Meaningful Objects and Where to Find Them

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less stuff but better-loved stuff? Yes, it is possible, at least according to Eric Alan and Rhonda Voo, guests on this DnA, who talk about their quest to rid their home of everything but “meaningful objects” (and live up to the beauty of a remodel done for them by architect Neil Denari, shown, left). But what are “meaningful objects?” What ascribes meaning to a thing? The topic grew out of an interview with Eric and Rhonda, who made the decision to purge their lives after participating in a UCLA study of middle class LA families and their relationship to their material goods (read about the study in the book, Life at Home in the 21st Century).

The show opens with their story – listen to hear what Rhonda finds most difficult to part with — and leads into a discussion of the meaning of “meaningful”, with some designers and dealers: Jeremy Levine, Joel Chen, Lorca Cohen, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan and Oliver M. Furth.

Then, since this is gift-giving season, the show turns to connoisseurs of the “things” likely to end up in people’s stockings – books, video games, gadgets. Lee Kaplan, Brent Gordon and Cory Lashever, pick examples of those items that have meaning. The show concludes with the idea of a gift that is not a thing: a non-profit called Side Street Projects that brings woodworking classes to kids in schools without arts programs.

If you are still pondering meaningful gifts for friends and family, following are some hints and tips.


Guest Lee Kaplan, co-owner of Arcana Books on the Arts, a store now in Culver City. He talked on the show about a powerful book called Human Zoos (about the White Colonial tradition of parading “savages” in all their native finery for public amusement). But at his store you can find other amazing books, among them perfect gifts for inspiring the artist in children, like Charlie Harper’s Animal Kingdom. Or, for appealing to the eternal rocker in men, 101 Essential Rock Records: The Golden Age of Vinyl from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols by Jeff Gold.

Another guest on the show was Jonathan Adler, prolific potter and spouse of Barneys “creative ambassador” Simon Doonan. They were in town recently promoting his latest iteration of an ongoing theme of his, Happy Chic-ing ones life. Since this was the fourth in a series, called  100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life , I was ready for a feeling of been there, done that, but the book turns out to be very amusing, with sumptuous photos and witty exhortations like ‘Nap In Odd Places’ or ‘Ponder Perforation’ and ‘Stick To Unpretentious Ski Resorts’ or  ‘Watch Bad TV’ (to remind you how good you have it.)


On the show we also heard from Lorca Cohen, above, on the topic of what makes a “meaningful object.” She is shown, standing in black, at the opening of the pop-up Storefront Bazaar in the arts district in downtown, created by Coryander Friend,  a production designer whose artful displays sharply reflect the change of character in downtown’s arts district (there was a moment on opening night that captured the contrasts, as a crowd of, to use hubby Bennett Stein’s words, “fastidiously artisanally dressed and quaffed and booted meaningful object hunters” combed through vintage furnishings, handmade leather shoes and rustic linens, security men tackled a homeless man to the ground outside). But the goods — by vendors including Everyw’air, Annie Costello Brown, Appointment Only, Esquivel, Grace Lee Designs, Falcon, Enamelware, Lorca Line, Artless, The Window, Rachel Craven, Parachute Collection, Moon Canyon Designs, Victoria Morris Pottery, Bellroy Wallets, Brendan Ravenhill, Tavin, Wes Lang, Rex & Penny, Ursa Major — are quite beautiful. Storefront Bazaar is on 821 East Third Street, LA, CA 90013 and will be open daily from 11am to 7pm through January 15, 2013

Note, Storefront Bazaar is usefully located opposite Poketo, a retailer of some cute and Japanese-inspired design fare that is a haven for the gift-seeker.

Meanwhile, as design hubs form in increasingly affluent communities from downtown to Silverlake to Venice, a part of town with a longer history of design and the decorative arts, West Hollywood, beckons us with a reminder that there lies a concentration of design and fashion stores with individualized goods to suit all tastes. In The Avenues, whose board is helmed by Jamie Adler, President of Phyllis Morris (shown left) a district circumscribed by Santa Monica Boulevard, La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard, you can find, just for starters: Kathryn Ireland; Gray Gallery; Robert Kuo; Undrest; RetroSpecs & Co.; Alexandra Von Furstenberg, and – if you heard our segment on why style-conscious men these days covet a timepiece over a techie technogadget —Second Time Around Watches 


On the show we heard from Jeremy Levine, architect, about a nonprofit he chairs called Side Street Projects. Founded two decades ago, Side Street Projects provides mobile woodworking classes to kids who are deprived of art education in their ever increasingly budget slashed public schools. It is one of several such organizations in town that provide an invaluable service (PS Arts is another) that are always in need of financial or in-kind donations.

There are other charitable efforts geared to bring luster into children’s lives. One of my favorite is a recent effort by a group of City of Burbank employees and residents who call themselves the Burbank Bike Angels. They have been collecting used bicycles from local residents for the past four years then painstakingly sprucing them out to tip-top condition for donation to kids through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program in Burbank. Who amongst us cannot remember the thrill of our first bike? the first taste of freedom (even though my first bike was a then-popular Moulton Mini, which had very small wheels meaning you had to pedal like the Dickens).

Last week the City handed out 150 bikes (shown in the picture, below) and now they are starting to collect used bikes for next year. Those wishing to support next year’s program by donating used bicycles, money or their time to repair bikes can contact the Burbank Recycle Center at (818) 238-3900.

If you know of other nonprofits in LA that are bringing art and design to kids please let us know.

Meantime, all of us at DnA wish you a very happy holiday season.