New kid on the block

You've never seen a retailer like this: New Restoration Hardware looks more like a mansion than a store

You've never seen a retailer like this: New Restoration Hardware looks more like a mansion than a store

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The 7,000 square foot rooftop garden features Restoration Hardware's collection of outdoor and garden furnishings. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The Restoration Hardware co-CEOS were in Houston for the opening of the Highland Village gallery. Carlos Alberini , Gary Friedman Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The three floors are connected by highly-decorated double staircases. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The ground floor has the feel of an Italian villa or French chateau. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The floral wall, created by David Brown, is just one focalpoint of the conservatory on the rooftop garden. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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Home furnishings and accessories shopping never looked like this. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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Vintage maps from iconic cities are accompanied by old style clocks keeping time in those various regions. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The doors, or shall we say the 14-foot gates, opened on the imposing Restoration Hardware Gallery in Highland Village Friday morning, revealing to eager customers a plush European-flavored residential setting that belies any notion of a "store," that word banned from company literature.

The Gallery at Highland Village is 25,000 square feet of luxury and design inspiration that is so refined and casually elegant as to make one feel instantly at home. "I could live here," was the constant refrain of guests attending the opening party on Thursday night.

From the crushed granite garden that flanks the entryway to the fluffy white robes in the restrooms to the third floor roof top garden, Restoration Hardware has created an unimagined serene environment in the midst of this bustling block of Westheimer.

Entering through those heavy gates, shoppers arrive in the vestibule that leads to the ground floor where furnishings, accessories and lighting fixtures, all in pleasing neutrals, are assembled in vignettes so beautifully transitioned that the space evokes the esthetics of a vast mansion. Or as press material relates, the setting was "envisioned as a majestic estate with beautiful European proportions . . ."

Indeed.

 "The customer here loves Restoration Hardware and we love that customer. There is a very strong connection and it's a very good market for us."

 The building was designed by Architectural Digest Top 100 architect Howard Backen and Jim Gillam of the California firm of Backen Gillam and Kroger in collaboration with Restoration Hardware chairman and co-CEO Gary Friedman and retail architect Richard Altuna. (It was not Backen and Friedman's first project together. The two partnered on Friedman's home.)

"I'm just very excited about this new project and I feel that we are very fortunate to be in this particular time for the company," said co-CEO Carlos Alberini, who along with Friedman and RH board members came in for the opening.

"We are delighted to have made this our first big, new creation in Houston. It is very much the first one with a lot of what you see here. We just opened a big store on Beverly Boulevard (in West Hollywood). But this was built from the ground up with this whole concept in mind. It's pretty remarkable."

The Houston store features a tea "atelier" by Bellocq, a biblioteque (library) of international design publications, a floral boutique operated by popular floral designer David Brown and a rooftop garden (7,000 square feet of divine open air space) that had opening night party guests swooning. The latter features the line's extensive collection of outdoor and garden furniture in a setting of trimmed boxwoods, olive trees and trickling fountains.

Next door is the highly sophisticated Baby & Child Gallery that continues the RH luxe esthetic translated into childhood dreams, a new view of nurseries and children's rooms. Collections are presented as installations that feature flowing fabrics, faux fur throws and crystal chandeliers in every room.

Why put all this money and effort into a Houston product? Alberini responds:

The customer here loves Restoration Hardware and we love that customer. There is a very strong connection and it's a very good market for us. And we had a great opportunity to do it in the best location in the city. So all the stars aligned."