Around Town:: Hudson Grace
Hudson Grace is that gem of a store that makes you want to throw an impromptu dinner party upon walking through the door. Owners Monelle Totah and Gary McNatton have managed to turn a shared dream of owning their own shop into a successful reality. Monelle brings extensive retail expertise in home and tabletop development for Williams-Sonoma and Banana Republic. Gary is an award winning product, packaging and fragrance designer for clients including Gap, Banana Republic and Restoration Hardware. The store blends simple design with the beautiful quality of European craftsmanship. We were able to spend some time with both Monelle and Gary and get some more background on this gorgeous store, how it all started and what’s in store for the future.
What inspired you both to open Hudson Grace?
HG: The love we both have for retail, entertaining and home. We wanted to do a retail concept without the corporate compromise. We both come form big retail and vowed that someday we will do a retail concept our way.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you met.
Gary: I have been a product designer my entire life … I developed a specialty for creating fragrance and packaging. I owned a small design firm named Motturaa in LA many year ago, I created a line of fragrances that took off big in a short period of time. Gap’s Mickey Drexler noticed me and purchased my company and me. I joined Gap Inc and became their fragrance Guru for their brands creating the scents Heave, Grass, Dream, Om, M, W and Classic to name a few. I then was asked to work on the development of a home concept for Banana Republic from the San Francisco offices. That’s when Monelle came into my life and we both fell in love with the Banana Republic Home project. Monelle and I promised each other that we would do home one day for ourselves and there you have it.
Monelle: I have been in retail and home product design my entire career, starting at Williams Sonoma launching the Chambers catalog along side Chuck Williams – an incredible opportunity. I was VP of design for Williams Sonoma Home as well as WS tabletop. As Gary said we met while working on Banana Republic Home for 4 years and have been dear friends ever since who both share an incredible passion for product.
How is Hudson Grace different from other home décor stores, what makes you stand out?
HG: We are very edited, we both have a long history in home products and design. I think the main thing is we are authentic in our product selection. We like the original, made in Europe, made in natural materials and most importantly with a simple silhouette. Simple honest design has the ability to work in a stark modern home or a comfy country cottage. That really is the secret to how we select a product. Simple form and shape, we are not really interested in trends, but looking for honest function. Can it stand alone, does it please the eye. Does it touch our senses? We like the real deal, the origin, quality first and price is justified if quality is there. Of course we care about price but quality and design are what attracts us to a concept, an idea …. quality, original, long lasting design equates price.
We are seeing a pull towards quality, craftsmanship, less is more…how have you incorporated this into Hudson Grace’s philosophy?
HG: We believe that quality always endures.
Your mix of designers you showcase is amazing, how do you choose what you will carry in your shop and what makes a good fit for Hudson Grace?
Monelle: Simple … would we use it in our home? Funny, but most of the product we carry at HG are things that we have had in our homes for years and we sought them out to find the product in their origin and are bringing them into our retail shop. Also we both like to laugh and have fun … we love product that makes you smile.
Gary: Product that has a touch of wit … we both laugh because I have become the buyer of oddities. It keeps it interesting and fun.
What has surprised you the most about opening your shop?
HG: How much work it is, how much fun it is and how wonderful our clients are. They make it all worth while.
What is a “Hudson Grace” staple item that everyone must have?
Gary: Our everyday wine glass. It is small and sturdy. It reminds us of a glass that would appear at your table in a restaurant in France or Italy when you order the house wine. It is also how we both like to drink wine in our homes … form a short fat glass with a beautiful soft lip. It feels good in the hand and feels wonderful on the mouth.
Monelle: Our washable linen napkins – we make and dye them here in SF and worked with a dye master to curate the assortment of colors.
The perfect hostess gift I like to give is….?
Gary: Scent … a beautiful candle in a scent that the receiver would never expect or buy for themselves. Of course scent is a passion of mine
Monelle: a wonderful book
Currently coveting right now?
Gary: For me now and always it would be big dramatic Black & White photography.
Monelle: I have a passion for glassware, our belguin hand blown glassware is too fabulous!
What is your favorite décor trend right now?
Gary: Modern mixed with vintage … they play off each other so well.
Monelle: Bringing casual entertaining into other rooms of the home, inside and out
What is the future plan for Hudson Grace?
HG: We open our second store in Marin on Oct 3rd at the Marin Country Mart in Larkspur. Well I guess we just officially made an announcement!
Monelle Totah and Gary McNatton at their Sacramento Street Store
Gary: Gio Ponte, Richard Myers … always and the Italian industrial designers from the 80′s.
Monelle: Darryl Carter for his perfect use of white and mix of materials, and lately I am loving LA designer Hillary Thomas for her playful use of color.
Gary: Simple classic
Monelle: Eclectic elegance
Home Décor Aesthetic:
Gary: Modern and minimal with a touch of patina.
Monelle: Casual european
Monelle: French fries
Motto You Live By:
Gary: In simplicity there is longevity
Monelle: Cooking and love must be done with abandon or not at all
Gary: Farmshop – MCM
Monelle: Flour + Water
What you can’t part with in your home:
Gary: oversized flea market silverplate flatware
Monelle: my collection of monogrammed silver cups from each visit (I have over 30)
Favorite latest purchase:
Gary: A big black upholstered bed
Monelle: A vintage linen chair (from our last paris trip)
Make sure to visit our Facebook page for more outtakes and behind the scene photos from our shoot.
While you are there, make sure to “like” us as well!
3350 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tel 415 440 7400