“When you say ‘modern-design store,’ people often imagine a serious, stark gallery-like environment full of Scandinavian stainless steel and Alessi,” says Rose Apodaca, cofounder of the modern-design boutique A+R. “But we like to promote design that has a wink and a nudge. A sense of humor.”
That explains the Lucite wall-mounted deer head with antlers, priced at $525. The life-size porcelain Wellington boots. The Dixie cups made of glass, the wood-veneer clutch purses, and the pebble-shaped vibrators that pass as pretty ornaments. If you’re looking for great conversation pieces to sprinkle about your midcentury-modern pad, you’ll be in ironic-design heaven at A+R.
Apodaca opened the store, situated directly opposite Spaceland in Silver Lake, with her boyfriend, Andy Griffith, in early November 2005, both of them having quit their jobs to make it happen (Apodaca as West Coast bureau chief of the fashion-industry bible Women’s Wear Daily, and Griffith as a film-and-TV editor). The space, a former furniture store, fell into the couple’s lap in late 2005, when they had been together just over a year. “Everybody’s heads are spinning at how quickly things have moved, but that’s what Andy and I have in common,” says Apodaca. “Once we make up our minds about something, we stick with it. And we make it happen.”
At the time, Griffith was thinking about opening a restaurant and Apodaca was “very happy” running things at WWD. Going into retail was the last thing on their minds, but two months later, A+R was up and running. “It just felt like the right thing to do,” says Apodaca.
The store is even named after them — the “A” stands for Andrew, and the “R” stands for, you guessed it, Rose. The store shares both their DNA, its range of items reflecting Apodaca’s nose for trends as well as Griffith’s knack for spotting witty, one-of-a-kind designs. There’s really no predicting what you’ll encounter, whether it’s the Pinocchio toilet brushes (his long nose is the handle), or the porcelain army tanks made in the Limoges factories in France, or the one-off onion-print Lenin head, which, at $1,000, is the most expensive item in the store.
Popular sellers are the Egglings, little porcelain eggs that contain seeded earth. At home, you crack open the shell, sprinkle water on the soil, and voilà — a beautiful plant will shortly appear! More expensive (between $40 and $60) are the German stuffed hippos, pigs and monkeys made from vintage toweling. “Every time we get a shipment, the patterns are completely different,” says Griffith.
Many items are by international designers, but that’s not to say locals are ignored — quite the contrary. Acclaimed Silver Lake photographer Melanie Pullen, a friend of the couple, has signed books in the store, as has L.A.-based jazz-photography legend William Claxton.
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About 50 percent of what is in the store is sold exclusively in L.A. by A+R — for example, London designer Kate Storer’s graphic duvets and pillowcases, and leather messenger bags by Swiss designer Alfredo Häberli.
How does A+R, located in the middle of a cluster of quirky design stores like Yolk and 1010, manage to avoid duplicating stock that is already being sold around the corner? “We all talk to each other,” says Griffith. Apodaca adds, “We try and keep very friendly with everybody and be a good neighbor — Andy will phone them up and say, ‘Did you guys order this?’ It doesn’t serve anybody if we are all carrying the same thing.”
The couple find their stock by scouring obscure design blogs and visiting design and trade shows around the world. This allows them to make contact with small international designers that are under the radar of most U.S. retailers. “This means that some of the stuff I have ordered has never been seen before, not even in the blogs,” says Griffith, proudly. “When that happens, I am very happy about that.”
A+R, 1716 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 913-9558. Open Tues.-Sat., noon-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. www.aplusrstore.com.