It's a funny thing I live in Silver Lake now. I was just born down the street at a nearby hospital, but my parents moved from Koreatown to the Valley, where I languished away as a boy who loved design, art and music. Instead, I had the Valley and its suburban trappings (only later did I realize the wonders of hidden middle class Mid-Century gems strewn across suburbia in nearby Granada Hills, Reseda and Chatsworth). But since moving back to Los Angeles from San Francisco after college, it has been the hill-laden neighborhood of Silver Lake which has made me happiest, offering a wide range of art, design, cuisine and personalities that reflect the always-changing landscape of a neighborhood in flux and many of the very things I love about greater Los Angeles...
Design and design inspiration is literally everywhere, with a plethora of retailers in Sunset Junction, the eclectic architectural panache of homes surrounding the Silver Lake Reservoir that make my evening jogs never boring, and the vibrant community of murals, $5 Guy (a local personality who sells wares for guess how much), the Silver Lake Walker, and the mix of Latino, gay and hipster culture that permeates every street, alleyway and doorstop in the hood I call home...
Sunset Junction (4019 Sunset Blvd.): In just a couple of blocks, a visitor can actually walk ... yes, walk ... all around and get their retail fix with a selection of shops that span all variety of wares. Billie and Tootie of Reform School kick it local and with a DIY aesthetic that's a perfect fit for the younger Silver Lake crowd. Former house tour participant and green design expert Kelly Van Patter's store Kelly Green stocks eco-conscious decor merchandise. Comic book and art nerds will do themselves a kind service by walking into the dark wood confines of Secret Headquarters (aka my second home) where the decor looks lifted from the offices of Commissioner Gordon. Nearby Intelligentsia is a great spot to stop in for your caffeine fix, and while you wait in line, admire the Barbara Bestor-designed interior and mesmerizing tile work. Other notable design-related shops include Barkeeper, Serifos, Le Pink & Co, Silverlake Architectural Salvage and nearby Living Room and Mercado just a block farther east.
Neutra Houses: Many locals don't even realize that the beautifully-landscaped hills surrounding the Reservoir hides a small enclave of Richard Neutra homes. Spin over to the northeastern end of the Reservoir and you can sidewalk tour past ten Neutra-designed residences on Silver Lake Blvd. and also a cul-de-sac aptly named Neutra Place. Top it all of with a guided tour by the docents at the Neutra VDL Research House II.
LAMILL Coffee Boutique: This is where we take visiting friends for brunch who have just as much of a keen eye for design as a distinguished palate for food and coffee. The interior is adorned in neoclassical wallpaper and diners sip their pricey (though very well prepared) coffee and enjoy gourmet doughnut holes while sitting in Mid-Century armchairs seemingly designed with lazy Saturday mornings in mind. The interior decor was a local product ... so local, the designer is just across the street over at Rubbish Interiors.
Danish Modern LA: Right next door to our favourite local addiction (Lark bakery, our cupcake dealer) is a small shop stocked to the corners with restored Mid-Century furnishings, including Danish, Chinoiserie-mod, and even a few antique items. Oh, and as if you needed an excuse, Lark Cake Shop is next door, a small bakery specializing in cupcakes and cakes with a keen eye for cute design as an added bonus. It's a great spot to treat yourself to something sweet while you weigh the decision of whether to buy that Mid-Century credenza you fancied at Danish Modern LA.
SHOW: This is actually in Los Feliz, but we had to include SHOW, since owner Brad Cook's Vermont Ave. store has been part of the Silver Lake/Los Feliz modern decor scene for awhile now. He's got a keen eye for contemporary home goods and accessories tinged with a sense of humour, making this an excellent destination for home decor gift items for friends and family.
The Maltman House: We used to pass by this house during our evening walks, often trying to catch a glimpse of the occupants, as the home's northern end is almost all glass and open for public peeking. We later discovered the home was the work of Lewis / Schoeplein Architects. It still stands out as a uniquely modern home amongst the Craftsman, Victorian and California bungalow buildings surrounding it on Maltman Avenue, just south of Sunset.
Yolk: Even if you've never been to Silver Lake, you might have already glimpsed Maria Neuman's design shop in the bromance I Love You, Man; the shop makes a brief appearance in the Silver Lake/Los Feliz-set comedy. And, like the film, the white and yellow painted shop has plenty to make you smile. We just stopped in recently for gifts and left with a Victorian-style chalkboard poster and darling locally-designed stuffed animal for our young cousins, while our sister was the recipient of wooden whale-shaped salad tongs and a shark-shaped bottle opener that we not-so-secretly wanted for ourselves. The front of the shop is filled with decor items from the likes of Taika, Marimekko, Not Neutral, Jonathan Adler and Kikkerland, while the back of the shop is a child/baby wonderland of design-related good, toys, clothing and furniture. It's like ICFF with purchasable items!
Happy: This bright-eyed shop just recently sprouted up on the far western side of Hollywood Blvd. and stocks home and lifestyle accessories alongside revolving art shows with local and international artists. This is actually Los Feliz once again, but it's close enough that it deserves a visit, especially since longtime gift, decor and kitsch destination WACKO is just a few footsteps away.
The Good Ship Grace: A beautiful California Streamline/Modernist building complete with nautical-themed portholes, decks and handrails, this unique building on the northwestern border of Silver Lake once housed the ministry radio team of the Haven of Rest Ministry. The Good Ship Grace is located at 2432 Hyperion Ave., just around the corner from Body Builders Gym and the local hamburger spot, The Fix.
Silvertop: John Lautner's 1957 modernist masterpiece is rarely open to the public, but the 7,500 square foot house is a reminder of Lautner's commitment to curvilinear architecture on a human scale, perhaps originating from his time working under architectural icon Frank Lloyd Wright. Jump at any chance to see this classic once described by historian David Gebhard as "a Flash Gordon city on the moon." In the meantime, you can rent Less than Zero and admire the home from the comforts of your couch.