Challenge Breeds Opportunity: The RH and John Michael Collaboration

The climate surrounding the debut of Restoration Hardware’s flagship NYC showroom was uncertain at best.

 In late 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was still at its apex, with both mask mandates and indoor attendance restrictions still heavily enforced. 

Working in accordance with the State of New York, Restoration Hardware had to quickly pivot to a living, breathing outdoor restaurant space that still preserved the luxury associated with their brand. All the while accounting for the unyielding weather conditions of an 8th floor NYC rooftop location that was to be the centerpiece.

Multiple outdoor living companies were vetted by RH, with none having the ability to accommodate this innovative request. 

Then Restoration Hardware discovered John Michael.

“Having one of the world’s largest design companies approach you with such a unique concept was certainly intimidating,” said Michael Sloan, owner and co-founder of John Michael. “To have our product in their flagship store, showing off our aesthetic but still blending into their exquisite space was the key challenge.”

“However, durability is our brand. In the end, the project was no different that what we do every day.”

Challenge is a recurring theme in the story of John Michael. It is also essential when documenting each new innovative creation that leaves the John Michael production facility. 

Such was the case when Restoration Hardware presented this new challenge to the John Michael team towards the end of the 2020 calendar year.

It was to become the rooftop project at Restoration Hardware’s NYC showroom, located in the Meatpacking District. 

“RH came to us wanting multiple functional components in a compact cabinetry space, while still making the finished project look beautiful,” said Amanda Lardie, senior designer at John Michael who helped bring the project to life.

“Most clients don’t ask for this level of customization. But when we’re tasked to do something like this, we always find a way to get it done.” 

The sticking point for RH was the integration of their Point-of-Sale (POS) system into the cabinetry itself. The Restoration Hardware POS system included CPU registration, a receipt printer and debit card keypad. To maintain functionality in a fast-moving restaurant environment, the components of the POS system had to be maintained at a consistent temperature at all times. 

How could this be accomplished without compromising the visual integrity of the kitchen as a whole?

“We had to show RH not just the outside aesthetic of the project, but the internal structure as well,” Lardie said. “They had to be assured that our capabilities matched exactly what they wanted, and that there was a purpose for every single piece we were using. That was the most important and challenging part.” 

To keep the innerworkings at a consistent temperature, the POS systems were integrated into the top right drawer. A system of six different fans was devised by John Michael Director of Product Development Joe Wiley, which was crafted for a singular purpose: To pull hot air out of the drawer and push cool air inwards. 

The fans worked in concert with a custom-built ventilation system, which pulled air through the toe kicks and pushed air out of the back of the cabinetry. Wiley also converted the drawer space into a “smart cabinet,” which electronically regulated the temperature to keep all components at optimal performance.  

An RH prototype was designed, manufactured and built at the John Michael production headquarters in Chester, South Carolina. After much trial-and-error, Wiley and the engineering team were able to achieve consistent performance across the board. 

To accommodate the RH serving staff, weatherproof lighting was incorporated into each cabinet drawer, allowing for full visibility during the evening dinner rush. And finally, the entire cabinet run was powder coated in full bleed Matte Black, inside and out. 

The Matte Black used on the RH rooftop project is now the standard moving forward for this color selection.

“The powder coat we used for this project has a slight texture to it,” Lardie said. “We needed something more rugged for a unique outdoor environment like the rooftop. The texture shows less fingerprints and dirt, and wears far better with continued use. It’s what we’ve used ever since.” 

The finished product debuted in July of 2021, and has since become a focal point for both visitors of the NYC location and the capabilities of John Michael. Anticipation remains that this will be the first of several John Michael/Restoration Hardware collaborations at RH showrooms across the world.

For Sloan, the RH rooftop project is yet another example of how John Michael rises to the occasion of each new challenge presented to them.

“It solidified our ability to think outside the box and fill a crucial need,” Sloan said. “We crafted a solution that nobody was able to do, while still maintaining a design-forward thought process. This project was one of our greatest accomplishments.” 






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