About Town

Unveiling of the RH Tampa Gallery

A week or two ago I had the opportunity to attend the unveiling party of the new RH Tampa Gallery. The party was amazing, with hand passed appetizers, a wine bar, Peach Bellinis, and a vintage candy bar. They brought in a great Indi band, Larkin Poe to perform and had a DJ spinning tunes on another floor. Ok, I was impressed with the party, but honestly, I was more impressed with the new 60,000 square foot gallery. OMG…. swoon worthy, inspiration and gorgeous layouts forever.

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As you approach the space you’ll notice the big iron gates framing a courtyard in front of the main entrance. You’re greeted by a very open space with a furniture staged as welcoming living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Throughout the first floor they feature what they refer to as Restoration Hardware classic, or their standard transitional collection. Just opposite the entry is a grand staircase that takes you up through the three other floors, where you will see RH Modern, RH Baby & Child, RH Teen and then RH Outdoors. It’s amazing


The next day I was invited to attend the ribbon cutting and a press round table with their CEO. I had to laugh when their CEO, Gary Friedman, was relating the story of having contractors rip down a ceiling to move a light fixture a mere six inches. Most the crowd seemed to think it was overkill, but when it comes to impeccable design perfection is everything. If a fixture needs to be moved, it needs to be moved. Everything was in place and stunning to look at.

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I didn’t realize that they have 92 different leathers, and over 100 different fabrics. All of it was on display in their new Design Ateliers. Their design service is free, and you can bring your own designer, or work with one of theirs. It struck me though, that their colors all seem to coordinate with each other, as if their overall available scheme is limited to a few neutrals and not a lot of pops of color. RH_leathers

None of their stock is cash and carry. Each piece, from curtains to bedding to small accessories are ordered and shipped to you from the store. For me, if I buy towels I want to walk out of the store with them. Furniture, I understand has to be shipped. It’s a bit bulky unless it’s flat packed like Ikea, but then if that’s what you are looking for you won’t be at RH for it.

The grand staircase is breathtaking. As you stand on the first floor and look up, you’ll notice 23 identical chandeliers hung from the fourth floor down. It’s a sight to see. I tried to capture it, it just doesn’t do it justice though. It’s unfortunately a little blurry. It may have been the three glasses of wine I had before I realized the magnificent touch the chandeliers offer.


It was quite the experience.  RH Tampa is a great new gem for the city and surrounding areas. It’s nice to know with the housing market rebounding there will be a lot opportunity for RH.  I am sure I will be back there for a dose or two of inspiration…..






A Review: Phantom of the Opera

The Tampa area is fortunate to have many venues that bring in world class performances and Broadway caliber shows. The Straz Center is just one of them. For the past twenty years or so Straz Center  has been pulling in shows such as Wicked, The Book of Mormon,and Phantom of the Opera. It’s an amazing place to catch a show without traveling to New York.  We get over there as often as we can to see shows we love. Our favorite is Phantom of the Opera, running now through January 4th.
 This past Friday we were fortunate to have the chance to see the newly redesigned production of Phantom.  Cameron Mackintosh took the original Andrew Lloyd Weber score and redesigned the set and changed up the stage direction a bit too. I was anxious to see how he choose to retell the story.
One caveat before I voice my opinion about the changes,  we are hyper critical and have high standards of how we perceive Phantom ought to be executed. The story itself is difficult, one could call it an original horror story. There is a lot of tension, drama and torment within the story. For us, the best measure of a great production is one that balances the beauty of the music with the enormity of the emotion one would expect to feel. To accomplish this fete, the production ought to have a cast of seasoned musical thespians and the right level of special effects to convey the eeriness and horror of the story.
The music was amazing. It’s really hard to mess up the musical score with a full orchestra and highly talented vocalists. The Phantom was played by Chris Mann, a recent “The Voice” winner, so it’s assumed he can sing. The singing was all on par with what one would expect, but just because one can sing doesn’t mean one can act.  Mann didn’t bring the Phantom to life sufficiently for my liking. He needed to dig a little deeper to properly convey the anger the Phantom ought to feel. Afterall, he lives in the shadows and was abandoned by society.  One ought to have an hurtful and  mad at the world countenance with experiences such as that.
This production lost me with the poor acting and a less elaborate set design. The expected angst, and torment was missing from both Christine and the Phantom. The acting fell flat as they appeared to just get through the scene quickly and onto the next musical number. Each of the scenes sans music were missing the prerequisite emotion. The Phantom’s lines delivered from behind the stage and directed at Mr Andre and Mr Firmin were merely spoken, with no menacing inflection, or clearly conveyed threats.
The largest change was the set design.Rather than take up a large stage presence the show takes place inside a cylinder that moves, and opens for each of the scenes. I found it to be a unique way to stage the show but it inhibited a lot of the usual grand production techniques present in the original stage production. The use of dry ice was minimal, the chandelier was less impressive, the candles that rise from the floor were absent.
The scenes I found to be disappointing were the trip across the lake, the mirror scene and Masquerade.
The first time the audience sees the Phantom is when he appears from behind the mirror in Christine’s darkened dressing room.The scene should be intimate and filled with emotion. Instead the scene takes place in the shared dressing room of the ballet between the Phantom and Christine. The space is large, well lit and lacks the required intimacy.
The trip across the misty lake in the original was fraught with drama and suspense with candles rising from the floor and an abundance of dry ice wafting across the stage creating the illusion of a foggy night. In the redesign, it’s scaled back to where the illusion is lost. There are no candles, the dry ice is minimal and the fear that Christine is to feel is absent. The earlier production features cat walks that Phantom pulls her through to the waiting boat. In current tour, the catwalks are nonexistent, instead he leads her down the side of the cylinder and she willingly follows, lacking any fear of the disfigured man.
The most disappointing scene for me was Masquerade. Masquerade is a big production with elaborate costumes, and a stage filled with revelers. In this production, gone is the grand staircase, the elaborate costumes, and stage fillers with extras. The cast was in period dress as if they had just stepped in from the street and were handed a mask to wear. Rather than have the Phantom descend from the staircase dressed as red death, he appears from behind a mirror in a red cape and is less than menacing. It lacked grandeur and impending
doom one would except. A Phantom dressed in a red cape is not menacing at all, however dressed as Red Death he is much more ominous.
Yet, if I hadn’t had another production to compare this one too  I would have been in awe. Having seen the show many times, the changes that Cameron Mackintosh made just didn’t agree with me. Phantom is an elaborate production that was reduced down to a smaller more cost effective production. It truly appeared to be a low budget show. I can understand the need to reduce costs, but it would have been better to not to have skimped on the effects and sought out more seasoned actors too.  It wouldn’t take much to beef up the elements I wasn’t crazy about.
If you haven’t seen the show it is worth the trip into the city and the cost of a ticket. I know, I am a harsh critic, so don’t read too much into my opinion of the performance.
*note: I was gifted press tickets to attend the performance and write a review.

