51 Sleeper Street
Boston, MA 02210
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Sometimes the past and the present come together in a way that reveals a beautiful new future.

Anchoring a block in Boston’s Back Bay, the Boston Society of Natural History building – known over the years to Bostonians as the Bonwit Teller building and later LouisBoston  – had been renovated so many times that its original 1863 neoclassical grandeur was lost under layers of drywall.

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The building’s four tenants: Boston Museum of Natural History (1863 – 1946), Bonwit Teller (1947 – 1989), Louis of Boston (1989 – 2009), and now, RH Boston (2013 – today).

RH – the lifestyle brand formerly known as Restoration Hardware – sensed the potential for this historic landmark to become the perfect setting in which to experience the full breadth of its luxurious home furnishings. RH’s brand combines tradition with modernity to create an environment filled with balance, symmetry, and exquisite proportion.

Existing photos and construction photos of the central atrium space

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An existing three story central atrium was significantly enlarged and anchored by a new custom glass and steel traction elevator. A new glass and steel entry pavilion redefined the building’s entry axis, connecting it to pedestrian traffic on Newbury Street. Historic plaster, millwork, and steel details were painstakingly restored or recreated. Wall, ceiling, and decorative surfaces were coated with a warm sheen of neutral gray and charcoal to complement the true focus of the store: the product.

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To showcase this brand in Boston, the building was restored, reclaimed and transformed into the Gallery at the Boston Society for Natural History. Bergmeyer was part of a collaborative, multi-office design team that used bold architectural moves to redesign four levels of retail sales into uniquely merchandised galleries.

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Beyond a place to simply sell furniture, RH Boston created an immersive environment that showcases their evolution from a hardware retailer to a luxury home-decor lifestyle brand. This evolution became expressly evident in the creation of dramatic museum-scaled vignettes communicating the brand’s perspective on the importance of a life filled with balance, symmetry, and proportion. The design team’s work emphasized celebrating the building’s historic character while introducing new architectural elements with simplicity and restraint.

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In this environment, RH eliminated the need for traditional retail fixtures by showcasing product through artistic vignettes. Smaller items, such as linens and tableware, are displayed in use rather than en masse.

The Details

  • Collaborators
    • Backen Gillam Architects
    • Copley Wolff Design Group
    • McNamara Salvia
    • R.W. Sullivan
    • Ross De Alessi Lighting Design
    • Trainor Commercial Construction
  • Photographers
    • Flagship Photo / Gustav Hoiland
  • Awards
    • RDI First Place for Hard Line Specialty Store
    • RDI Innovation Award for Store Planning
    • IIDA New England Best Retail Design
    • ARE Store of the Year
    • ARE Grand Prize for Specialty Store over 25,000 sf
    • Boston Preservation Alliance - Preservation Achievement Award

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