getting fancy: home decor shops in los angeles

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Snapped at Proof Bakery in Atwater Village. Their sandwiches are Nicole Kidman to-die-for levels. 

Last week, I told an old friend that the only way I’m leaving Los Angeles is in a body bag. It’s morbid, but sometimes the extreme makes an impression. Two years ago, I told everyone I knew that I was moving across the country because I wanted physical and geographic space. Part of me wondered if I would love the place I’d always liked visiting. I don’t drive or have a license–will not having a car in a city defined by its freeways and car culture be a problem? (No.) Would I fall into the caricature my east coast friends worried about? (No.) Would I miss the seasons? (No, but I sure do miss the rain.)

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 15 months and my only regret is that I didn’t move here sooner. I spent the first year living on the Westside, in Santa Monica, because I always wanted to live by water. Although it’s a beautiful, walkable city, it’s crazy expensive (think New York rents) and not particularly convenient. I’ve learned that if you don’t live within a 5-mile radius of someone, seeing people can become a challenge, especially when it can sometimes take 2 hours to travel 12 miles. Most of my friends live in mid-city or east, and most of my doctors are in Beverly Hills, so I’d sometimes sit in a car for 45 minutes en route to a check-up. But I digress.

I’ve lived in New York all of my life and its compact, navigable. Once you know New York, you know it, and I’ve become one of my generations that lamented the New York of their childhood. Now, the city feels like a whitewashed episode of a fancy television show–all expensive shops and heels on cobblestone. Even the places in Brooklyn where I knew as a child have become one line of Starbucks, yoga studios, and long-term tourists. I know these are sweeping generalizations, but it’s been hard to see the loss of a city’s character. Soho turned into a shopping mall. Mom and pop shops replaced by H&M. And while L.A. has its own gentrification issues (hello, Downtown?), it seems larger than New York with neighborhoods completely untouched. I think people have a certain impression of L.A. because of West Hollywood, Venice, and Santa Monica, but it’s more than that (god, I sound like an infomercial). There’s so much to see, so much to do. A few months ago, I traveled to The Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, and I felt as if I was in another country. The museums are incredible, so much so that I became a LACMA member after the Guillermo del Toro exhibit. I’ve seen authors read downtown and in Silverlake. I’ve seen local artist exhibitions so far east it took me 90 minutes to get home, and a new friend of mine composes poems for outdoor operas.  Perhaps everything still feels new and I’m that long-term tourist, but every weekend is a new adventure here, a new village to suss out, new burger joints and taco stands to test out.

Insert segue.

Much of my work this year has revolved around creating visual stories for brands, which is a fancy way of saying I help brands architect and tell their story in a way that doesn’t sound contrived and cuts through the clutter. I only work with brands I believe in and people who view our relationship as a true partnership rather than a vendor assigned a PO, and I’ve been privileged to meet (and learn from) some extraordinarily talented people. I’ve also moved apartments (that cost of living thing), and since I spend a great deal of time at home, working, I want to make the space as inviting as it can be. That means going to flea markets and sales (hello, Pasadena!), as well as visiting some fancy shops to window-shop and sometimes buy items for my client shoots or for my home. I’ve rounded up some of the places I’ve been recently, and know this is an ongoing list since there are far more places to see!

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I found Midland on Instagram, and the carefully curated shop in Culver City lives up to the photographs. The two owners were event planners and after sourcing one-of-a-kind and local artist-created pieces for their clients, they decided to open a shop offering their finds. The shop is small but impeccably edited and styled. You’ll find handmade ceramics and delicate jewelry alongside flowy dresses, hard-to-find perfumes, and soaps, salts, books, toys, and Turkish towels. I tried the perfume snapped above, and I didn’t think it was “me” until I found myself sniffing my rest every few minutes and I decided to go back and pick up a scent that few others have — a mix of tobacco, bourbon, and roses.

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Another shop I found via Instagram was Rolling Greens Nursery, and my god, this place is beautiful. The above shot doesn’t do it justice. Here, you’ll find artists who offer up tailored real and faux arrangements for your home, a vast selection of greenery, as well as an abundant shop of cookbooks, ceramics, perfumes, candles, textiles, and decorations you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. I haven’t had a Christmas tree for most of my adult life, but I started investing in ornaments and seasonal decorations to make my home a little warmer this holiday season (supplementing my finds with tons of great stuff I scored at Target!)

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I’ve only just discovered DTLA Art’s District (perhaps because downtown reminds me of Dumbo and going there hasn’t really been my thing), but one of the greatest spots I found was Guerilla Atelier (above snap)–a cabinet of curiosities. From their website:

Juxtaposing exclusive hand crafted brands with the beauty and rawness of a 1920s warehouse, there is the distinct feeling of being in an intimate old world Paris salon rather than a traditional retail space.

I was privileged enough to meet the charming owner, who loves the macabre as much as I do. He’s stocked the space with well-known and obscure items, and the finest collection of Taschen books I’ve seen. My greatest find was the
Dalí cookbook, which has only recently resurfaced in print. You’ll easily spend an hour paging through their incredible display of coffee table books, each adorned with a glove for browsing pages. 

