You might be overcome with a sudden urge to redecorate after stepping into RH, Restoration Hardware’s ambitious new four-level Toronto flagship, called RH Toronto, the Gallery at Yorkdale. With its stately columns, arched doorways, and a grand staircase, the spacious 70,000-square-foot space feels more like a boutique hotel than a furniture boutique. This “design gallery” is imagined as a social space. “We’re big believers in creating spaces that aggregate people, activate the senses, and feel good,” says RH chairman and CEO Gary Friedman. “And then hopefully someone wants to capture some of that feeling in their own home and create that sensibility.”
RH Toronto is the first Canadian iteration of RH’s design galleries that has a hospitality component. In addition to RH Barista Bar, it features RH Courtyard Café, developed by Friedman and acclaimed Chicago restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff. It is certainly not your average shopping experience eatery. The extravagant space, topped by crystal chandeliers, serves up truffled grilled cheese sandwiches, lobster rolls, and a downtown atmosphere. The café exudes the RH ambience, a harmonious mix of classic design and contemporary vibes imagined by Friedman and his long-time collaborator, San Francisco–based architect James Gillam of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects. “They understand how to design spaces that are a reflection of human design, balance, symmetry, and proportions based on the golden mean,” Friedman explains. “If you go all the way back to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, he’s in a circle on a square, and his proportions are balanced in symmetry. The whole philosophy is that everything is a reflection, that great design should be a reflection of human design.”
With its stately columns, arched doorways, and a grand staircase, the spacious 70,000-square-foot space feels more like a boutique hotel than a furniture boutique.
It’s easy to be seduced by the brand’s interpretation of the classic design ethos. There are no recognizable trends, unnecessary frills, or Pantone-dictated fad colours. Rather, RH favours simplicity, neutral palettes, and rich textures. For the unmistakable RH look, the company collaborates with established international designers whose work reflects its values. According to Friedman, “Behind everything is someone who sweats the details, got it right. That’s why if you go through our store, you’ll see the pictures of designers, artisans, and manufacturers. We integrate all of these people, all of these products, ideas, and experiences in a way where they all render each other more valuable.” Among the collaborators are fifth-generation Belgian linen craftsman Raymond Libeert, Virginia-based iron furniture designer Julie Lawrence, and Timothy Oulton, a British designer of handcrafted leather furniture. There’s also Ben Soleimani, the fourth generation of a family of rug purveyors, who partnered with the company in 2010 to create the Ben Soleimani for RH Rugs collection. The third floor of RH Toronto is dedicated to RH Modern, the brand’s newest offshoot, which looks to engage with sophisticated younger consumers. But the true star may be the rooftop space, which offers sweeping views of the city and attractive outdoor seating to enjoy them on.
“We like to say we don’t build stores, we like to create inspiring spaces that blur the lines between residential and retail to create a place that’s more of a home than a store,” says Friedman, who joined the company as CEO in 2001. He believes the future of retail still lies within bricks and mortar, but that “most retail stores are archaic, windowless boxes that lack any sense of humanity. There’s no fresh air; there’s no natural light. Plants die in a department store.”
They won’t be dying here, that’s for sure. From towering banana palms, to heritage olive and mature Himalayan birch trees, to giant planters of cascading English ivy, the space is very much alive, and perhaps staying true to Vitruvian Man, has humanity at its centre. Remarks Friedman, “I think we’re creating inspiring space that activates the senses. Sight, sound, taste, touch—you can experience all of that here.”
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