For the past three years, The Conservatory has been playing a game of retail musical chairs. The luxury, highly edited fashion and home goods store opened its first 400 square-foot Highland Park Village location back in September 2019. Then in 2020, Chanel paused its planned expansion on the second floor of the building, so The Conservatory, calling itself The Conservatory on Two, took over the spot in May 2020. The space was always going to be temporary, founder Brian Bolke says, only six months to a year, so when the unit right next door became available, “I jumped on it.”
The 9,000-square-foot space was supposed to be ready in August 2021, but construction was delayed because—natch—of supply chain issues until February 7.
Bolke says when he and his team first walked into the unfinished unit, he fell in love with the concrete floors, industrial ceilings, and exposed work. “It was so beautiful in its raw state,” he says, so he decided to work it into the design. But, for those who loved the temporary store, The Conservatory is still keeping its treehouse aesthetic, with lots of greenery, fine wood elements, light from the windows (that Bolke calls “the star of the show”), and treetop views.
With the old space, they just had work within the existing conditions, but building out the new unit, they’ve been able to customize as they please, Bolke says. “This the most fully formed vision of where the company started three years ago.”
There’s more breathing room, he explains, allowing The Conservatory to have broader, more intentional assortments of merchandise. They’ve expanded areas, like the book wall and home and apothecary, and added others, like a new shoe and handbag section.
When you step into the store (Bolke says its second-floor location forms more of a destination feel than the meandering window shopping down below), you’ll enter a large central aisle. You can’t see everything, as you could before, but “the space really unfolds as you go through it.”
Perhaps the biggest change to The Conservatory is the new Teak Tearoom, which opens February 23. According to Bolke, the tearoom is an evolution of the original T-Room at Forty Five Ten1, which closed back in 2018. The tearoom harkens back to the lavish in-store restaurants of the ‘40s and ‘50s, he says, which gives people a reason to come to The Conservatory and stay all day.
“I think it’s really about slowing down and having kind of a great moment and just giving another aspect to what we do,” he says.
The menu will be modest with “classic, easy, favorite dishes.” Think salads, sandwiches, and quiches. It’s not intended to be a Michelin-star joint. Bolke says, but there will be an emphasis on plating, freshness, the overall environment, and simple comfort food.
Overall, Bolke says he wants customers to find a sense of calm when they walk in, and perhaps a candle or piece of barware they’ll fall in love with. “What I hope happens here is that people discover what they didn’t know they wanted or needed.”