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If you’re an avid collector of vintage and minimalist furnishings and decor, you will love Hammer & Spear (above three photos). Also located in the Art’s District, but a little out of the way from the slew of shops and open-air markets, you feel a sense of warmth and coziness as soon as you enter the space. While the rich, dark hues just against my predilection for a lighter, cooler palette (I felt as if I needed a smoking jacket and a roaring fire), I loved their collection of writing tools (notebooks, pens, and other accouterments) and I fawned over their uber-pricey rug collection (I don’t think I’d ever spend five figures on a rug but to each their own). I did take home a reindeer hide, which was sustainably sourced from Finland (akin to leather, they used all of the reindeer as opposed to harvesting from farms), as well as a few ceramic mugs for a friend. 

Other favorites in DTLA include Alchemy Works & Poketo (two snaps, below). I just scored The Gentlewoman issue with Zadie Smith on the cover at the Culver City Poketo, and I’m still shaking.

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Possibly one of the fanciest home decor shops I’ve visited was Apartment at The Line (see below for bathroom #goals). Located amidst the trendy, upscales shops on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, the two-room shop perched above street level, styled as an apartment, may burn bonfires in your wallet, but it’ll give you smart home decor ideas. From bath oils, soaps, perfumes and bath and body to modernist furniture and tailored clothing (think Pragmatic, Alexander Wang, etc), if you are a minimalist at heart (raises hand), you will love this space. They have a sale going on, so if you have the cash money, live your life. I’ll be paying down my credit card debt over here.

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Do you have any favorite spots in Los Angeles? Great flea markets and small shops? Let me know as I’m always in the market for discovery. 

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finally…doughnuts + some happy bits

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For the first time in three months, I had a week where I didn’t want to lie down on the bathroom floor and count the tiles. I consider this progress. I took a few new business calls, cleaned my apartment, submitted a draft manuscript of my new story collection to my agent, I contemplated getting a tree but settled on a string of lights for my patio, read three books, and resumed spending time with old friends + planning new friend dates. Yesterday I went spinning with an old friend and former coworker, and after class, she pulled a doughnut out of her bag and confessed that she got into Santa Monica early just to pick up a Sidecar Doughnut and did I want to stop by for firsts and seconds?

Obviously, we went. And we went hard.

As you know, my love for the doughnut knows no bounds. I remember spending one day on a self-designed doughnut crawl across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and was so cracked out on sugar I was catatonic. And although I can’t go crazy with the gluten (see last year’s plague of burning hives + the steroids that made me hallucinate and vomit into garbage pails in the middle of the night, but I digress), I’ve allowed myself one strong gluten situation a week. It’s usually bread as I’m not into pasta as much as I used to be, and I’m now of the philosophy that if I’m going to hoover a bowl of fettuccine, it better be fresh, homemade, and weep-into-my-bowl good. Yesterday, I savored a cinnamon cake doughnut and made no qualms about accepting free, hot samples, and you need to know that these are the best doughnuts I’ve had in my LIFE. So much so that I’m writing a whole ode to a doughnut joint that has two locations in California.

Real truth.

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I love these doughnuts because they’re yeasty so you’re not getting a heavy cake batter bomb, rather you’re enjoying a light, airy pastry that has a bit of a crunch, but it’s feather-light. The toppings are pretty extraordinary, and the time that my friend and I stopped by in the morning, we saw a guy frying up a huge pan of bacon for one of the doughnut toppings. BLESS. All ingredients are local or organic, and the flavors are thoughtful, ingenious and creative. I tried the huckleberry (with berries straight from Seattle), butter/salt, apple fritter (that tasted like a croissant with an apple caramel glaze!) and a Hawaiian blend that oozed cream.

Tears. If you ever find yourself in Los Angeles, run, don’t walk, to Sidecar. I’m giving you gospel here.

[Cough. Insert segue.]

Tonight I was texting my friend Joanna about our cats and how I tend to abhor home decor books. I used to be into the Shabby Chic aesthetic until I realized I loathe pink and don’t have an interest in frills or antiquing, and most books tend to be poorly written and offer homes/solutions that are unrealistic for my taste and budget. Home decor books occupy a space on my shelf that is barely touched or referenced, and I have a hard time getting rid of my collection because I spent so much damn money on it.

Not so with Anne Sage’s Sage Living. Anne + I have a friend in common, and we’ve traded emails on occasion, but I was really taken with her recent interview–so much so that I paused my home decor book fatwa and ordered her book. Although I couldn’t relate to having the financial support of a family or a spouse (I’ve pretty much been self-sufficient from birth), I do know what it feels like to have your life uprooted and upended and having your art be the thing that pulls you through that dark country. I admired her candor and her willingness to own her privilege, and how she was able to reshape a dark time to create something that would yield joy and a sense of home for others. In her book, she enters rooms across the country and offers a nice cross-section of styles + aesthetics. The owners are not interior designers but people who have made their spaces in a reflection of the lives they desire for themselves. The stories, balanced with Sage’s practical advice, gives the book a warmth and depth that is missing from most home books I’ve encountered. It’s empowered me to revisit my space and re-affirm that it’s my creative sanctuary. It’s re-affirmed my desire for owning nothing extraneous, to only possess only that which is necessary and adored.

On an unrelated note, I snapped this picture next to one of the nine succulents I still own. I’ve been known to kill cacti so the fact that these plants, as well as my floor plant, are still alive is a testament to SOMETHING that’s changed in my life. And sometimes one needs those small reassurances (I’m no longer a cacti killer!) to keep going.

 

 

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