Thursday, December 10, 2009

Round My Way - Silver Lake Boulevard at Christmas

So Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.  In L.A. it's still sunny, you're spending lots of money.....

I've posted about my neighborhood before.  I've been lucky enough to live in alot of nice places so I can't believe it when I leave my house and am reminded of how great this area is - still two plus years after I moved here.  I L-O-V-E IT!  I keep pinching myself and wondering when the honeymoon will end.

I've characterized my 'hood as Laurel Canyon meets the East Village.  And I'm sure someone else has too.  It's scenic, it has older homes with flavor and character, the foliage is lush and varied, there's plenty of wildlife and creative types. It's bounded by Sunset Junction and Atwater Village both of which are funky ever gentrifying but still gritty urban thoroughfares where the dress is eccentric and people don't seem to roll out of bed till late-ish in the day.  You can walk everywhere if you have strong legs and lungs (if not, take the Prius), and people bicycle en masse at all hours!   In short, it's spirit is young and it's alternative but it's not in your face and everyone is very nice.

This end of Silver Lake boulevard reminds me of Soho and Tribeca in NYC before they effectively became malls.  It is still quite raw but you can have that flutter of pleasure stepping into very sleek and sophisticated spaces where every detail has been so thoroughly considered and executed.  And which are unlike anyplace else you know.   LA Mill is one of these.  It is a slightly over the top temple to coffee.  It's gleamy, it smells good, the coffee machines are color-matched to the decor.  Because of it's temple-ness, the menu descriptions and the coffees, as good as they are, might be slightly precious and over-refined.  Me, I like a coffee you can sink your teeth into - these go down a little too easily.  BUT the limited offerings conceived by (2-Michelin-starred) Michael Cimarusti (of Providence on Melrose) which run to egg-ey and smoked salmon-ey things that they serve all day ARE mostly original and satisfying.

I love LA Mill chiefly for the powdery turquoise blue and oxblood red of its color scheme and the grisaille wallpaper. And the powder blue armchairs covered in faux ostrich.  It's the closest thing to a cafe-near-the-Louvre in my neighborhood.  I could stay all day, every day inside this color scheme with a novel and a sketchpad.

Domenico is new on the street and still very keen to please.  Service is very attentive and Domenico will come out to meet you and make sure you're a happy camper.  The interior feels like sitting in the middle of a set for Swan Lake. It is pristinely and purely white from top to bottom - owing to assiduous maintenance - no scuffs or snags mar any of the fittings yet. Somehow this tends to lower one's blood pressure.  I'm probably more susceptible the general esthetic because I was an early-age ballet fan and the large white photographs on the walls of ballerinas (probably costumed for Swan Lake, now I think of it) definitely

contribute to the swans-on-their-way-to-heaven vibe.  The food is honest, earnest straightforward Italian.  So if you're feeling slightly droopy at the end of a long week and you need some comfort food and a soothing atmosphere, this might be your place.  The prices will remind you that it is a special occasion, but if you need it to be special, you are getting your money's worth.

Yolk is just pure fun.  Especially if you are a young Mommy or hip Granny.  It is a small but well chosen assemblage of mostly home and childrens' goodies with a little bit of jewelry and books thrown in.  It has alot of Marimekko and other Scandinavian design products.  It's bright and colorful and fresh.

Lawson-Fenning and Ivanhoe books are taking care of the design nerds in the neighborhood.  (Did you know that Silver Lake/Los Feliz is home to several Neutra, Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright houses?) Lawson-Fenning sell an ALMOST self-conscious and quite select smattering of mid-century/scandinavian modern "recycled" furniture pieces to go with newer pieces in that lo-key streamlined-but-woodsy style with understated accessories to complement them. Ivanhoe books a few steps up in the back of the Lawson-Fenning space have all the design and shelter coffee table books you'll ever require to make you look like you actually knew what you were doing when you maxed out your cards at the front of the store.

Across the street,  Materials and Applications (Blogger does not like ampersands as we all know) calls itself a:

" research center dedicated to pushing new and underused ideas for art, landscape and architecture into view".  I hope to learn and hear more about it in the fullness of time.  And even though I can't buy anything there it looks interesting and it gives me ideas.

Finally, Monkey House, looks to me to be the original retail denizen of this corner of the world.

It is unpretentious and quirky.  It has the manga and anime-inspired stuff, plus the plain old cool science and junior engineer learning toys. This is where you would send your boys (big and little) to entertain themselves and stay out of the way while you and your equally expectant girlfriend coo over cunning little baby outfits and softies at Yolk.

So what does all this have to do with Christmas????   Well EVERYTHING!

Because I am a firm believer that even though it IS Christmas.  And you're crazed.  That the only way to get through it year after year, is to rearrange your priorities.  Or at least broaden them.  And remind yourself that it is a FESTIVE season.  And that you are a GROWNUP.  And that YOU CAN BE IN CHARGE.  AND YOU CAN HAVE A NICE TIME.

So find a little neighborhood like this one in Silver Lake where you KNOW you are going to find GREAT THINGS.  WELL IN ADVANCE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON.  Buy everything you need THEN.  And reserve dinner at a really nice place in that neighborhood.  So when the Christmas season rolls around and you are, I'll say it again, crazed, you can pop into these wonderful little shops for a last minute find and then sit yourself down in front of a yummy dinner and a glass of wine in a nice restaurant like one of these and........TOAST YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY, the year just past, and the one to come.



  1. Oh you make me want to hop on a plane right now and head to LA. Your hometown is one of my favourite cities...AND Ihave been to alot of them. Seeing the Lawson & Fenning boy's shop brings back great memories. I got to hang out with them for a day in their home when I had them and their space photographed for a mag I was working on. They were lovely and their house was to die for. Great post. Thanks for giving me a little LA on this grey cloudy day in London x

  2. Oh Hi Amanda - Glad this post worked for you. I know how that little boost of sunshine can help on a gray day. We're having one now in L.A. and I'm realizing lately how addicted I am to the better weather. I didn't know your blog before - I like the glitter post! Will be checking in often and looking for your name in all my glossy mags!

  3. This was a really cool tour of your location. And I am a big fan of coffee shops, but I tend to like less modern places. I guess earthy would be the word I'm looking for. There is something great about an older coffee shop that is less polished. It feels more honest and authentic in a way.

  4. Thanks for the tour of your neighborhood. Looks more fun than buttoned up DC.

  5. It doesn't look like Soho or Tribeca to me but what do I know of LA.
    It looks like it's own special place.

  6. Des - no worries, we have the other kind of coffee shop too but maybe not quite as steeped in history as the one's in L. Italy, NYC and Paris. I like the old one's too. No Carol - I just meant that the neighborhood is kind of raw and elegant at the same time like gentrifying commercial districts can be. Otherwise you are right, not alot of parallels. LA is still much more suburban than urban. My neighborhood much the urban exception. Thomas - sorry about D.C.! But I'm guessing that you do important work there!

  7. A beautiful neighborhood, looks to be full of creativity! I'll have to check it out one of these days...

    btw two things: one, I sent you a very small holiday gift...should arrive soon ;)

    Also, I passed you a little award on my site. No obligation (I know you guard your privacy) just a compliment to your beautiful blog! OX - M.

  8. Fantastic tour! My Silver Lake knowledge is about a decade old now. Had a great time at a pretty divey bar there back in the day... which ultimately involved a car-towing and next-day visit to the car-pound that I successfully billed back to my company. Good times. Thanks for the cool update on the neighborhood!

  9. Scraps of Life - very wily, billing it back to the company. Bar tab too?