Name: Cara Underwood/Underwood Letterpress + Stephanie Collins/Flipbooth
Location: In the Unique Space of Downtown Los Angeles Arts District
Size: 400 Square Feet
Years lived in: Opened November 2013
Every time I visit a new office space inside The Unique Space, I fall in love. The latest is the worksplace of Underwood Press + Flipbooth. I was amazed that there was an old school traditional letter press machine and much more, decorating this small office. Such a beautiful and creative use of the space.
"Stephanie and I have been friends for years and when the opportunity to share a studio at the brand new Unique Space came up, we jumped on it. It's a community of designers, makers and creatives working to add a little more beauty to the world. I own Underwood Letterpress and Stephanie is a photographer and owner of Flipbooth, a flipbook photo booth company. We both dabble in the wedding biz quite a bit, so pairing up was a natural fit." - Cara
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I love bold color and incorporate it in to the Underwood Letterpress aesthetic as much as possible. Pattern, geometry and juxtaposition pretty much sum up my aesthetic. Fortunately, Stephanie has a similar aesthetic so our design process was easy and fun. Our studio is a combination of vintage wares and contemporary color. The main feature in our space is certainly my printing press, built nearly a hundred years ago. Its stunning contours and strong bones are beautiful! We’ve contrasted this vintage centerpiece with plants, prints, textiles and printing supplies which add pops of color throughout. The photo booth is clean and modern and has a surprisingly warm look for being a high-tech mobile photo studio.
Inspiration: Letterpress printing has had a revival in the last few decades, in part due to modern advances that combine the digital and analog. By combining digital design with the age old technique of printing, the modern letterpress printer’s design options are endless. There’s something that just feels right when a contemporary design is juxtaposed with the tactile, luxurious feel of a letterpress print—and I don’t hold back when it comes to incorporating rich color and contemporary design. Similar to letterpress, the Flipbooth process combines the old in the new by turning digital photography in to hand held books. Our studio design embodies this vibe, bringing together the old and the new, the digital and analog, the industrial and the feminine.
Favorite Element: My vintage postage collection is my most prized possession. I source postage from all over and use it to create beautiful postage sets for weddings and special events. I love designing unique combinations that turn average mail in to pieces of art!
I also love our living picture wall. I have slowly added treasures and pieces of art that inspire me. My Italian grandmother gave me her antique telephone—the kind that once required an operator to connect you to another caller. It was one of the first pieces in my picture wall and fills the studio with her pizzaz and appreciation for vintage goods. I also love the protea wreath that is central to the wall. I have long loved protea and continue to be entertained by the funny shapes and curious personality of the Proteaceae family.
Biggest Challenge: I have a 2,000 lb printing press and a 1,000 lb industrial paper cutter and they are quite odd in shape. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to get them in to my space and where to place them! I ended up having to cut a hole in one of the walls to get them in to my studio. It was a frightening job, but well worth it.
What Friends Say: When people visit our studio, they don’t want to leave. The space is airy and warm, utilitarian yet playful, which provides endless entertainment for our guests. We even have two vintage typewriters (including an Underwood Typewriter, of course) which visitors enjoy punching keys and attempting to write a love letter the old fashioned way.
Area Where There Is Room For Improvement: We’ve only been in the space since November, so it feels like we’re still moving in! We want to add more art to the walls and some decorations here and there, but are waiting for the right inspiration.
Proudest DIY: Definitely our custom shelving. We designed and built a 14’ wide x 9’ high shelving unit that perfectly accommodates my large paper supply, inking station and printing tools. The shelving unit is made of black steel pipes and wood and is adhered to our exposed brick wall. Stephanie is an amazing photographer and surprisingly good at math. The unlikely combo came in handy during the many hours spent in Home Depot’s pipe aisle. She was the lead mathematician and I was her assistant. We counted and recounted, measured and remeasured until we were certain that all the pieces would actually come together to make shelves. Think Lincoln Logs for adults.
Best Advice: Love your machines. Combining utility with design is more fun than you think, so if you’re a shop owner don’t hesitate to blend industrial machinery with beautiful decoration.
Dream Sources: Stephanie’s mom has an amazing collection of Swedish and Danish furniture. We were able to welcome a beautiful outdoor lounge chair in to our space. It matches the airy feel of the studio while incorporating some playfulness—it actually rocks like a rocking chair! We wish we could fit more pieces from her collection in to our space.
Resources of Note:
Appliances: My printing press was manufactured in Ohio, then lived in Illinois and later Sacramento. I traveled to Sacramento to meet the press and the most recent owner before making the purchase. It was gem, so I snatched it up. Printing presses are no longer manufactured and can be 75-100 years old. My press will turn 100 next year!
Furniture: Ikea, Stephanie’s house, Home Depot and Overstock.com.
Accessories: We both love shopping for vintage goods. I took a trip to Portland and was surprised by the amount of vintage goods available, especially in the town of Selwood. I bought a typewriter and some decorative pieces in Selwood. Stephanie and her mom are pro swap meet and thrift store shoppers and always manage to find great stuff, like our Swedish outdoor chair. My florals come from Sugar Bush Ranch. They sell at the Saturday and Wednesday farmer’s market in Santa Monica and can be found on instagram @owoolley.
Lighting: We are fortunate to be near a large window, so get natural light seeping in to our space. It’s great for photography and brain food.
Organizing Tools/Accessories: Ikea, The Container Store and Home Depot keep us organized and efficient—while still looking good.
Additional Elements: Our moms’, grandmothers’ and own homes were great resources to help us fill our space.
Thanks, Cara + Stephanie!
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(Image credits: Bethany Nauert)