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November 22, 2022

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This is the story of a really big and bold strategy driven by Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman, the genius and creator of the new RH. And the story goes like this: while other retail businesses are reducing their brick-and-mortar presence, Restoration Hardware has evolved into RH Design, expanding into larger, more expensive retail spaces. And these spaces offer more than a mere retail experience; the popular brand has become a lifestyle design studio. That lifestyle is perfect for Santa Barbara living with its luxe weathered antique-style furnishings, lighting, and accessories that made the brand famous.

The Popular Brand is Now a Lifestyle Design Studio

The floor showroom at RH showcasing a luxurious living room with chandeliers
Restoration Hardware, CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

From humble beginnings comes one of the most popular lifestyle brands in the US. The longstanding and very popular Restoration Hardware home-furnishings company was founded in Eureka, CA by Stephen Gordon in 1979. At the time, Gordon was in the process of restoring an old Victorian home. He found it difficult to locate high-quality yet affordable fixtures and hardware and figured other homeowners were running into the same issues. So, Gordon put together a binder that contained photocopies of vendors’ catalog pages and got an inexpensive sign made that said “Restoration Hardware” to hang on his home’s porch. His plan was to sell hardware to other people and as a way to finance his own projects. And, that was the start of Renovation Hardware.

Stephen Gordon at The Original Restoration Hardware Headquarters in Eureka, CA in 1979
Jamie Roche Creative Commons

Within six months, he rented a 300-sq. ft. space and paid $300 a month for it. He tended bar at night and worked the store during the day. That’s when Gordon began honing his merchandising skills. In 1998, when Restoration Hardware went public, Gordon and his company were operating 47 stores. But the chain rapidly grew, and, by the end of that year, the total stores had reached 65. The expansion continued and by 2001, RH was operating 100 stores in 31 states. Gordon left in 2005, handing the reins over to Lester.

Today, the company has transformed into a free-standing, three-story, bigger-than-life, beautiful RH retail store complete with restaurants, wine bars, coffee shops, and a staffed designer gallery. While the traditional Restoration Store was a mall store, the retailer is busy magically transforming the upscale home goods brand featuring chic, timeless furniture, textiles, lighting and more under the new name of RH. Today, there are more than a hundred RH stores across the nation, with 26 located right here in sunny California, including one on State Street in Santa Barbara.

There, homeowners can consult with interactive RH Design Ateliers, where they can work on designing their space with the help of top internal interior designers. Or, if they’d prefer, homeowners can bring their own architects and designers to RH workspaces to give their spaces a point of view and sense of style.

The bedroom showroom at Restoration Hardware with two beds behind seating arrangements with large chandeliers above
Restoration Hardware CO0 via Wikimedia Commons

“The evolution of our interior-design services positions RH as a leading interior design firm and demonstrates how our brand can deliver value that transcends just creating and selling product, as we move toward conceptualizing and selling spaces,” RH Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman explained in a statement.

These showrooms of stylish, desirable furniture and accessories blur the lines between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, home and hospitality. The new stores include a gourmet restaurant, a coffee shop, and a wine bar. They are truly a magnet for people to gather. The flagship RH massive, 90,000 square foot glittering gallery opened in New York’s Meatpacking District in 2018. The gallery includes a rooftop restaurant and bar, a rug showroom and material library of fabrics, leathers, and finishes and an in-house interior design firm. The brand now prides itself on featuring designer-quality services by providing a highly trained staff, free designer consultation, and a wide array of luxury materials and fabrics.

RH showrooms with comfy couch in front of displays of colorful merchandise
Neyugnj at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“We are designing a seamlessly integrated ecosystem of businesses that amplify and render our brand, and each other, more valuable,” Friedman says. “We are creating a customer experience that can’t be replicated online…We have total control of our brand from concept to customer. What we are building is extremely rare in today’s retail landscape.”

And this is only the beginning. RH is already hatching plans for a concept hotel and conceiving equally ambitious galleries across the nation. Friedman explains of the RH appeal like this: “It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a lovestyle.”

[Santa Barbara's Restoration Hardware (RH) is at 710 State Street, in the Paseo Nuevo shopping center.]

If you want to buy your dream home before you invest in any of the RH design collections, including contemporary, beach house, modern, and ski house, I’m your agent. My discerning clients know they can count on me to both buy and sell their real estate assets, which makes both transactions easier. I’d be honored to add you to that list. Just give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at And when it comes time to create the perfect interior, remember that RH style is always beautiful, chic, and timeless.

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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

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- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch