Perfect Little Things

A modern alchemist reveals his secret sources for strange and wonderful objects from around the world.

Mr. Douglas Little, occasional eccentric and full-time shopkeeper, practices an art he likes to call retail theater. His stage is a 200-square-foot in-house store at Manhattan's Barneys New York. High on the ninth floor, amid Kartell lamps and Hermès china, Little presents a variety show featuring fragrances, candles, flatware, and stationery that he designs himself—along with such gems as a shocking-pink lantern he discovered in Morocco and treasure chests he commissioned from an artist in San Francisco. Everything that possibly can be is for sale: the decorative glass jars on the counter, the porcelain dishes, the antique rug underfoot, the moody scent floating through the air. And if Little has his way, there will soon be violinists, salespeople dressed in full Victorian costume, and edibles from a French chocolatemaker. "When I shop or travel," says the Los Angeles-based tastemaker, "the goal is always to find special people and bring their art to a larger audience. My mission is to create a cabinet of curiosities for the world." Here, a peek inside Little's book of spells. Barneys New York, 660 Madison Ave., New York City; 212-826-8900;

I use strictly fringe botanicals in my candle line—what I like to think of as the punk rockers of the plant world. My Thorn Apple combines the spiny fruit from the angel's-trumpet plant with a blend of applewood, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli. The newest candle is Hemlock, inspired by Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. It is created with the oils of the hemlock tree, which gives it a fantastic earthy scent and a fresh celery note. From $45 to $350

Carrie Lobell, a San Francisco artist, makes unbelievable shell-encrusted candelabra. She does private commissions, and all her works—jewelry boxes, mirrors, tiny bowls—look as if they've crawled out of Neptune's kingdom. I was inspired by her pieces to create a fragrance and candle from seaweed and rare underwater botanicals. From $600 to $3,600

Pure-white peacocks are the holy grail in taxidermy. I thought people might be a little creeped out by it, but we've already sold the three we had at Barneys. A woman in L.A. bought one to place on top of her baby grand; another in New York put one in her dressing room and hangs her necklaces on it. From $5,900 to $7,200

My shadow boxes are all done in homage to artist Joseph Cornell. I designed the Butterfly Keeper using butterflies from my personal insect collection and an image of a woman from L'Art, Revue Hebdomadaire Illustrée, an 18th-century French art journal. I love to think of the piece as the treasure box of some insane lepidopterist. The contents of the shadow boxes vary, but the woman's face always remains the same. From $500 to $5,000

The Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Necklace? chandelier began life as a rather simple thirties Murano light fixture, which I found in perfect condition at a Los Angeles estate sale. My first thought was, If I were a chandelier and was getting dressed for my 2006 role as a centerpiece in a Barneys window, what would I wear? So I draped the fixture with hundreds of diamanté earrings, pearls, ivory, and sterling-silver jewels of all shapes and sizes. I then took small vintage fox skulls from France's Musée de la Chasse, dipped them in silver, covered them with black and white pearls, and turned them into finials. $9,500

Andy Paiko creates the cobalt-blue apothecary vases and curiosity bell jars. During our first meeting we quickly realized we were carbon copies of each other, right down to our shared mania for Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the groundbreaking Tesla coils. His wild electrical experiments for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair are a constant source of inspiration. From $1,200 to $6,500

I am obsessed with adornment, just thirsty for whatever diamanté rocks I can get my hands on. I scour flea markets and estate sales for costume jewelry from the forties to the sixties, especially any Eisenberg pieces. I've found the best stuff at markets such as Clignancourt in Paris, Roundtop in Dallas, and the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, as well as at estate sales in upstate New York. From $350 to $7,500

I made personal stationery because people were constantly requesting larger versions of the deckle-edged gift card that comes with my candles. Made of Italian paper and printed on an antique letterpress, it will be available in Thorn Apple and Angel's Trumpet fragrances. The set of 12 cards and envelopes is housed in a black resin box reminiscent of a daguerreotype holder. $125

This Christmas Andy and I are taking our obsession with Tesla to the holiday windows of Harry Winston stores across the country. The displays will feature large, elaborate glass snow globes filled with enormous rare diamonds. I'm also designing Harry Winston's first candle and fragrance. The scent will be a distillation of the blue rose (a new breed that debuted this year at the Philadelphia Flower Show) and diamond trace minerals—there is great power in diamond dust!

A Style of His Own

If you're lucky enough to stumble into Barneys New York in Manhattan on a day when Mr. Little is in attendance (as he is one week each month), you will have no doubt that this is a man with singular taste. Though he is often decked out in the manner of a Victorian dandy—complete with top hat and tailcoat—Little manages to convey a thoroughly modern sensibility. By night, he says, his style is inspired by the Marquesa Casati, the Italian noble who shared her 18th-century Venetian palazzo with numerous pet cheetahs and the refined and eccentric King Ludwig of Bavaria. And by day? Steve McQueen.

MY MUSE ELLEN CAREY, who owns the New York fashion showroom Seedhouse, is the epitome of everything I do. She is Dorothy Draper, the Marquesa Casati, Coco Chanel, and Diane Vreeland smashed into one. On any given day you can find her dressed in a Peter Soronen corset, custom Lanvin shoes, and out-of-control Schiaparelli gems.

HATS OFF My bowlers and top hats are from JOHN HELMER HABERDASHER in Portland, Oregon (503-223-4976). OPTIMO HATS in Chicago (773-238-2999) makes the best Panama hats. I also love the ones from PHILIP TREACY in London (44-207/730-3992).

BUTTON UP Lately I've been living in a fitted wool jacket, the type worn by Austrian schoolboys. I found it at the WATERLOOPLEIN FLEA MARKET in Amsterdam, just behind the town hall.

SHOPPING My latest fixation is SAVED in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-5990). It's the only place where you can buy an Art Nouveau cicada vase and get a tattoo of Victorian scrollwork under the same roof. My closets are stocked with vintage clothing and accessories from PLAYCLOTHES in Los Angeles (818-755-9559), MISS LA DE DA'S in Canoga Park, California (818-347-9343), and JUNK FOR JOY in Burbank, California (818-569-4903).