Next Stop, Culver City
Published: July 2009
By David A. Keeps
Once a nowheresville between Beverly Hills and Venice, the backyard of MGM Studios has blossomed into L.A.’s newest design destination.
Where to Stay
Long before the latest generation of young painters and curators turned the industrial spaces of Culver City into an art colony rivaling Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station and L.A.’s Chinatown, the Renaissance-revival Culver Hotel (9400 Culver Blvd.; 310/838-7963; www.culverhotel.com; doubles from $159), at six stories a skyscraper by 1924 standards, opened its doors to a crop of budding stars. The 21-year-old Garbo stayed there, and so did the Munchkins during the making of The Wizard of Oz. Today, in a salute to former owner John Wayne, one riotously colorful suite features his picture—along with two marble baths and a round bed. Another good base from which to explore Culver City is the stylish 86-room Avalon Hotel (9400 W. Olympic Blvd.; 800/670-6183; www.avalonbeverlyhills.com; doubles from $425), a Midcentury Modern gem just three miles away in Beverly Hills.
What to Do
In addition to more established galleries like Blum & Poe (2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.; 310/ 836-2062), Outsider-art champions such as Billy Shire Fine Arts (5790 Washington Blvd.; 323/297-0600), and dozens of newcomers, Culver City is home to a number of truly idiosyncratic venues. The Museum of Design Art and Architecture (MODAA) (8609 Washington Blvd.; 310/558-0902; www.modaagallery.com) mounts exhibitions by such diverse artists as Batmobile designer Harold Belker and Midcentury-architecture photographers Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai. Mathletes meet aesthetes at Gregg Fleishman Studio (3850 Main St.; 310/202-6108; www.greggfleishman.com); Fleishman uses equal parts geometry and whimsy to build furniture and modular structures. The mind boggles even more in the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Blvd.; 310/836-6131; www.mjt.org), where founder David Wilson offers weird relics and hologram-enhanced exhibits on such curiosities as the history of the string game cat’s cradle.
A haven for furniture fanatics, not to mention Hollywood set decorators, the 10,000-square-foot Jefferson West (9310 Jefferson Blvd.; 310/558-3031) stocks European antiques, American folk art, and 20th-century designs. For die-hard Modernists, Denizen Design Gallery (8600 Venice Blvd.; 310/ 838-1959) showcases colorful and clever contemporary furniture, lighting, and sculpture by local designers like Sami Hayek and Bernard Brucha. Empiric (6021 Washington Blvd; 310/842-9777) carries refinished vintage furniture as well as its own retro stainless-steel pieces, including Deco-style chrome club chairs and a flat file turned glass-topped coffee table. Hunter-gatherers, meanwhile, head to Rolling Greens (9528 Jefferson Blvd.; 310/559-8656), a hillside nursery with commanding views of Culver City and a barn filled with thousands of orchids, Asian and Italian ceramic planters, and home accessories such as mercury-glass candlesticks. The area’s sole clothing boutique, Indie Collective (6039A Washington Blvd.; 310/837-7714), features lean knit tops and sculptural skirts by young local designers.
Where to Eat
Grab breakfast—say, some panettone French toast or an Angus beef hash–and-egg panini—at Café Surfas (8777 W. Washington Blvd.; 310/ 558-1458; breakfast for two $14), a take-out counter adjacent to L.A.’s premier restaurant supplier. At Beacon, an Asian Café (3280 Helms Ave.; 310/ 838-7500; lunch for two $30), Spago veteran Kazuto Matsusaka prepares comfort food such as ahi-tuna pizza and green-tea soba noodles. The scene is darker and cozier at Ford’s Filling Station (9531 Culver Blvd.; 310/202-1470; dinner for two $80), a bistro offering plates of artisanal cheeses and European cured meats, as well as revved-up classics like steak tartare with truffled potato chips. Next door, rub elbows with Sony studio execs during the mad lunch rush at Tender Greens (9523 Culver Blvd.; 310/842-8300; lunch for two $20), a chic cafeteria specializing in salads. With orange tables and green curtains, Wilson (8631 Washington Blvd.; 310/287-2093; dinner for two $125) is playfully modern; the food is seriously so: try the tea-smoked whitefish or escargot skewers.