L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Vintage

York Boulevard, Highland Park: A hub of hip, really


Anyone who heard reports of Highland Park's revitalization a few years ago and headed to York Boulevard likely would have noted all the auto-body garages and the marijuana dispensaries operating with varying degrees of legality and asked, "Really?"

Matters of Space potteryAt long last, even a skeptic would concede: Really. The York gastropub and Cafe de Leche coffeehouse that set anchor on York Boulevard have been joined by new home decor boutiques, a glass studio with classes for DIYers and a vinyl music shop that draws DJs from coast to coast. Indie furniture maker Jay Dunton, above, augments his own designs with affordable accessories and some vintage pieces in Meridian Mercado Deseño. Another furniture maker plans to be doing something similar at Sawhorse. Matters of Space has small ceramics by Highland Park potter Lily King, starting at $15. The piece pictured here? Just $40, plant included.

New restaurants include HPK (short for Highland Park Kitchen), which held its opening party last week, and the forthcoming country French spot Ba, which has been putting the finishing touches on its baroque-meets-'80s-punk interiors. Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila recently offered praise for the new Maximiliano down the street.

Pop-Hop, a bookstore and print studio, and the Highland Cafe also are prepping to open. And though the street's vibe is still ruled by urban grit, for better or for worse not one but two storefronts have been claimed as the future homes for that symbol of neighborhood renewal: the wine bar.

If the gentrification gets you down, you still can get a sad face inked on your arm at the Vintage Tattoo Art Parlor. Or you can submit to change. Head to York this weekend for Second Saturday, when food trucks roll in, no-name art galleries throughout northeast L.A. open their doors, and stores on York keep late hours to accommodate crowds.

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Scott Daigre design: Vintage looks for a new garden

Scott Daigre landscapeWhen Matt Knight and Bill O’Brien renovated their Los Feliz house, they took pains not only to preserve the 1927 architecture, but also to lend vintage ambience to a newly designed landscape. The couple envisioned extending period features inside the house, such as the stair railing of elegant wrought iron and the risers decorated with colorful glazed ceramic tiles, to the outdoors so the remade garden looked like it belonged.

“It’s a Spanish Colonial Revival home, and we wanted to reflect that on some level,” said O’Brien, vice president of sales for a promotional product manufacturer. He and Knight, a fiction writer, love to entertain, so they also hoped to create a series of conversation and dining areas within a drought-tolerant Mediterranean oasis.

To remake the sloped hillside lot, Knight and O’Brien hired Scott Daigre, owner of Powerplant Garden Design in Ojai and Los Angeles.

“The best gift a designer can have is a great house,” said Daigre, who also produces the traveling Tomatomania events. “The guys had done an amazing remodel. We just updated the garden to match.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Scott Daigre's Mediterranean garden design

Daigre’s first move was to widen the aging entry staircase and pave it with new flagstone. He carved a broad landing where visitors can sit beneath an old magnolia and take in the olive trees, lavender, rosemary, agaves, aloes and echeverias that soften the retaining walls.

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Uptown Design District, the new heart of Palm Springs

Palm Springs Uptown Design District
Modernism Week fans wondering if Palm Springs' Uptown Design District could hold on through the recession get their answer as soon as they roll into town and see the new store 5001 Home Collection, stocked with Italian housewares. Or the signs announcing the expansion by fashion designer Trina Turk, who in April is expected to open an annex — her second — for her home collection and men’s clothing. Or contemporary furniture store Insolito Home, which has doubled in size since last year’s Modernism Week.

A La Mod Palm SpringsThe Uptown Design District, running along North Palm Canyon Drive from about Hermosa Place to Alejo Road, is bustling — and with more than Midcentury. Earlier this week at the newly expanded A La Mod, owners James Claude and Miguel Linares were busily prepping their showroom, which is five times the size of a space they used to have down the street. Their showstopper was a chaise, at right, designed by Massimo Iosa Ghini for Moroso that was so thoroughly 1980s in style, you could practically hear early Duran Duran playing in the background — hardly the epitome of the “Mad Men” style that has propelled Palm Springs back into travel magazines.

