If the cornerstone Hermès store is a sign that old Buckhead is back, the soon-to-open Restoration Hardware Gallery is a sign that new Buckhead is rising. The showroom, located in the former ESPN SportsZone space across from the Buckhead Atlanta development, is a towering, nearly 70,000-square-foot, six-story estate with a 40-foot-tall entry rotunda flanked by a double staircase, a three-story atrium, a 50-foot-long reflecting pool, and more than one hundred pairs of 12-foot-tall, glass-and-steel French doors.
Yesterday, I got a peek at the magic behind the curtain as workers scrambled to finish the installation before tonight’s big opening eve party. As we stepped over electric cords and buckets, it took nine guys in hard hats to hoist a light fixture, which was an oversized ring of sparkling crystals. A virtual army of workers polished every glass column and mirrored surface. It was like seeing RH’s infamous “source books” come to life.
And, oddly, it helped me understand why the company sends out that 17-pound catalog series—because RH is all about the tangible. To understand RH’s aesthetic, you have to see it in person. To envision the scale, you need to walk up to a nine-foot-tall bookcase or an entire wall of convex mirrors. To sense the texture, you’ve got to run your hands over “destroyed” Italian leather upholstery. And to appreciate the dancing light, you have to look up into rows of glittering glass prisms or the smoky crystals of a Victorian-style chandelier encased in a giant iron orb.
Yes, some of the settings are over the top. The gallery feels like nothing so much as a European castle. With its soaring gauzy canopies, the little girl’s room at the front of the children’s floor looks like it might have belonged to a young Marie Antoinette. But after so many recent years of austerity, who doesn’t welcome a bit of fantasy?
Update 11/25 We’ve added a few photos from the RH opening bash. A-list hosts included Mark and Cinda Boomershine, Bill Peace, Restoration Hardware CEO Gary Friedman, Beth Webb, Danielle Rollins, Emily Giffin, Mark Williams, Christina Oh, and Michel Boyd. Other big names on the guest list: Vampire Diaries actress Nina Dobrev and “Mayor of Buckhead” Sam Massell.