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How to Take a Company to New Heights

For Gary Friedman, the visionary behind America’s leading purveyor of tasteful decor, failure is never an option

“What’s successful today is not necessarily successful tomorrow,” says Gary Friedman, the chairman and CEO of RH. “So it’s more in the journey than it is where we land.”

Given the hockey-stick growth trajectory of the home-furnishings company formerly known as Restoration Hardware, whose new-antique aesthetic is adored by everyone from baristas to billionaires, Friedman could easily coast. But the 58-year-old California native, who made his way from community college and a stock-room job at the Gap to the helm of a corporation valued at over $2 billion, is incapable of resting on his laurels. 

Friedman, instantly recognizable for his salt-and-pepper mane and pearly whites, constantly challenges himself, even when brushing his teeth. Above his bathroom sink, a small metal plate reads, “What would you attempt to do today if you knew you could not fail?”

One way he’s answered that question is with the launch of RH Modern this fall. The offshoot’s product line, “Where less is more and minimal is magnified,” includes pieces created by an impressive roster of international designers. While department stores around the country are closing their doors, victims of the shift toward online consumption, Friedman is running in the other direction, adding brick-and-mortar outposts at a breakneck pace. In its inaugural year, RH Modern will cut the ribbon on 120,000 square feet of new retail space—in addition to introducing its own 300-page catalogue and a dedicated website.

“We’re taught from the time we’re born not only to conform, but also not to take risks,” says Friedman. “Everything worth doing has some level of risk and some level of adventure. And I think I’m just in the early innings of learning to use my brain.”