Sunday, April 24, 2011

Street Walker - Abbot Kinney Part I

I was an hour late to lunch.  This is how Nat pays me back.
Not one cooperative photo.  Yet she remains adorable.
 For being a native Angelino, I am remarkably underexposed to many of the unique neighborhoods and features of this great city I live in.  Case in point, Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice.  I had heard about it for years, but never made it down there to check it out for myself.  I made plans to spend an unoccupied Saturday afternoon with my friend, Natalie (who will soon be leaving for a week to visit Scotland), having lunch and then hitting the pavement and checking out what the famed area had to offer.

We had lunch at a great little cafe called 3 Squares (SNL's Bill Hader sat next to us.  It took a phone call and an imdb search to figure out who he was, because neither of us could put a name to the face, but regardless of our ignorance, a brush with fame is nothing to be scoffed at, even if you live in LA).  We both ate things we shouldn't have (the Pretzel Burger is as good as everyone told us it would be, there was also dairy involved, and french fries), but our remorse was non existent.  We were seated on the patio, the ideal place to people watch (and dog watch, they were everywhere!) and to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather.  Another perk for the patron; there's a parking garage behind the cafe, so no need to patrol for street parking if you aren't in the mood, or you happen to be running late, like I was.  I parked for 4 dollars with restaurant validation.

The back room at Bountiful.  A wonderland
of vintage charm and unique objet.  Note the
Hydrangeas and hanging plants.
We hit the street after lunch, and the first place that sucked us in was a home shop called Bountiful (  Neither of us are big members of the Shabby Chic fan club, but the shops exuberant displays and unique merchandise made us forget all that.  Set withing the confines of a former Hardware shop, still with it's original tile floor, the store is literally packed with things, wonderful things, large, small, and gargantuan. 

Vintage cake stands (stacked 5' tall on top of tables), chandeliers, lanterns, linens, etageres, bath products, furniture, candles, jewelery and the makings of an endless wish list filled the interior to the gills.  They had a great selection of unusual antiques scattered throughout, and, as if there weren't enough beautiful things to look at, the shop was peppered with fresh flowers that had been worked into the displays, giving a little extra decadence to the presentation. 

It was all a mix of English and French Country with a little Americana thrown in.  As ladies browsed through the labyrinth of rooms, the men they arrived with stayed near the entrance, paralyzed from fear; tapping the smallest wire work basket made one afraid of an impending and financially crippling landslide.  It really was a wonderland for someone who appreciates chipped paint, old mirrors and chandeliers...I happen to be just that sort of someone. 

Amid jewelry and vintage hats, something
truly breathtaking; a chandelier hung with
equal parts crystals and champagne hued
Christmas Ornaments.
An open armoire displays an extensive collection
of stoneware, transferware, and ceramics in all
shapes and sizes (note the chamber pots on the
bottom shelf and the vintage kitchen canisters
on the second).  Of course, the flowers and fruit
add just that extra 'something'. 

A sideboard scattered with candle sticks and accessories.
The mirror reflects a glass front armoire stocked with vintage

Bittar's interior, complete with Venice Hipster salesgirls.
 One of my must visit shops was the newly opened Alexis Bittar (  Several of my friends and clients have fallen for his work, and I can see why they love it so much.  Pieces are bold, unique, and attention grabbing.  Bittar's signature medium is hand carved Lucite, but he also works in metal, crystal, and semi-precious stones.  The larger more avante garde styles naturally fit in with the lifestyle of LA and the Arty/Hippie/Boho chic vibe of Abbott Kinney. 

Situated in a remodeled Beach Bungalow with French doors flung open to the Boulevard, the shop is set up gallery style with chic custom cabinets (with button tufted interiors) hung at eye level along one wall, and windows open to the street along another.  Natural light pours in, showing the jewelry off beautifully.  The exposed rafters and bleached wood floor gave a lofty feeling, while the use of Deco style pendant lights, raised paneling, and hand painted cherry blossoms on the walls added the formality and glamour usually associated with a jewelry boutique.  In addition to Bittar's own label, there's also a fun selection of antique jewelry and accessories, most of them small and delicate Victorian pieces.

Stay tuned for part two.

- Ian

Bittar's cabinets were filled with his
elegant pieces, such as this necklace
of shell pearls and Lucite studded with
Featured just as prominently were his
bold styles, like this statement necklace
of graduated gold-plated sphere cages.
It's very Samantha Jones.

The window display to the street featured
taxidermy Bears dressed in Pearls and Lucite.

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