A Tampa Landmark: The Oxford Exchange

The other night I had the opportunity to visit a Tampa treasure, the Oxford Exchange with the Tampa Bay Bloggers group. The owners gave us to a private tour, introduced to us to their food offerings, and treated to a sampling of specialty tea and coffee blends paired with decadent chocolate. We also had the chance to shop.  I can’t possibly cover the entire night in one post, so here’s the first of a few.


The building that houses the OE was built in 1891 and was once a horse stable for the historic Plant Hotel. Over the years, it has been a series of offices for doctors and businesses alike. A few years ago, Tampa businessman Blake Casper, after a trip to London, realized Tampa could benefit from a unique place to shop, eat, work and play. He and a team of designers took the building and transformed it into an amazing location to provide Tampa with a one of kind location to gather with friends.

They completely restored the building, buying reclaimed wood for the restaurant floor, and salvaging bricks for the walls. The building’s architectural details were inspired by the dining halls at Oxford University, The Garrick Club and the Napoleon House to name a few.  The group of bloggers I was with all commented the building reminded them of their home cities. I felt it could be in the center of Boston while others felt the building was reminiscent of New York or San Francisco.


As you walk in the door, you can see from one end to the other. Your eye may fall on the shop in the front or the bookstore in the back with both filled with curated items from around the world. Walking from the front to the back, you walk through a wood paneled hallway with a barrel ceiling. The hallway empties into the coffee bar and tea bar with a sitting area featuring well-worn and comfortable Chesterfield couches. Stairs lead to the members only Commerce Club, featuring custom desks with leather tops, and gold toned desk lights. As I walked through the space, I could only imagine it as a boys club. I toyed with the idea of joining, just to be able to have a quiet welcoming place to create.


I loved the huge conference table. It was wood imported and sourced at High Point for this purpose.  Can you imagine negotiating a contract or hosting a board of directors meeting?


The other part of the club features an array of desks and tables to provide work spaces for members.  It’s complete with leather couches.

private_club_oeMy favorite piece though is the long piece of wood that washed ashore during the Thai Tsunami. Some one had the amazing insight to send the piece to High Point, where the interior designer spotted it and brought it back to the OE.


Saturday adventures….

I had the pleasure of  hanging out with a dear friend today.  The goal was to just have fun and if we found cool stuff while hitting the antique shops, thrift stores or any of the boutiques all the better.

We started off at one of my favorite thrift stores- The Homeless Emergency Project.  The proceeds go to serving the homeless population in Clearwater, a worthy cause to be sure.  It seems their donations of furniture come from an older population as it’s very dated, and not always in great condition. As with most thrift stores the selection is hit or miss.  Today was no different.  I did spot this wonderful bench, and toyed with the idea of redoing the seating and refreshing the look with new paint. In the end I nixed the idea, but may end up back there this week…..


From there it was off to lunch and wandering a few small town main streets.  If the day had been about shopping, it would have been a dismal failure, but our goal of just having fun was more than accomplished.

I was hoping to find a piece that would work as a bar or a fabulous entryway table.  Sadly, I had no luck.  But it was a great day!

On a recent to trip to HomeGoods…..

My nearest HomeGoods store is a bit of a trek. So yesterday I was thrilled to be running errands that would bring me close enough to stop by.  HomeGoods tends to source fabulous hard to find items are great prices. With that in mind I was fairly confident that I would find the silver picture frames I have been hunting for.

Sure enough I did.  I spotted three frames with different textural elements to them that keep the collection visually interesting.


While I was there, I thought I would see what else they had in store.

I can’t say I was surprised by this find. Elephants have been a popular motif for the past year or so and this one is probably the most unique one I have found. I love the use of burlap. It keeps it rustic and simple.


Next to it,  I spotted a horse decked out with string or yarn wrapped around it. The variation in color and folk art nature of the piece was pretty cool.  It would make a great statement piece in the right space.


Just to prove that last year’s color or the year was still here. I stumbled across this bold and colorful chair. The large orange floral print is amazing.  It would be fabulous in a monochromatic room in need of a punch of color.


So, what have you discovered at HomeGoods recently?