Monday, October 11, 2010
Design District Ramble
The new Restoration Hardware showroom on Henry Adams
Walked down the street the other day to check in on the new Restoration Hardware Showroom that replaced Ed Hardy’s antique emporium in at the San Francisco Design Center. The garden draws you in, but the store makes you want to turn around and run. It felt like an oversized dark nightclub with lots of puffy linen furniture or a nightmarish exaggeration of an undertaker’s office. Not a spec of color, just grey, grey, grey. Ed Hardy’s space worked because he found ways to bring in the light and make each nook enchanting, if somewhat unaffordable. The gardens were pure delight – now you may not reach the rear courtyard.
The courtyard is the best part of the new Restoration Hardware Showroom
The nice entry garden
Set for a funeral party
Inside the undertaker's chamber
Light at the end of the tunnel
The line between wholesale and retail has gotten increasingly fuzzy down there in the design district. Some showrooms won’t let you in without a decorator, others will. In the long run this may be good for transparency, if not profit. But when a retailer makes such a huge investment with such little impact you wonder what the future of design driven retail might be. If you want neutral, Room & Board is just a few blocks away and a far more pleasant environment than Restoration Hardware. Less Faux France though. In these budget times you can often see a decorator walking the floor with a client. While I like Room & Board I think of it as a source of big background pieces, not a place for new design. Design Within Reach during Rob Forbes’ tenure nearly became a real design shop like our long lost Design Research. I still like most of the furniture at DWR, but some of the joy is missing. I am not sure it is possible to have a high quality national design chain. The pressure of quarterly returns ruins the good news. It takes the hand of the individual, Ben Thompson at Design Research, or Maynard and Lu Lyndon at Placewares, (http://www.placewares.com) to create enduring beauty in a retail setting. (More on the talented folks up at Sea Ranch later this year.)
It’s also fun to stop in at Inja, 215 Fifteenth Street and see what they have in stock in Asian design goodies. I found a tiny Buddha head for just $25.00. But the real treat in the neighborhood is next door, a talent to watch, designer Siobhan Brennan.
Buddha head from Inja
Living room by Siobhan Brennan
Photograph by David Wakely
Siobahn will have an official opening party for her showroom from 1 to 4 pm on Saturday October 16th with special guest John Wheatman signing his beautiful books. She worked with John for over twenty five years and decided to open her own business after he closed his shop last year (http://designfaith.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html). She continues his tailored Asian influenced aesthetic, with her own stamp, mainly bolder color and a broader variety of artists. The photographer for John’s books, David Wakely, has kindly loaned us a few images of Siobhan’s work. I am sure there will be more beautiful rooms coming.
Napping space by Siobhan Brennan
Photo by David Wakely