Nearing the end of my LA vacation last summer, I was searching for a gift to bring home to my mother. Venice Beach was covered in "eclectic" gift shops. To me each store was a disappointing replica of the last: Overpriced cheesy T-shirts, shiny objects and typical superficial Californian crap. Stumbling upon Chatsworth, I found the Log Cabin Mercantile. Antiques galore! They had a small, lightweight, turquoise vintage suitcase to top off my mom's stack in the living room. Perfection came in the form of a mermaid statue. She was posed on a rock, with multi-colored agates flowing down her tail and a Mona Lisa smile on her face. Visualizing the light browns, earthy pinks and sea greens of the bathroom back home, I was temporarily lost in the myths of sailors' lore. I cringed before looking at the price.....then let out a sigh of relief....I love this store. Go out of your way to find it.
BEST ANTIQUE TOOLS AND GARDEN IRONWORK - 2009
Log Cabin Mercantile Company
There's an afternoon drive around long-dry Chatsworth Reservoir that gives you a hint of what L.A. was like when Indian trails were in use, stage coaches ran through and ranchers had not yet carved up the Valley. The route north from the Ventura Freeway along Valley Circle Drive (don't take the unattractive route south from the 118 freeway) takes you along the vast, fenced meadows and hillocks that once encircled the abandoned reservoir. The undulating drive turns east, where a bright-red house touts firewood for sale, and the miniature white-brick Lake Manor Chapel advertises "God will wipe away every tear." Soon you'll reach Log Cabin Mercantile Company, a log cabin jammed with a strange jumble: well-priced vintage jewelry, cleverly potted cacti, and, unexpectedly, a small rack of designer European clothes priced like a Loehmann's backroom sales event. Seen on recent visits: a powder blue leather motorcycle jacket for $120, and taupe linen shorts for $25. But the place is best known for its ironwork and sculptures outside: garden benches, outdoor etagères and lovely stands with just the right amount of rust; at $40 to $200 the items are priced at half of what you'd pay in Santa Monica. Adorable garden "animals" made from potato-sized river rocks have nutty, iron-wire legs, whiskers and wings, many going for less than $40. The grounds are a junk museum strewn with an antique foot-powered grinder, a human-drawn iron fire-hose wheel, and a carved, iron-strapped bridge said to have been used by elephants. 23300 Valley Circle Blvd., Chatsworth Lake. (818) 812-8034. Open weekends only.—Jill Stewart