, it says to me "metrosexual". The one catalog that REALLY caught my attention was the baby catalog. If they would offer those french-inspired beds in larger sizes, in my opinion they would have something to appeal to females. It is light, bright, romantic....mixes well with the french inspiration of Ballard Designs. And I also love the classic garden designs in the gardening catalog.

Overall, it's worth more than a second look!

Market Decor said…
Hi - love the podcast! RH has been heading in this direction for quite a while - yes, this new catalog/source book is big! I think some of the pieces are just too large in scale. I hope they come out with some more wood finish options - maybe some painted finishes. I am just not feelin' the bleached wood look - I also think this can be a difficult finish to mix in. I love their basics. The overall feel is up and coming "bachelor" - definitely masculine. Yet, I can see them branching off from this and being OK. I am sure most people buy 1 or 2 pieces(furniture) - RH knows this. Anyone going in and getting the whole look (bachelor) - yes, it will be a dated look soon. I think RH is really going after it...I think if they can continue to evolve (I think they need too soon) - they will be successful in the long run. It is a "look" - not everyone will like me, all their catalogs have kind of looked the same for quite some time now - this one was bigger. I hope the Spring catalog has some surprises. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
I think the new store in Highland Village is gorgeous. The styling of the store and the roof top deck are perfect. What i dont like ia to walk the entire store and not be approached by a single sales associate. You can't purchase anything, evrything has to be ordered, and the delivery time is always more than they say it is. Before the change, you could get hardware, lamps, bathware, drapery and drapery, hardly any bathware and no hardware, drapery or darpery hardware. Its not easy to shop we don't shop there anymore. And now that Gary Freedman is no longer CEO, it will be interesting to see how the company survives.