When it comes to kitchen tools, cookware, high-end bakeware, and flat-out classic inspiration for the kitchen and the table, Williams-Sonoma is in a class of its own.
Williams-Sonoma was started in 1956 in Northern California, and it eventually established its headquarters in San Francisco itself. The founder, Charles Williams, was an early innovator in retail strategy and branding for the home and kitchen. He talks about how he created an upscale store experience here, in a quote we found at Wikipedia:
Not many people in this country had seen some of the things we were selling, so I thought you should see each pan in the best possible way. I put them up on a shelf in size order, with all the handles facing the same way, ensuring that anyone walking in would see the display at its best angle. If somebody wanted to buy something, he had to ask me to get it for him, thus creating conversation. As in the upscale stores I had worked in, I tried to build the place so that it demanded that customers be served.
He created a high-end store experience that focused on graciousness and fine living, and to this day, every Williams-Sonoma store has that glowing feel of a well-polished kitchen and fine dining room. Whether this is to your preferred taste or not, Williams-Sonoma has really influenced American culture and style. They also carry that strong brand presence out through exclusive partnerships with established companies like KitchenAid, Nordicware, and All-Clad, offering exclusive products only in their stores and catalog.
Their online presence, Williams-Sonoma.com, carries that strong brand presence and high-end feel through as well, with fine photography, elegant presentation of their major brands, and many well-crafted recipes to demonstrate their cookware.
We find Williams-Sonoma expensive, but not always unduly so. We enjoy shopping in the stores and finding inspiration in the table settings and foods that they group together. We love browsing their website for seasonal inspiration as well.
Do you shop at Williams-Sonoma? What do you look for there?