Nest. Photo by Clea Hantman.
When I first outgrew Ikea furniture (before Ikea was even in San Diego and we had to drive to Irvine), I longed for sleek and stylish vintage finds, cleaner and nicer than I could pick up at Amvets. Back then (20-plus years ago) there was one choice: Boomerang, located on Park Boulevard. That store split like an atom into two stores when the partners went separate ways, and now it's Mid-Century Design—one of the offshoots—that, in my mind, has always been a small cave o' mod. Boomerang, after a long iteration on the edge of Little Italy, is now in fancier digs a few blocks north in a spanking-new building. Since those two original stores have gone their proton and neutron ways, numerous mod-furnishing joints have opened, each with its own unique personality. For the sake of this column, I'll liken each shop's personality to someone in my family.
Design / One is my Uncle Stanley, a singular bachelor whom everyone refers to as “The Rich Uncle.” Stanley likes designer labels; anything else isn't worth it. I'm not saying that some of Design / One's pieces don't command that kind of price tag, but this store—with its blinding whiteness, gallery-like open space and L.A.-worthy brand names—is expensive. A pair of Wormley tables will cost you more than $3,000. A Nakashima chest will run you over 12 grand. But there's no denying that those pieces are works of art. 3789 1⁄2 Park Blvd., Hillcrest. www.designonemodern.com.
Mid-Century Design is my Aunt Cele. She could be on Hoarders. It's crowded, occasionally dusty, a little bit sloppy and a whole lot of fun to dig through. Pieces here run the gamut. You'll find the occasional famous name and pieces of genuine art, but mostly those pieces sit beside nameless, yet good, design—and the prices fit accordingly. 3795 Park Blvd., Hillcrest. 619-295-4832.
The original Boomerang for Modern is my classy Grandpa (Uncle Stan's bro). Always impeccably dressed, he embraced modern jazz alongside the old. This store features mostly new furniture, including Herman Miller (think Eames lounge), Vitra (like the Gehry wiggle chair), Modernica and Architectural Pottery. The vintage items, while not plentiful, are always pristine—and they go fast. It's a fun place to visit regularly for its curated vignettes. (Curious how a mid-mod master decorates his own pad? David Skelly's own Segal-designed dwelling was featured on ApartmentTherapy.com—search it!) 2475 Kettner Blvd., Middletown. www.boomerangformodern.com.
Nest is my stinky, but hilarious, little brother. At the new-ish little nook of a shop in Golden Hill (next to the lovely Counterpoint), the goods are decidedly more '70s. The handful of bright Kartell pieces and weird acrylic night stands have a tacky-cool aura and the prices are affordable for anyone looking to add some classic pieces to their dwelling. Bright colors, weird prints, vivid pillows—this place is a gas. 830 25th St., Golden Hill, www.nestvintage.com.
Klassik is the whole Shapiro side of my family—a weird mix of many wacky personalities that somehow fit together lovingly. Born out of a couple of collectors' mini stores (Gala Home Furnishings and Antiques & Stuff), it's now a sizable sort of warehouse filled with Hollywood Regency, teak and '60s-era pop goods, happily sitting side by side. The prices? Mostly decent. And there's a lot to choose from, including a few stunning Danish wall units. 989 W. Kalmia St., Middletown, www.klassikdesign.com.
This Sunday, April 25, you'll find Mod Swap taking place in Klassik's shared parking lot. The Mod Swap, besides being a word play on one of the greatest TV shows of all time (Peggy Liption!) is a mini flea market brimming with smaller mid-century pieces and the occasional piece of furniture, being sold or offered for trade by local collectors. The whole thing will unroll at 9 a.m. and go till about 1 p.m. It's a great place to start that makes me think of Uncle Bob—he never stayed in one place for very long.
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