Can RH Conquer Europe?

The American home furnishings juggernaut recently pulled back the curtain on an extravagant new gallery in the English Cotswolds, but questions about the brand’s viability in the European market remain.

RH’s new gallery at Aynho Park

There’s something boldly American about RH, the home furnishings giant formerly known as Restoration Hardware, a purveyor of sprawling greige sectionals that look tailor-made for Texas McMansions. But what about quaint English country cottages or compact London flats? Gary Friedman, the brand’s bullish CEO, is optimistic there’s a niche within the British market for RH’s distinct mid-luxury appeal. He recently pulled back the curtain on one of the brand’s most over-the-top moves yet: a furniture gallery inside a lavish 17th-century manor in the Cotswolds.

London may seem a more sensible choice for RH to enter the British market, but lately Friedman has leaned into risk. Few furniture brands can say they also sell $65 wagyu sandwiches at “caviar lairs” or have enlisted AD’s former editor-in-chief Margaret Russell to helm its media arm. Expansion across the pond seems a natural next step, and the 55,000-square-foot manor at Aynho Park offers exactly the sort of enveloping experience Friedman wants RH to represent. Rooms showcasing the brand’s array of high-end furnishings neighbor the RH Interior Design Studio, an “interactive space” featuring a design library. True to form, there will also be three restaurants. 

RH has a knack for breathing new life into old landmarks—see their spaces in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago—but Aynho Park’s scale is unprecedented. The photos might be breathtaking, but is a major brand-value investment in an uncertain market worth it? 

Friedman may already have an answer: Galleries in London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Düsseldorf, and Brussels are slated to open in the next two years. Whispers of RH’s brashness ill-suited for European sensibilities spread at the gallery’s star-studded opening party, which seems apt given how “insanity” is quite literally baked into the project. 

That and missed revenue goals perhaps stand to rub investors the wrong way. Or not: “When [Friedman] started opening up big stores with restaurants in them, everyone said it was crazy, and it worked,” veteran journalist Warren Shoulberg, who has tracked RH’s ups and downs over the decades, told Business of Home. “I suspect what will happen here is he’ll open up big stores with restaurants in them in Europe, everyone will say it’s crazy, and then it will work.”

(All images courtesy of RH.)

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