Friday, August 12, 2016

Gary Friedman's Restoration Hardware House

Everyone and their mother, heck their dog (since so many dogs have blogs) is probably gonna blog or has already blogged about the Napa Valley home currently for sale by Restoration Hardware's CEO, Gary Friedman. Dubbed the 'RH Residence' this 4693 square foot estate in St. Helena, California is chock full of Restoration Hardware. On the market for a cool $10.5 million, the house is a lot like walking into any RH store/design center. Gary worked with the crew from Restoration Hardware to fully furnish the house with any and every thing that RH or their purchased companies sells. When you talk about houses that are "too perfect" or "too new", you haven't seen nothing yet! 

I was lucky enough to find pictures of the house before Gary came in and Restoration Hardware-fied it. Let's take a look at the before and afters: 

The stucco goes RH gray, and water features change. There's really very little beyond color and plantings that are different here. Although it's touted as a full scale renovation, in my opinion it's really nothing more than redecorating on a grand scale.

Hotel Lobby? No! Living room. Don't get me wrong, no one would say: "I think that room is so ugly" and that's great, because it absolutely is not ugly. It's just so soulless. Did Gary ever really live here, or was this just an excellent staging job and a way to break into the real estate development market.

The kitchen had some substantial changes, and they're interesting. Serviceable? I don't know. But it's pretty. Love the brass vent hood, but again - is this a kitchen in a private home? Or the tasting/demo kitchen at RH?

More dark gray. More RH. More symmetry. More perfection. Looks like the ceiling fans stayed the same though. Massive renovation? Are you seeing it? Maybe my definition is skewed. 

Maybe here? Maybe the contracting of the wall to mask the staircase counts as renovation? I'll give them that. But complete? I'm not seeing it. And as pretty as this room is, (and let's face it, they all are) what is it? A television room? A game room? Are you holding a chess tournament? What's the deal with the two chair table pairings around the room? I'm not saying this doesn't make sense IN a store environment where you're trying to show as many of the furniture items as you possibly can. But this is a house! Or is it? 

Pretty. Decorated. No question at all about where it all came from, obviously.

Big changes in the bathroom as Gary takes the tub out and makes two individual showers side by side. I don't get this. Not at all. When RH merged with Waterworks, they came up with some amazing hardware, and I love this french brass hardware, but other than that ... I don't get why you'd lose the tub to make two separate shower stalls encased in glass. Really!? I suppose if you and your significant other both want to shower at the same time without touching one another ... but for me, it seems just another way for the house to feel less like a house, and more like a store.

Pretty. At least this makes sense to me. Two separate sinks, two separate areas for each person. Two separate soulless vignettes. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just saying ... really!? There aren't even flowers in these shots. I guess RH hasn't bought a florist yet.

This craft room becomes a bedroom. It's a nice guest room space. I don't know anyone who wouldn't be comfortable here. As a secondary space, it seems to have less finishing to it than the rest of the rooms we've seen, and I think that's a good thing. It feels more "real" to me.

Outdoor shower and attached garden space. I like it. Can't believe there isn't another right next to it! he-he, just kidding.

One of the more interesting things that Gary did, and I suppose this does count as renovation, he took one of the garages and turned it into a wellness spa with an open air yoga/massage studio, and full scale personal gym. Complete with RH Belgian linen portieres. 

And a little before and after view, looking toward the guest house. The wisteria was pulled off of the veranda. It's now clean and gray. Just like the rest of the store, I mean house. Now, I doubt any of my readers are looking to spend $10.5 million on a house in Napa Valley, but hey - if you are, it's for sale.

I got to thinking about this whole thing as I was pulling pictures together, I remembered the first time one of Gary's private homes was photographed. It was a large home in San Francisco with a view of the bay.

And I do mean, VIEW OF THE BAY! The house was featured in Architectural Digest in 2008 and again just 4 short years later by C Magazine. These features had professional photographers and stylists, so the photos show a bit more life than the house in Napa Valley. They also show an interesting shift, a sort of "beginning" to this everything RH, everywhere, every day sort of decorating that you see above. First, let's take a look at the exterior photos from  C magazine in 2012:

The photos were taken by California photographer, Lisa Romerein and are absolutely gorgeous. But when you take a look at the interior photos from 2008, when featured in AD, the rooms in 2012 start to feel a little less Gary and a little more RH. Take a look, see if you agree:

The AD captured living room in 2008, which Gary's now long ex-wife Kendal Agins Friedman took credit for decorating with authentic antiques and artifacts to give the house rich texture.

Later, that room looked like this complete with the defunct line of destroyed furniture that RH tried to sell to all of America. That was a love it or hate it furniture collection that quite frankly, didn't even look good here. But still, it seems as though Gary began to realize that these features on his home were just another way to get advertisement for the store, and the RH brand infusion ensues. There are a few pieces that are not from RH. The rug, for example, the praying Buddhas, 

In the AD article from 2008, you'd never know that the RH CEO lived here. Certainly not the kitchen of Napa, is it? 

From C Magazine in 2012. styled by Romerein and photography assistants, I'm sure. No doubt now! 

AD in 2008. A gorgeous view, I'd love waking up here. 

C Magazine in 2012. Really? REALLY!? Granted, they didn't change much to make this feel like a RH showroom. Part of it existed well before, but the gallery wall of those "old" documents that RH used to sell many moons ago? Surprising that they show up en masse, right? NOT! I get it, really I do. If I had a store, and was lucky enough to be able to shop from it during photoshoots, I'd do the same thing. It's smart business. It isn't realistic to the person who purchases that magazine for inspiration though, and goes to show you that rarely is any of that 'real'. It's all produced, highly, and you shouldn't feel bad when your own home doesn't look so perfectly manicured. We can't all shop from a RH warehouse. 

So what do you think? Do you feel duped? Do you feel inspired? Are you heading to your local RH to buy everything in sight? It's not just Gary folks. No matter what issue of what title you pick up, the shelter mags are spoon feeding us things like this because it's good for business, makes for pretty pictures, and generates retail revenue. Am I inspired by these rooms? Sure. Some more than others, but sure. Are you? 


  1. I hate RH and the beige and gray homogenization of the shelter magazines. Give me a home done by the design legends Bunny Williams, Mario Buatta, and the late Mark Hampton, etc. I've pretty much given up my subscriptions as they all look the same and feature celebrities not real homes
    Love your commentary on this store for sale.
    Kris in Seattle

  2. Hi Artie,

    Beautiful post and yes, the rooms are soulless, but that's what happens I guess when one sells their soul. Link in profile - ;]

  3. LOL, I love your honesty!

    While I do appreciate RH's style, I have to say that the Napa house is way over the top. Perhaps it served as the venue for company team-building events...I can't imagine actually calling the place "home" otherwise.

    At any rate, many thanks for another thoughtful and entertaining post!

  4. Wonderful post, and NO, I am not inspired by these rooms. Bah humbug to the homogenization of alleged interior design and the whole Kartrashian world.

  5. We made the mistake of buying some items from RH for our home. Thankfully we didn't purchase a lot, but it is the worst quality of products I have ever owned. Each of the items has had to be replaced or worked on to repair it.

  6. Oh pity the dog who leaves its fur all over that perfect manicured upholstery or the small child who has just finished a peanut butter sandwich! What happened to homes that were for families to live in and not show pieces for the life that Martha Stewart et al lives?

  7. As you wisely stated -- the house (not a "home" at all!) is a showpiece -- very pretty on the face value but soulless indeed ... no wonder that real homeowners are pressed by real estate agents to go to such lengths to de-personalize their own homes to attract sellers ... this a mere flip of a property ...and not even a plant nor flower allowed here!

  8. RH is the Kelly Hoppen of London. Hotel homes and not person homes. Great article, so true.

  9. Hate it all. Like every bit of it. I didn't know he was a divorced straight guy but that makes sense. does the listing say "a home sure to impress your 19 year old prostitutes and repel your ex wife from trying to seize in your ten year divorce"?
    Hmmm maybe I should go back to bed.

  10. "Soulless" is the exact phrase I was thinking too. Why does he think grey and symmetrical is stylish? Where's the character in that?

  11. Artie, why not furnish your home for free when you can? Winks! Loved your post and totally agree with you that the spaces sadly do resemble a RH Showroom. (Wishing you a beautiful week.) -Brenda-

  12. I don't see drains in the side-by-side showers....?? Maybe water would mess them up. Nope, not a lot to cozy up to here. You just called it like it is.


  13. Loved and agreed with your thoughts.

  14. I went into our local RH a yer back. Good God it was so depressing. Like living in a gulag. Gray and souless. Funny you should post this as Laurel Bern has just done an excellent blog post about how Restoration Hardware is ripping every one off. Go check it out. it's an enlightening read.

  15. Has anyone seen or been able to find floor plans of this place. Im super curious to see how its laid out.

  16. i think he must be less than well endowed. Fabulous story!!!!!!

  17. Really neat blog post! I have heard about this house and it is really cool that you were able to find before photos of it. I agree, most of the renovations that Gary did were pretty neat, but what is up with the two master bathroom showers? I would have definitely left the tub! The views are stunning however.

  18. Really excellent post you have done with us . Like it .