Christopher Anthony Palm SpringsTony Larcombe of Dwight Polen, which has been selling fine Chinese antiques in the area for more than a dozen years, said the Uptown Design District is thriving with a mix that goes beyond Midcentury Modern. So after shoppers at Christopher Anthony Ltd.  swoon over the Ib Kofod-Larson armchairs -- a 1950 design with barrel backs in stained beech and white vinyl seats, at right -- Insolito Home Palm Springsthey can fly across the street to Insolito Home and perch on a folded felt Peacock chair, below right, designed by Dror Benshetrit for Cappellini just three years ago.

As part of the L.A. at Home crew's desert reconnaissance this month -- scouting that included the Palm Springs Art Museum's exhibit on pool photography and an installation of LivingHomes' new C6 prefab house -- we asked Times photographer Irfan Khan to capture the mix on Palm Canyon.

Outside the store Interior Illusions, pictured at the top of the post, Khan found much amusement by the parade of reactions to a chair that the store calls the Majesty. (The seamless polyethylene indoor-outdoor chair is sold elsewhere as the Queen of Love.)

To see more of Khan's shoot and a sampling of Uptown Design District shops, keep reading ...

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Do-it-yourself projects, by the book

DIY book collage
DIY craft books have been landing fast and furious this year, many in time for do-it-yourself holiday splendor. But are the projects really as easy to make as the authors say? Do the decoupaged chairs and stenciled lampshades and concrete candleholders really turn out as well as promised — well enough to be deployed as holiday décor or given as gifts? We put three books to the test (see links at the bottom of the post) and wanted to point readers toward other books that might make nice gifts for the DIYer:

“Vintage Craft Workshop: Fresh Takes on Twenty-Four Classic Projects From the '60s and '70s” by Cathy Callahan, better known to shoppers of L.A. mod craft fairs as Cathy of California. Think macramé plant hangers, papier-mâché gift boxes and bottle wind chimes for the Highland Park vintage vinyl crowd. Chronicle Books, $19.95.

“Stencil It: 101 Ideas to Decorate Your Home, by Helen Morris. A rundown of techniques as well as ideas for stenciling drapes, lamps, tables, walls, pillows and more. For those who need more hand-holding, the book provides 15 stencils — dogs, agapanthus flowers, even babushka dolls. St. Martin's Press, $29.99.

"State of Craft," edited by Victoria Woodcock. In sifting through books and identifying projects that readers could pull off quickly, the Home crew set aside ideas that we hope to tackle later. Chief among them: a decoupage children's chair in this book. Cicada, $19.95.

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Time to shop? Start on Sunset in Silver Lake, Echo Park


Dustmuffin Silver Lake
The Sunset Strip may draw the crowds west at night, but the eastern end of Sunset -- the part that runs through Silver Lake and Echo Park -- is where the skinny-jeans crowd shops by day, earning the area favorable comparisons to hip Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and the Mission District of San Francisco. Indie-label fashion and vinyl records mix with Midcentury Modern furniture and crafty handmade goods by local artisans. You'll find lots of décor geared to small-space and earth-friendly living.

Writer David A. Keeps grabbed his laptop and camera to give you this whirlwind tour, sequenced as a one-way journey from east to west. Hop along for the ride.

PHOTO GALLERY: What's new on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake and Echo Park


  Living Room Silver LakeHemingway and Pickett


Skirball's don't-miss holiday pop-up shop

What's new on Main Street in Santa Monica

What's new on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice


Photos, clockwise from top: Vintage clocks are part of the mix at Dustmuffin. Wood owls deliver some Scandinavian style at Hemingway and Pickett. Embroidered pillows and other accessories complement the furniture at Living Room. Credit: David A. Keeps


Big Daddy's Antiques moves to a big new L.A. space

Big Daddy's Antiques L.A.
Packed with old-timey home furnishings and industrial objects, Big Daddy's Antiques has the look that certain chain stores are trying to emulate. Think tables made from salvaged wood and lighting fabricated from metal machine parts. But here the vintage pieces are unusual and authentic -- not reproductions.

The business has been around for two decades, starting out as a warehouse for stone and iron garden goods on an obscure corner south of downtown Los Angeles. Now owner Shane Brown has moved Big Daddy's to a somewhat easier-to-find L.A. location near Culver City, one block west of La Cienega Boulevard just north of Jefferson Boulevard. It has more than 16,000 square feet of furnishings and a 15,000-square-foot garden annex, all imaginatively staged by Brown in a former film sound stage with a soaring bow-truss ceiling, above. 

