The Blending of Retail: RH Chicago

The retail, hospitality and restaurant industries are blending, now more than ever, and there’s no better example than the 3 Arts Club Cafe and the Restoration Hardware flagship in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The high-end furniture brand transformed an early-20th-century landmark into a one-of-kind destination – part art gallery, part restaurant – the 70,000 SF space certainly offers more than just retail.

The building, originally built in 1914 to house a women’s art college, but empty since 2003, is a spectacle in itself – boasting six floors, a rooftop garden, glass-enclosed courtyard, and plenty of original architectural detailing.

Surrounded by brownstones, with valet service out front, the lobby was already bustling with people when I stopped by on a Saturday morning. With a full-scale restaurant and a limited-service cafe (offering coffee, cocktails and light bites) on the first floor, the brand encourages customers to grab a drink while browsing the store or waiting for a table. While mixing mimosas and $1500 chairs doesn’t seem like a good combination to me, it’s one of the many ways the space straddles the line between attracting guests and attracting shoppers.

While traditional RH stores tend to carry only 10% of the brand’s product assortment, the Chicago space is able to display nearly 50% including the newest departments – RH Modern, RH Teen, and RH Baby & Child. Each floor is anchored by a center design atelier with either side composed of carefully designed room vignettes that are refreshed with new themes and products every few months. While everything in the store is for sale (including the original General Electric spotlight on the rooftop, going for a cool $1 Million) – don’t expect to see price tags on most of the furniture. The space feels like a relaxed art gallery, with plenty of on-hand designers should you have questions, but none of the pressure.

Next time you are in Chicago, I highly recommend stopping by RH Chicago … if not for the $1500 chair, then certainly for the delicious cocktail and inspirational window-shopping!

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