It’s cool that Williams Sonoma is back in Sonoma.
The new landmark Williams-Sonoma store is part retail store and part museum, located in the exact spot that housed the original, a house that transformed American cooking in many ways.
It’s a tribute to Chuck Williams and the Williams-Sonoma lifestyle experience.
After operating a hardware store, Williams opened Williams-Sonoma in 1956, selling French kitchenware. He lived behind the original house with his mother. He relocated to San Francisco in 1958. He’s 99 now and going strong: the opening of the new store coincided with his birthday.
The new store is a shrine to American ingenuity, to a guy who saw the world the way we use it now, starting in the 1950s, when America was eating frozen dinners. Williams recognized a whole beautiful world of food that America hadn’t caught onto at the time. Now Williams-Sonoma is a $4 billion company.
The original sign from 1956 is hanging in front. The original door is still in place. There’s a lovely garden space and outdoor cooking area in the back.
Here are a few pictures I took during the pre-opening reception and birthday celebration:
Check out Chuck’s desk calendar from 1958.
Monica Bhargava, who heads the design team for Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, said that while there are many modern furnishings in the Williams-Sonoma home catalog,the team was cautious not to infuse that into the house. The upstairs bedroom includes classics such as the Bedford sofa, Atherton chair, and the La Courte Upright Desk. There’s a natural feel that comes across in the choice of linens, hand-mounted rugs, signature cowhide, leather and suede that the company is known for. The design team went for a very neutral color palate of linens. “We wanted it to feel more like Chuck,” Bhargava said. “We went back to his roots as we were looking for things.”
“Comfort is the biggest luxury,” Bhargava said. “If you’re not comfortable what’s the point of all the fancy stuff?”