Design and conquer

The Avenues demand a gold card and a dress code

See: Bragging rights: Only on the Avenues

Like any movie star, the Avenues of Art & Design in West Hollywood would like the public’s undying love and none of its greasy fingerprints.

With 200 storefronts, the Avenues (as its boosters prefer it be known) cover a quarter-square-mile area and produce a third of West Hollywood’s sales tax revenue. Avenues executive director Alex Stettinski says his design district has few equals. “For the West Coast,” he says, “this is the only one.”

To mark the territory, banners bearing the Avenues logo (as well as its corporate sponsor, developer Laing Urban) flutter above the sidewalks. However, the Avenues’ merchants want their district to be as meaningful to Los Angeles as SoHo is to New York.

“People know that when they come to SoHo, they’re going to see and experience something exciting,” says Mary Ta, owner of Italian furniture store Minotti on Beverly Boulevard.

SoHo also has throngs of tourists scrambling for last season’s signature wallet in the Prada boutique. And that’s the bit the Avenues would like to skip.

“It’s not for everyone,” says local developer Ron Kates, who spearheaded the movement to turn the Avenues into an official Business Improvement District.

So far, the masses are not a problem. Although the annual Art & Design Walk can attract 8,000 people in a single day, the Avenues’ avenues were all but empty on a recent, sunny Saturday afternoon. (This year’s Walk is June 3.)

Although Stettinski touts the Avenues as “one of the very few areas in Los Angeles designed to be a stroll-around district,” even he hesitates to say that it wants a local crowd on a daily basis.

Merchants here are low-volume, high-ticket. As a business model, Rodeo Drive falls short by comparison. “You can buy at least a bracelet at Gucci,” Stettiniski says. On the Avenues, even the throw pillows start at $1,500.

Then there’s the intimidation factor. Stettinski says you need a designer to buy at about 30% of the furnishing stores; others require an appointment.

And all of the businesses reserve the right to invoke the fashion police. Says Jamie Adler, president of furnishings store Phyllis Morris (named after her mother, who opened one of the area’s first upscale shops in 1960), “You might not be dressed well enough to come in.”

So who are the Avenues for? Kates says he’s pleased to see area homes selling to a younger crowd that considers $1 million a bargain for a two-bedroom cottage. “I can’t tell you whether that means 20s, 30s or 40s,” he says. “But these are successful people.”

Those people do seem to be shopping here, however quietly. Kates says the newly opened Williams-Sonoma Home, the retailer’s entry into the luxury market, is breaking sales records.

For many, the Avenues’ goal is clear, even if the outcome is uncertain. But if Kates is right when he says, “The product is a destination,” can tour buses be far behind?

Bragging rights: Only on the Avenues

Hamilton Selway Fine Art

Minotti Los Angeles

The Place:
Hamilton Selway Fine Art
8678 Melrose Ave.
(310) 657-1711
The Place:
Minotti Los Angeles
8936 Beverly Blvd.
(310) 278-6851
Only in WeHo: The largest collection of Warhol prints in the U.S. (more than 250); also works by Ruscha, Lichtenstein and Basquiat
Crown Jewels: A 50″ x 70″ Andy Warhol painting, “Car Crash”
Only in WeHo: The only U.S. showroom for the haute Italian furniture designer
Crown Jewels: Lolli e Memmoli handmade crystal lighting
Cost: $3 million Cost: In-stock chandeliers range from $7,000 to $25,000; sky’s the limit for custom pieces.

Du Vin Wine and Spirits

Japanache

The Place:
Du Vin Wine and Spirits
540 N. San Vicente Blvd.
(310) 855-1161
The Place:
Japanache
146 N. Robertson Blvd.
(310) 657-0155
Only in WeHo: With 400 Bordeaux labels and more rosé than anyone thought possible, it amounts to California’s best selection of European wine
Crown Jewels: The one and only bottle of 25-year-old Delamain Cognac in a signed, sealed Daum crystal decanter
Only in WeHo: Custom furniture fashioned from Japanese antiques
Crown Jewels: Coffee tables made from Japanese doors dating back to the mid-1800s, embedded with stones and moss
Cost: $550 Cost: $5,500-$7,000; a $20,000 dining table is in the works

Alpha

Phyllis Morris

The Place:
Alpha
8625 Melrose Ave.
(310) 855-0775
The Place:
Phyllis Morris
8772 Beverly Blvd.
(310) 289-6868
Only in WeHo: A mini-department store for guys featuring hard-to-find imported clothes, gifts and gadgets
Crown Jewels: Stove-top coffee presses by the London kitchen outfitter Frevd
Only in WeHo: On the Avenues since they were just avenues, everything is made in L.A. and everything is custom
Crown Jewels: Their top seller is the Grande Venetian bed, nicknamed the N.B.A. bed, because it’s nine feet deep.
Cost: $85 Cost: $75,000

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