Expect to be awestruck, breathless, converted to a quiet, monastic, simple life. The Restoration Hardware (now called RH ) has completed their renovation of one of Boston’s most iconic Back Bay buildings into one of the most moving retail brand experiences I ever had. In my career as a trend watcher, I have been in countless thousands of them, but haven’t been this moved by a retail experience since the first time I stepped into the Food Halls at Harrod’s.
RH has recently completed their renovation of the former retail location of the venerable Louis of Boston, at the corner of Berkeley and Newbury Streets in Boston. The grand, free-standing building was built in 1864 for The New England Museum of Natural History. (which later became the Museum of Science and moved to The Charles River). It was vacant for several years when Louis moved to the South Boston waterfront. I wondered what retail tenant could do justice to this uniquely beautiful property. Ralph Lauren topped my short list for companies with the capital and vision to pull it off. RH was not on my list.
The store is a triumph. It is the essence of modern, traditional home furnishings… spare, classic, oversized and dressed with buttery leathers and neutral linen. It is masculine and quiet, but emotionally rich on every level. It is palatial and clubby. RH has hit exactly the right note blending contemporary touches like the commanding glass elevator and slick concrete stairwell, while paying homage to the sheer beauty of the original architecture of this edifice. It is a textural, neutral symphony, with a hip background track. It is like experiencing their products through vintage sepia photos.
This tour-de-force brand experience is not to be missed. Expect to be converted to an RH disciple. It may have you shopping for a larger home to fit their enormous furnishings.