MOOCHING AROUND IN LA- Restoration Hardware

At a time when the economy is sinking even further, belts have run out of tightening holes and my wallet is certainly less inclined to impromptu openings, Restoration Hardware seems to have gone into the other direction and decided to cater to the crowd who hasn’t felt the pinch. The closure of a bunch of stores across town has made room for a flagship showroom on Beverly Boulevard and Robertson, which yours truly happened to visit on a Monday morning.

The idea of Restoration Hardware, where I must have entered countless times but left with purchases on only two occasions, is to evoke a world of casual luxury, faux antique or, rather, old with many styles plucked from assorted 20th century decades. Many items can be found cheaper at less swanky locations (case in point, my kitchen hardware, which I first saw at RH and then found at half the price in a hardware store in the Valley – yes, exactly the same handles).

Like Ralph Lauren or Giorgio Armani, RH is trying to sell an image as well as a product. And even more so at the new two-level store, complete with backyard, where small objects have been done away with and furniture is assembled to recreate tasteful and seamlessly interchanging rooms.

There are no counters and no registers to be found. The associates lag their Apple laptops from raw linen-upholstered couch to raw linen-upholstered couch, with the customers uncomfortably perched on the edges. The whole mammoth blends in with the design showrooms that populate that particular stretch of Los Angeles.

The only concession to smallness is a tea corner, filled with bright yellow canisters containing loose leaves of tea blends concocted by a Greenpoint, NY Company called Bellocq. For less than $20 you can bring home some fragrant teas, after having tasted them there and then (check out www.bellocq.com).

The only thing I could afford at the new Restoration Hardware

The idea of using thick strands of rope to tie back curtains is a cheap one I might consider, if I ever put up some curtains. I also liked the enormous iron planter filled with large rocks and candles – an easy replica for my patio. I didn’t even bother checking the price tags of anything – I knew it was all beyond my Monday budget.

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