Williams-Sonoma, West Elm and Pottery Barn in Sydney

User-friendly kitchen products created by West Elm, one of the four Williams-Sonoma flagship brands coming to Australia.
America’s hottest homewares stores – Pottery Barn, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma – are headed for Australian shores.

When American kitchen and homewares retailer Williams-Sonoma announced that the first target of 
its global expansion program would be Australia, curiosity was piqued amid the flurry of excitement. Why, when 
so many retailers are hastily retreating online, would the big American establish a gleaming bricks- and-mortar showroom in Sydney’s Bondi Junction to house its distinct brands?

The story of how Williams-Sonoma has arrived 
on Australian shores has its genesis in Sydney itself, in 
the pages of magazines such as Vogue Living – and has run parallel with the brilliant careers of a sunny Sydneysider and a cook from Cootamundra.

Established in 1956 by the now 97-year-old Chuck Williams (who famously still goes into the company’s San Francisco HQ daily) in the Northern Californian wine country hamlet of Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma has grown from a single kitchen supplies store to become a major player, with divisions that cater to the desires of a wide swathe of aspirational America. When Williams-Sonoma takes possession of the newly constructed Exchange Building adjacent to Westfield Bondi Junction in early 2013, its four flagship brands will be under one roof: the food/entertaining emporium Williams-Sonoma, interior one-stop shop Pottery Barn, its junior, Pottery Barn Kids, and the affordable and contemporary-design-oriented West Elm.

Artisan-made embroidered cushions from Pottery Barn. Artisan-made embroidered cushions from Pottery Barn. 

Traditionally, Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn 
have been synonymous with a cosy homemaker aesthetic reminiscent of a Nancy Meyers film set – everything perfect and perfectly in its place. It would seem shrewd 
to question whether that very distinct American style would translate successfully to Australia, where a more individual and relaxed approach exists around living 
well – but Williams-Sonoma appears to be embracing 
exactly those values by employing the expertise of two knowledgeable Australians, Vanessa Holden and Anna 
Last. These former magazine editors have helped shape an approach to lifestyle that has become globally influential.

Lustrous glass vases from Pottery Barn.

Both began their careers at Vogue Entertaining + Travel 
in Australia. When Joan Campbell, the magazine’s legendary food editor, died in 2008, obituaries in newspapers around the world spoke of the magazine that she headed as part 
of a formidable troika with her daughter Sue Fairlie-Cuninghame and editor Sharyn Storrier Lyneham. The publication simultaneously conveyed the aspirational and the achievable via sophisticated storytelling and a fresh, light-drenched photographic style that “exported Australian lifestyle to the world”, as Monocle’s founder Tyler Brulé once said.

A decade earlier, Holden, raised in coastal Sydney, was an art director on Vogue Entertaining + Travel as Last, a country cook from outside Cootamundra in south-western New South Wales, worked her way up from being an assistant on photo shoots to various editorial positions. “Looking back, we were extremely forward-thinking,” says Holden. “We showed people how you could live in a beautiful way.”

Holden and food stylist Donna Hay later co-founded Donna Hay magazine. 
In 2003, Holden moved to New York and worked for Real Simple before taking the 
reins of Martha Stewart Weddings, only to be quickly elevated to editor-in-chief of the jewel in the empire’s crown, Martha Stewart Living. The similarities between Holden’s and Last’s careers are striking. After many years with Vogue Entertaining + Travel and 
as a freelance stylist, Last also made the move to New York and eventually became 
editor of Stewart’s family-friendly recipe magazine Everyday Food.

William-Sonoma's Anna Last

It made perfect sense that a retailer such as Williams-Sonoma, Inc., invested in capturing exactly those mercurial aspirations, would lead these two women away 
from publishing. In early 2011, Holden, a busy young mother with a sunny disposition, eclectic taste and a seemingly endless curiosity and enthusiasm, became the creative director of West Elm. In the short time since, her unmistakable visual signature is everywhere. West Elm’s youthful and global aesthetic is also reflected in its much-lauded collaboration with online retailer Etsy, where it celebrates and sells the wares of local artisans, and also its successful leveraging of social media platforms such as Pinterest.

If Holden is the perfect ambassador for West Elm, then Last, an elegant entertainer with serious cooking chops, is the same for Williams-Sonoma. While she is the more recent addition to the fold, it’s a fair bet that her simple sophistication will take the 
brand in a direction that both retains its historic lustre and inspires new customers.

Comfortable and contemporary family-room homewares from West Elm.Comfortable and contemporary family-room homewares from West Elm.

Heading up the company’s best-known offering, Pottery Barn, is executive vice president of product development Monica Barghava, who has similarly taken it in
a looser direction which encourages the layering of pieces and styles rather than replicating a store-bought look. Barghava promises that Pottery Barn will offer another experience to the Australian customer, with exclusive products at competitive prices. “The style is very global,” she says “and we feel Australians will respond to that.”
Whether it’s in the form of a couch from the comfortable suburban opulence of Pottery Barn, the covetable and quirky details for the home at West Elm or a skills 
class at the Williams-Sonoma cooking school, the company’s arrival is set to offer 
a fresh, complementary addition to the Australian approach to lifestyle. As Last says, 
on returning to Sydney, “It feels like it has all come full circle.” 

Originally published in Vogue Living Nov/Dec 2012. For more information on Pottery Barn, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma, visit 
potterybarn.com, westelm.com and williams-sonoma.com.

Text: David Prior
Photographs: Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Jason Busch

10 Responses to “Williams-Sonoma, West Elm and Pottery Barn in Sydney”
  1. Jade Spadina says:

    Looking forward to seeing some of these beautiful homeware on our shores.

  2. Sophie says:

    Finally! My suitcases will be lighter now when I come back from the US!

  3. thevelvetdoe says:

    This is the most exciting news this year!!

  4. Denise Lee says:

    What is the anticipated opening date? I’m coming to Sydney from Brisbane (I was raised in Bondi Junction) mid-Feb 2013……..I will be there when it does!

  5. Hi just wondering when the planned date for the opening is? It’s such exciting news just about to move house so this is excellent news!!!

  6. Sarah says:

    Does anyone know exactly when they are opening?

  7. Vogue Living says:

    We’re delighted to report that, according to The Interiors Addict, the stores (should) be opening in Bondi in May!

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