Food and Drink
How to Make the Perfect Cup of Italian Coffee
Unpacking the history, allure, and ways to use the humble Moka pot.
“There's a spirit of creative genesis here,” says David Alhadeff, owner of Casa Perfect, L.A.’s two-year-old, sui generis temple of design. Alhadeff, who came to L.A. from Brooklyn, says he found a robust and tight-knit community of makers that “embraces eclecticism.” Part of those riches is a wide range of tastes and styles. No matter what you’re looking for, the city has it.
Casa Perfect is located in a Rex Lotery– designed mansion that Elvis and Priscilla Presley moved into after their 1967 wedding. Visitors come for contemporary furniture and lighting by international designers; they stay for the King’s dated French Regency flourishes, hillside views, and occasionally a dip in the pool.
JF Chen has been L.A.’s preeminent dealer of midcentury classics since the mid-1970s, but today the contents of his 30,000-square-foot showroom on North Highland Avenue are also shaped by a keen eye for emerging talent. In October, he’s exhibiting a new suite of Japanese armor–inspired furniture by Chuck Moffit, a designer based in the remote woods of Mount Baldy who forges his bronze and steel tables, chairs, and lighting fixtures by hand.
Kelly Wearstler popularized a new tradition in Hollywood glamour, boldly going where more staid interior designers feared to tread: unapologetically bold colors layered on a collage of finishes, textures, and patterns, often in the homes of A-list celebrities. Her irreverent collections are available at her namesake West Hollywood boutique. By appointment only.
New hotels and restaurants opening across Los Angeles (such as the ultra-chic Firehouse Hotel) often have something in common: lighting by Jason Koharik, a longtime favorite of local interior designers. His work merges the luster of Art Nouveau with the simplicities of modernism, and he sometimes assembles pieces from unusual vintage finds: a Thonet coatrack, for example, might become a lamp that’s truly unique. By appointment only.
In Frogtown, a lesser-known industrial sector along the L.A. River, David Wiseman operates a showroom and studio (with his brother Ari) specializing in site-specific works made for shops and homes. His delicate, often bespoke furniture and installations pay homage to natural forms and the history of decorative arts: bronze branches sprout from filigree tables; chandeliers bloom with porcelain flowers. By appointment only.
In the workshop and showroom at Taylor Donsker, solid slabs of claro walnut, a California native tree, undergo minimal intervention, such as the addition of blackened steel legs, bronze inlays, and traditional dovetail joints. His furniture, heavily influenced by the craft traditions of George Nakashima, highlights the contours and grain patterns of the wood itself.
L.A.’s retail visionaries continue to define the West Coast aesthetic. —Christina Pérez
As they say in Hollywood, “it’s all about the story.” This unassuming vintage shop on Fairfax has one that’s quintessentially Tinseltown: A pair of showbiz pros (costume designer Renee Johnson and video producer Michelle Webb) quit their day jobs to focus on their shared love of fashion. They lease a small space from the original 1960s Catwoman, Julie Newmar, and pack it with vintage Chanel, YSL, Gaultier, and “unusual accoutrements.” The shop, with its appointment-only archive in the rear, has become a favorite of Lady Gaga and Mel Ottenberg, Rihanna’s head stylist.
René Tadeo Holguin’s namesake store has been described as a mystical Southwest trading post and a futuristic tribal bazaar. It’s also said that people fly in from all over the world just to visit. Perhaps the draw has to do with the building itself: an elfin, cobalt-blue cottage in an otherwise glitzy section of WeHo, where tiny buddhas stand guard at veiled glass doors in a terra-cotta courtyard. Or, perhaps, it’s what’s inside: a vaulted den of cedar walls where Holguin, a former Ralph Lauren visual merchandiser, has meticulously displayed his singular, globally tinged wares—slouchy denim pants, Navajo fringed necklaces, wabi-sabi ceramics, shibori-dyed cotton shirts. Most likely, though, the lore inspired by RTH derives from the sum of the parts—and the whisper of palo santo and aged leather that linger long after you depart.
When streetwear designer John Elliott— who counts LeBron James and Justin Bieber as fans—decided to open his first shop, he knew his mark: a concrete slab in a shopping plaza on Melrose Avenue. Inspired by Tokyo and Brutalist architecture, he outfitted it with matte-white tiles, an indoor bamboo glen, and a skylit alcove for his Nike and Suicoke collabs. Steel fixtures were added to hold his Japanese denim; chartreuse hangers for his signature French terry knits and a recent women’s wear line.
Amid the hardware stores and discount chains that populate Venice’s Lincoln Boulevard, a small but stylish scene has emerged. The motorcycle-surf shop Deus Ex Machina and the bohemian lifestyle outpost General Store deserve a spot on any West Side hit list, but Mona Moore might just warrant its very own trip. The selection of pieces from Haider Ackermann, Visvim, and Clergerie is as intriguing as the setup inside a former Swedish car repair. “I love the surprise of ‘gowns in garages,’” explains owner Lisa Bush. “Being someplace unexpected—even a little gritty—helps remove the intimidation factor from luxury.”
Contemporary art gallery, experimental performance space, high-end fashion boutique: Paola Russo’s sprawling concept store blurs the lines between all three. Her eclectic curation includes everything from antique furniture and satin Prada mules to modern art by Marilyn Minter. Exclusive collaborations like Nate Lowman’s sneakers for Converse hold court alongside alien-faced agate rings from Alina Abegg— all in a vine-covered Art Deco building that was once the headquarters of Howard Hughes.
“We do not offer trend items,” says owner Ritsuko Yagi. It’s a sentiment that makes her jewelry and accessories store an outlier—especially considering its prime location on trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard. It’s also what makes it so appealing; the mood is timeless and the assortment is largely hand-hewn. Whimsical Makoto Kagoshima ceramics line the windows and upcycled textiles by Luisa Cevese stretch across tables; Brooke Gregson opal necklaces glimmer like unearthed artifacts inside glass cases—which, naturally, are one-of-a-kind, too. Even the sharp-lined building is singular; it was designed by Santa Monica–based architect Dennis Gibbens. “We celebrate individuality—original ideas by makers and artists,” explains Yagi.
When it opened a decade ago, Mohawk General Store was a pioneer; the only shop on the East Side to offer cool-kid labels like Rachel Comey and Isabel Marant amid a selection of coffee-table books and fragrances. Two years ago, the store cemented its status as a neighborhood game changer again with an outpost in the fashion no-man’s-land that was Santa Monica’s Main Street. Though the space is sleeker, the shop still offers a quirky yet covetable selection for men and women from labels like Jacquemus, Lemaire, Dries Van Noten, and Staud. There’s also an adjoining 2,500-square-foot Japaneseinspired desert garden and event space.