By Matt Stewart | November 5, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
Long and vacant and now revitalized, the Gold Coast's landmark Three Arts Club starts a new chapter as the grand Chicago flagship of RH.
RH Chicago, The Gallery at the Three Arts Club preserves the landmark building’s exterior while adding contemporary touches, such as the glass-and-steel-covered courtyard housing Brendan Sodikoff’s 3 Arts Club Cafe.
Restoring and repurposing historic buildings has become a passion for Gary Friedman, chairman and CEO of RH (formerly Restoration Hardware). In 2013, following a painstaking 15-month makeover, RH unveiled its stunning Boston location in the former Museum of Natural History, while in 2014 the company breathed new life into the grandeur of Greenwich, Connecticut’s former main post office. So it’s no surprise that for its new Chicago outpost, RH chose one of the city’s most architecturally and socially significant structures: the 70,000-square-foot Three Arts Club building at 1300 North Dearborn Street, which opened to great fanfare last month as RH Chicago, The Gallery at the Three Arts Club.
Designed a century ago by John Holabird, of the distinguished Chicago architectural firm Holabird and Roche, the club provided a residence and creative haven for generations of young women involved in the “three arts”: painting, music, and drama. The building received Chicago landmark status in 1981 but closed in 2003 and had stood vacant until Friedman came upon it a decade later. “We made several visits to Chicago,” says Friedman of the company’s search for the right space for its new RH Gallery, “but we didn’t land on a location we really loved. On our last trip [we] spent the day going around to different locations in Chicago, but nothing felt right. About an hour before our fight, I asked to take a look at the Three Arts Club. I remember driving up to that beautiful building, and I said, ‘This is it.’”
Once the decision was made, Jim Gillam, a principal and founding partner at the firm Backen, Gillam and Kroeger Architects and the lead designer for all RH projects, stepped in. “This building is very unique and historically important, particularly in its Gold Coast neighborhood,” says Gillam. “In terms of preserving what was there and was important to the people who lived there over the years, I think if they were to come back and see the building now, they would be very pleased—not just in terms of keeping and restoring the most important parts of the architecture and the interior spaces, but also reclaiming, mainly the courtyard.”
Among the myriad challenges he faced in restoring the building, turning its central courtyard into vital, usable space was particularly formidable. “The courtyard was an open plan that I wanted to cover with a glass structure three or four stories high to create a true conservatory,” Gillam says. “Gary latched right on to the idea of reclaiming it for year-round use, but when we got involved with [the Commission on Chicago Landmarks], we discovered that we needed to reduce its height, so it became a two-story volume, which is probably much more appropriate than what we started with. It looks gorgeous.”
In its new life as Chicago’s RH flagship, the reimagined Three Arts Club building lends its charm not only to the brand’s many retail segments—including its new Modern Collection, featuring contemporary fixtures and furnishings; RH Teen and RH Baby & Child; the Ben Soleimani Rug Showroom; and the RH Design Atelier—but also to several arts spaces that should make the building a magnetic gathering spot for Gold Coast residents.
The 11,000-square-foot exhibition space on level four features the frst in-gallery presentation of RH Modern.
“I think opening this location within a residential neighborhood is the biggest risk we’ve ever taken from a business point of view,” Friedman says. “But it’s a great building with a unique connection to its neighborhood that allowed us to create a true destination for Chicagoans and bring the arts back to it, with the inclusion of an RH Contemporary Art Gallery that will feature emerging artists we work with from around the world, as well as a strong connection to the culinary arts through a café we’re doing with Brendan Sodikoff, and reviving the building’s stage by creating a lounge that will host live performances.”
Another attraction is the 8,000-square-foot rooftop green space, which includes a glass and steel structure that will showcase the brand’s outdoor furnishings in a garden of banana palms, sculptural evergreens, and succulents. “Street level-to-roof sight lines were a great challenge with the Landmarks group,” Gillam says of the rooftop renovation. “We made a very conscious effort to achieve our goals for the roof without altering the look of the building from the street.”
Whether to purchase furnishings for your home, grab a bite at the café, attend an exhibit at the art gallery, or explore the splendid rehabilitation of this grand old building, RH Chicago, The Gallery at the Three Arts Club offers multiple reasons to visit this corner of the Gold Coast. “I think risk-taking brings out the best in people,” Friedman says. “It made us bring our A-game to the Three Arts Club, and the results are stunning.” 1300 N. Dearborn St., 312-475-9116
PhotograPhy by Mark hug/Courtesy of rh