"The displays at Big Daddy's are always inspiring," said Peter Dunham, interior designer and owner of the Hollywood at Home stores, who was shopping for industrial light shades during my visit. "And the furniture has so much personality, texture, wear-and-tear."

Big Daddy's Antiques lightPrices vary from flea-market reasonable ($40 for a vintage seltzer bottle and $125 for Spanish terra cotta olive jars) to antique-store expensive ($8,600 for the pair of leather club chairs pictured above).

Custom zinc, steel and reclaimed wood tables start at $1,650. Big Daddy's also creates elaborate bird cages, priced upon request. The abundance of decorative accessories from Brown's travels across the world are for sale along with a vast collection of 17th and 18th century vellum books, $150 to $1,500 each.

Big Daddy's also exhibits at antique shows and flea markets; check the website for show schedules.

Brown is something of a savant when it comes to creating light fixtures. In a Richard Serra-meets-Martha Stewart moment, he turned aged baking pans, right, into architectural sconces, $375 each.

He also used them as candle holders. See them on the back wall next to an installation of fan grilles in the photo below, a clever trick that could easily be imitated at home.

Big Daddy's Antiques
The drafting table, left, is $2,200. Keep reading to see more of the store ...

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Vintage European Posters plans sale in Santa Monica

Vintage French poster
Few things proclaim one's weakness for midcentury modern design as succinctly as a vintage furniture poster. (I should know: I bought one illustrating classic Danish chairs as a souvenir from a trip to Copenhagen.) Finding such works of advertising art, however, can be a bit of a treasure hunt -- a hunt made easier with the "trunk show" held in November every year by Berkeley-based Vintage European Posters. This year Vintage European Posters' trunk sale is Nov. 12 and 13 at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Admission is free.

The company, which specializes in product, exhibition and travel posters from 1880 to 1970 (with a few late 20th century pieces) sells its wares online but also participates in shows such as Dwell on Design. The selection includes the anonymously designed "Ameublement" ("Furnishings"), above, printed in France around 1965. It is a linen-backed period original, not a contemporary reproduction, available for $1,650 -- on the high side of the company's authentic offerings, which start as low as $220.

Vintage wine posterOther finds: Graphic prints designed for the General Dynamics corporation by Erik Nitsche in 1955 with text in multiple languages, and a stash of mid-1960s posters celebrating the Golden State, including the Amado Gonzalez design at right, $325.

You'll also find a stash of United Airlines and TWA travel posters and, of course, a multitude of French posters advertising soap, soda pop and more. For those who like a message, Vintage European Posters also offers striking patriotic designs from the two world wars.

The artwork varies from straightforward illustration to gentle surrealism. Owner Elizabeth Norris travels across the U.S. and throughout Europe to find her stock and is frequently approached by collectors. Recently, she wrote in an email, she acquired dozens of midcentury travel posters and nearly 200 World War II advertisements for volunteerism. Norris, who will be on hand at the trunk show, added,  "I have been collecting since I was young and love meeting other people who want to geek out on the history of graphic design."

Keep reading to see more posters ...

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Home tour: Vintage living in Joshua Tree

Steve Halterman and Glenn Steigelman don't take the term “garage sale” literally. Steigelman, a ceramics fan, has been known to peek around the sides of houses and ask: Might you be willing to part with that pot? (And you can keep the plant. He just wants the container.)

Joshua Tree bedroomHalterman, the grandson of one of the founders of a swap meet in El Cajon, grew up buying and selling at flea markets and has the keen eye of a lifelong scavenger. “Wherever I go, I am going to be hitting thrift stores and flea markets,” the filmmaker and set designer for national magazine fashion shoots said. “I will pull the car over in the middle of a job if I see a yard sale.”

Such dedication has paid off handsomely. At a time when so much of the country is obsessed with thrift, Halterman and Steigelman's Joshua Tree retreat is all about the joy of secondhand finds. Almost all of the furnishings in the couple's midcentury home — a retreat that is at once stylish, humorous and period correct — are bargains of one sort or another. Many pieces are pedigree vintage designs from the likes of Architectural Pottery and Glenn of California. Other items, such as troll dolls, string art and depictions of E.T., suggest an appreciation for kitsch and pop culture ephemera.

