CORTE MADERA, Calif. — Gary Friedman is returning as chairman and co-CEO at Restoration Hardware, less than a year after stepping aside, as the home products chain buys his new venture, a company called Hierarchy.

In August 2012 the New York Times had reported that Restoration Hardware's board found that Friedman had an inappropriate relationship with a former employee.

The company could not be reached at the time and declined to comment Wednesday.

Friedman started Hierarchy that month and was given a title of Chairman Emeritus, Creator and Curator at Restoration Hardware. He left as co-CEO and Chairman of Corte Madera, Calif.-based Restoration Hardware in October.

Friedman had been CEO since 2001. He's once again co-CEO alongside Carlos Alberini, who was brought on board in 2010.

Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc. is tapping Friedman as it restyles itself as "RH," focusing on high-end furnishings rather than its Americana, nostalgia-based roots. His return is effective Wednesday.

The company, which went public in November, is several years into a turnaround. It was losing money when it was bought by a private equity firm in in 2008. Since then the chain has redesigned stores, revamped its product line and focused on a higher-end market.

It's purchased the exclusive right to develop Friedman's Hierarchy venture and will rebrand it as RH Atelier, developing luxury clothing, accessories, shoes and jewelry. RH Atelier, which will be based in New York, will have its own catalog. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Restoration Hardware is also expanding into other businesses. It plans to start RH Kitchen and Tableware and RH Antiquities late next year. RH Kitchen will concentrate on kitchen furniture, appliances, lighting, cookware, tools, and food. The antiquities business aims to serve the needs of shoppers looking for antiques.

The stock rose 50 cents to close at $75.93 Wednesday.