Design Inspiration From A Shop Owner

Design Inspiration From A Shop Owner

Rebecca Orlov
Oct 16, 2009

We've been living down by the beach and have been enjoying new shops in town. One of our favorites is Gum Tree, a gift and lifestyle shop and a cafe. Full of thoughtful home design items and accessories, great food and good vibes, we wanted to share the inspiration that goes into creating a shop dedicated to providing gifts for the home.

Sweet husband and wife duo, Lori and Will Ford, own Gum Tree and have set-up shop after moving from New York a little over a year ago. Below they share their inspiration behind their shop, including setting up the layout to feel like "rooms in a house" when you go through the store.

AT: You opened Gum Tree, a home and lifestyle boutique and a cafe, over a year ago and you mentioned it was a dream of yours. What is it about sharing items and wares that go in one's home that inspires you?
In my previous jobs as a costume designer and then accessories designer, I was always out shopping for inspiration. That was the best part of the job for me. I loved to find the coolest things, see how they were displayed, imagine how they would work in my home, how someone would feel if I brought them back that chic little gift. That was always what I was most passionate about, finding the cool. And I believe I am better at finding the stuff than designing it anyway. So it was a natural thing for me to want to bring all that stuff together and make it available under one roof.

AT: You have a great eye and your shop is full of a great and affordable selection of products for the home, including kitchenware, furniture, jewelry line, kids products, clothes, etc. How are you inspired to buy lovely items for your shop?
I have a really simple rule for what goes in the shop. Do I love it and want it for my own home? Would I give it as a gift? Buy it for my little girl, Lily? If the answer is yes then I buy it. When we were living in New York my husband's restaurant, Eight Mile Creek, was on Mulberry Street in Nolita and I would get off the subway after work and wander the neighborhood before meeting him for a glass of wine. I always stopped into Hable Construction's little shop on Elizabeth St. and dreamed of owning all those pillows! So they were one of the first things I ordered for the shop. A girlfriend gave me a gift years ago of a beautiful Lafco liquid soap for our new bath. I kept the container all this time hoping that someday I would have a shop and carry that soap. I had notebooks full of products that I had seen over the years just in case I ever got to open Gum Tree! I am really conscious of price as well. Being that we opened in the midst of a recession, I definitely didn't want to be that shop that was too expensive. I wanted it to be accessible to everyone. I have gifts for $10 and gifts for $300 plus lots in between.

AT: Your boutique is located in a craftsman house on Pier Avenue in the heart of Hermosa Beach. Share your story about this house, how you integrated green style into the mix and how you choose to set up your boutique to feel like home.

I grew up in the neighboring town of Manhattan Beach and as long as I can remember I wanted this house. I just loved the classic beach house feel of it, it's placement on Pier just up from the beach, the original windows, and the big front lawn that is basically a thing of the past in the beach cities now. I always dreamed of having a shop in a house, with all the rooms decorated as the rooms they were: living room, dining room, baby room, bedroom, but with everything for sale. So you could walk in and say, "I want my house to look like this" and you could actually have it.

I try to source as many eco friendly products as I can. We're all lucky that designers are finding such innovative ways to go green, and still give us beautiful products. I just got in some incredible delicate heart necklaces in sterling silver and 14k gold from Jane Hollinger. They were accompanied by a letter outlining her green practices: she only uses recycled metals, all chains are made in the USA, all packaging material and paper waste in their studio is recycled, amazing.

The kid's room is inspired entirely by my daughter, Lily. I bought her a BlaBla doll before she was born. I just love everything about them, so of course they are part of the kid's room. And now they have come out with BlaBla babies that have clothing and accessories. I also love the Artist series of board books that Chronicle has out for kids, particularly "Warhol's Colors", so that was a natural for the shop. And I wanted to have really special gifts that you wouldn't find at a local toy store or the mall, so I carry the beautiful line of wooden toys from Vilac, France.

We too use all recycled/eco friendly packaging in both the café and the shop, and we recycle absolutely everything we can. During the renovation we tried our best to use the most environmentally friendly materials and practices possible. All the paint is no VOC and the toilet is a water saving dual flush model. We recycled all of the construction materials and installed an energy efficient tankless water heater.

AT: We often talk about tips and ideas for entertaining at home and in small spaces on Apartment Therapy. You cater small parties in your cafe, front patio and back porch - perfect places for hosting small parties. What are your tips for small space entertaining?

We like to keep it simple. Succulents in pretty white pots sit on the Fermob outdoor furniture on the back patio. A couple of hanging planters, good furniture and a nice view are what sets the scene back there. White plates, classic silverware and recycled kraft paper napkins look timeless and let the food and the guests stand out.

Thanks, Lori!! Click here to check out Gum Tree's website.

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