PHOTOS: Joshua Tree vintage retreat

The couple, who principally live in Silver Lake, purchased the Joshua Tree property as a weekend getaway in 2006. It was a post-World War II shack that went up when a government program granted 5 acres to homesteaders who built a 500-square-foot structure. Subsequent remodeling in the late 1970s added a guest bedroom, kitchen and screened-in porch that Halterman has since turned into a crafts studio where he makes Modernist stained-glass lanterns and windows.

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At Wright design auction, the bright spot is lighting

W Greta Magnusson Grossman 2

For design fans who look to the auction market as their leading economic indicator, the sale Thursday at the Chicago auction house Wright provided one bright spot for the industry: lighting.

W Greta Magnusson Grossman 1Italian lamps designed by Angelo Lelli in the late 1960s performed well, as did the midcentury work of Greta Magnusson Grossman, one of the primary recipients of posthumous adoration now that California design is experiencing a resurgence of appreciation. Her 4-foot-2 Grasshopper floor lamp, pictured at right, had been estimated at $3,000 to $4,000 leading up to the Wright auction. It sold for $11,250. (The design is on view in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's show "California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way.") If you think that the Grasshopper price is stunning, check out the smaller Grossman table lamp above, which went for $15,000 on Thursday.

"California design is really on the make now," said Michael Jefferson, Wright's senior specialist for 20th century design. He said the Pacific Standard Time exhibitions could be nudging the market, but he also noted that most of the bidding for the Grossman designs came from the East Coast. "We're seeing European interest as well," he said.

Though some of the most expensive pieces in the auction went unsold, less costly pieces by top designers still brought near-record prices, Jefferson said. Given the perception of a slightly depressed market, consignors were urged to run with low estimates in hopes of drawing broad interest and sending bids higher. The strategy worked.

"When push comes to shove, buyers are willing to pay for extraordinary pieces," Jefferson said. Lighting in particular performed well, partly because many buyers were seeking functional design -- pieces that would not be not only appreciated but also used.

W Frank Gehry coffee table

W Arthur Umanoff flip clockIn other bidding, the 1971 Frank Gehry coffee table made of cardboard, Masonite and glass, pictured above, had been estimated at $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $3,500.

The rosewood Flip table clock, pictured at right, sold for $1,450. It was designed by Arthur Umanoff circa 1960 for the Howard Miller Clock Co., and it's just 6 inches wide.

For more results from the auction Thursday, keep reading ...

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Eames living room moved for LACMA's California design show

A full-scale replica of the Eames House living room is a key component of the exhibition “Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965,” opening Oct. 1 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Just how did the museum pull it off? Conservators descended upon the Eames House last month, cataloging the living room's contents — all 1,864 items — and then transported them across town for the show.

With its 17-foot-high ceiling, panels of glass opening to the grove of eucalyptus outside, and a vast range of objects collected over a lifetime, the Eames House living room is where two of the most influential designers of the 20th century spent hours talking, entertaining friends and playing with collections that informed their work. After the Eameses died (Charles in 1978 and Ray 10 years later), magazines of the day were left out for reading, fresh flowers were still changed out -- the entire scene kept tidy by a caretaker whom the Eameses hired more than three decades ago.

The ambitious effort to transport this world to the museum has been epic in scope: To ensure nothing in the house was damaged by insects, the museum placed all books, magazines, rugs, blankets -- anything made of organic materials, about 1,500 objects in all -- in a freezer truck for five days.

Almost four weeks after LACMA art handlers first arrived in the Palisades to pack up the living room, the museum was still meticulously installing the Eames collections in the Resnick Pavilion for "Living in a Modern Way." Times photographer Bryan Chan documented the move, consolidating hour upon hour of careful packing and unpacking into the time-lapse footage above.

Full article: Eames House living room, on view at LACMA


"Living in a Modern Way": Other elements of the show

Eames House: Landmark to be restored

Pacific Standard Time: The Times guide

Landmark Houses: The Times series



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