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A+R La Brea

Our interview with Rose Apodaca and Andy Griffith about their new design gallery and growing inventory

by Julie Wolfson in Design on 18 September 2012

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Rose Apodaca and Andy Griffith of A+R are on a mission to fill the world with their favorite designs from around the globe, from the Japanese Lucano stepladder to JumpFromPaper's Cheese! Satchel. Their mission began with combing the world both literally and virtually, scouring design sites and boutiques for unusual products to feature in the A+R store and website. Now, seven years since Apodaca and Griffith opened their first tiny shop in Silver Lake, California, A+R has grown in inventory, community and, at long last, space.

In 2007, Apodaca and Griffith closed the doors to their original location in order to open a roomier, 1,200-square-foot space on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach. The pair stumbled upon their dream space in the burgeoning district of La Brea and took the next step toward expanding into a larger design gallery that would accommodate a growing collection, as well as parties and events for their artist and designer friends and customers.

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With enough room to stretch out, they continue to share their enthusiasm for contemporary design with their creative fans that flock to their nest. We visited the newest addition to the A+R empire just as new inventory was arriving to stock their bigger, better digs, and talked to Apodaca and Griffith to discuss their latest milestone.

Why did you choose La Brea for the new store location?

We actually were not looking for a second store site when the year began. But after we were invited to check out this space, we realized it was too good not to go for it. The street is undergoing a revival, not unlike Abbot Kinney was when we moved there in 2007, and we saw the potential. It's right next to a parking garage, and that it's covered in a mural by our pal Shepard Fairey also seemed fortuitous. Our business in furniture, lighting and other larger pieces has been growing with both consumer and trade clients and this space—at 2,300 square feet and with its 20-foot ceilings—seemed like the ideal store/showroom. So, as with every other aspect of lives together—from launching A+R nine months after we began dating and every decision together since—we did it.

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What was the design process for setting up the larger, gallery-style space?

As we have since our very first tiny shop in Silver Lake, which we closed in 2009 to open a larger space on Abbot Kinney, we consulted our friend, local architect Barbara Bestor. Together we came up with a plan that would allow us to constantly do something with this cavernous space. We installed a ceiling grid to suspend dozens of lights, or even do something crazy like hang a bunch of chairs. We built out an office and bathroom—in large part so we'd have water access for in-store parties, especially dinner parties and that sort of thing. We left the concrete floors and brick walls raw so the colorful product would be the star.

What plans do you have for the new space and how are they different from those you had for the original Silver Lake space and your current space on Abbot Kinney?

We are definitely excited about being able to showcase much of the furniture, rugs and shelving that, for the most part, has only lived on our site, with occasional appearances at the 1,200-square-foot Abbot Kinney A+R. At La Brea, we will be able to host lectures, bring together niche groups such as architects or design writers, and throw dining events.

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How do you approach curating inventory for the stores?

A business like ours has been as much about the Internet as anything. Since 2005, we always research design blogs—Cool Hunting being among the first we studied! Now that we're better known, we receive submissions weekly from designers and brands worldwide. We do frequent shows annually such as Maison & Objet in Paris, ICFF in New York and the Milan Furniture Fair, though, admittedly, we prefer to veer off the beaten track to search out fledgling designers during these circuses. Ultimately, we make our choice based on a mutual interest and excitement. If it makes us both happy, we order it. About 98% of the time, it's pretty instant between us.

Interview continued after the jump.

Images by Ramona Rosales for A+R

Who are some of your newest favorite designers? What are some you your newest favorite products?

We've been mad for everything fellow married conspirators Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings have been doing. We've carried their tea towels and rugs for Hay Denmark for some time. We're looking forward to introducing their collaboration of furniture with Japan's Karimoku New Standard this fall. We are the first retailer to sell the beautifully intricate sculptures of beetles and skulls made by 3D printing processes by Midwestern artist Josh Harker. We also love the wooden toys by Kaz Shiomi and her team at Kiko+ in Japan. We could add two dozen more to this list.

What is your favorite new toy?

Our daughter Nina turned two in August. She loves pushing around the Flap Walker + Basket by Glodos. It's a Barcelona-based studio that creates playthings designed to foster balance, hand-eye coordination and, therefore, confidence. Not that Nina lacks an ounce of that.

What part of the world have you seen the most inspirational and innovative designs coming from recently?

That's a tough one. What's exciting is that new modern design isn't just about Scandinavia any more. It's isn't about any one country either. Cliche or not, the reality is that technology is making the design landscape borderless, whether it's the pinging of ideas or collaborations among designers and manufacturers. Origin does influence design. But so does state of mind and state of art as much as state of place.

You offer several items at affordable price points. Why is this an important part of A+R?

Since the start, we have always striven to share finds that are accessible in price while also being made well. After all, if something falls apart because it's cheap, then where's the value in that? Sure, price points are relative and some items may seem like a score to some and too much to others. But year-round and definitely at the holidays, we love being able to offer a visitor the opportunity to walk out of our store or leave our online store with something wonderful under $15.

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