The Book of Taste is a blog & online store curated by Darrin banks. Based in Los Angeles, he offers design services & his posts explore art, entertainment, food, fitness, and fashion.

One Man's Chachki Is Another Man's Object D'Art!

One Man's Chachki Is Another Man's Object D'Art!

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

One of my best friends likes to tease me about my affinity for what I call “artifacts” and he calls “chachkies.” Whenever he comes to my house he finds a way to point out how many trinkets I have on display. It’s like being in a museum he playfully exclaims while slurping down his cocktail—eyes darting from shelf to shelf taking in the objects. I swear he looks at me like I’m Laura in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie carefully handling figurines I think are my friends, or a cat lady dusting off random bauble-heads to a desperate chorus of meows. No shade! He assures me. I should also mention that he happens to be an interior design client of mine, so I am well aware of his personal aversion to knickknacks. Clean, modern minimalism is the name of his game, which I respect and can definitely curate for someone who leans towards that aesthetic. However, when it comes to my own home, I’m enamored with bold color and pizzazz.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

It’s fair to say that growing up during the Disney Renaissance, animated tales like The Little Mermaid left quite an impression on me. The future luxury décor hoarder in me looked at Ariel’s “troves” and her “treasures untold” and sincerely wondered “how many wonders could one cavern hold.” Assessing my own collection of “gadgets and gizmos aplenty”—my own “whooz-its and whatz-its glore,” I began to develop an obsession with stylish homewares—choosing to spend my allowance on things like a “Tiffany” lamp found at a local antique store, or a decorative inlay box that would safeguard my keepsakes. When I finally convinced my mother to let me overhaul my bedroom, I insisted on purchasing a shelving unit that could properly display my whatnots. It was equally as important to me as choosing accent pillows or the wall color. What can I say, I took my “thingamabobs” very seriously and still do.

Photo by: Saro Karagueuzian for TBOT

Photo by: Saro Karagueuzian for TBOT

I suppose I take issue with the word “chachki”—as if the Venetian glass elephant my partner and his mother bought me during her 70th birthday trip to Italy, or the gilded antique Samurai sword from Japan that sits sheathed on a display perch in my bedroom are throwaway trifles from the 99 cents store. When I think chachki I immediately picture the toys found in a grab claw machine at an arcade. No matter how hard you try to operate the joystick, that silver claw can’t seem to grasp the head of any stuffed animals. Six attempts and five dollars worth of quarters later, you’re on your way to Toys-R-Us defeated—hoping to appease the child you disappointed with a consolation prize. I’m not saying that exact scenario didn’t play out in my own life with my father cast as the operator of the claw and me the hopeful child gazing at another stuffed animal I didn’t need. I guess my point is, with maturity, I’ve come to view collecting distinctive objects as a wonderful way to express myself in my physical world.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

In my opinion, in order for a house to truly become a home it must represent and reflect the people who inhabit it. Photographs, art collections, and tangible mementoes acquired overtime through travel and adventures serve as the heart and soul of a home. It’s what gives a home its warmth and individuality. We spend a considerable amount of time indoors and are greatly affected by our environments on multiple levels. Why not fill our spaces with treasures that enrich our quality of life and bring us joy?  I call it conscientious materialism.

Photo by: Saro Karagueuzian for TBOT

Photo by: Saro Karagueuzian for TBOT

Beyond the tangible reflection of where you’ve been and what you love is the unique opportunity to experience the gift of functional intelligent design on a daily basis. Now that I host intimate dinners and cocktail parties, I get so much pleasure out of using glassware, platters and serving utensils that catch the eye’s of my guests. A beautifully laid table tells a story of taste and style—enhancing the meal that’s been prepared. Even when it’s just me mundanely having a bowl of cereal, or a glass of water, I’ve tried to fill my cabinets with aesthetically pleasing items that I can regularly enjoy. I believe there is a direct correlation between the little things that make you smile and optimal living, which in the end only leads to more gratitude.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

For this reason I am drawn to boutiques that sell extraordinary home furnishings. Lucky for us, Los Angeles is teeming with them. I have a handful of favorites that I pop into from time to time to see what’s new. Below are four that I usually shop at and a few examples of items I’ve purchased there. I highly recommend any lover of home décor to check these establishments out. You’ll find everything from glassware, textiles, furniture, wall art, serving and organizational items, to clothing and jewelry.

 

A PLUS R

A+R Store

For those who appreciate contemporary design and modern innovation, A+R is the answer to your decorating dreams. Representing the best of independent design houses, A+R readily imports products from around the world. In 10 years, “A+R has evolved from a tiny shop with grab-n-go home décor and gifts to a wide world of furniture, lighting, rugs and more,” (A+R). Out of all the homeware stores I shop at, A+R happens to be my favorite. Owners and curators Andy Griffith and Rose Apodaca (“A” plus “R”…get it?!) select the most atypical items that embody refined modern elegance. The products are expertly made from the finest materials, and every design has an equally intriguing story behind its creation.  Whether it’s silver helium balloon-shaped mirrors from Oskar Zieta’s Tafla Elliptic collection or my most prized Crinkle glasses by the iconic ceramics artist Rob Brandt, they always have the coolest shit! It truly is global design edited.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Jose’ Joaquim Ribeiro & Cutipol

Moon Flatware

I was in the market for a nice set of flatware. I knew I wanted something contemporary and dissimilar to anything I’d seen before. When I came across Jose Joaquim Ribeiro & Cutipol’s Moon Flatware, I was immediately struck by the roundness of the spoons, the sleek thinness of the handles and the overall satisfactory weight and feel of the cutlery. Dare I be bold and go for gold? Who has gilded flatware? Who do I think I am… Liberace?—Trump! Made by Portuguese artisans in the village of Soa Martinho de Sande, I couldn’t resist the brushed gold plated stainless steel beauties. The flatware has elevated every dinner party I’ve hosted since—I’m simply over the moon about them!

Sagaform

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

After I purchased my Crinkle glass set, I was hooked on the whole disposable look-alike dishware aesthetic. I bought two PET Water Bottle carafes from Swedish designer Sagaform. They are made out of thermal glass that keeps the contents cold and has a no-spill stopper. I get such a kick out of the fact that it’s this gorgeous hand-blown glass bottle made to look like a cheap plastic piece of trash.

 

NEW STONE AGE

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Judging from their website, you might think that New Stone Age primarily sells precious-stone jewelry. Although they do carry a variety of incredible jewelry lines, this 3rd street haberdashery is so much more! It’s a knickknack lover’s paradise! “Founded by Fran Ayres and Susan Skinner in 1982, the name of the store pays homage to the Neolithic Era, when technological advances and an improved quality of life inspired humans to make a prolific amount of art—everything from pottery to frescoes to jewelry,” (NSA). Truly unusual, one-of-a-kind gems that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the city occupy the shelves of New Stone Age. It’s a floor to ceiling adventure for the home décor enthusiast who appreciates both traditional and alternative approaches to interior design.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Roost

Photo by: Marc Cartwright for TBOT

Photo by: Marc Cartwright for TBOT

One of the best pieces I found there for a client was the Serpentine Vase by Roost. Twenty Borosilicate glass tubes are anchored by connected metal brackets that curve and coil like a snake. The versatility of this vase and the innumerable amount of arrangements one can create epitomizes intelligent design.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

I also gravitated towards these porcelain beads featuring letters of the alphabet or little paintings of trophies, antique drink dispensers and mirrors on them. I mixed those with a few bug encased glass marbles I found in another corner of the store and vuala!—the empty glass container sitting on my piano was complete.

   

PLEASE DO NOT ENTER

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Traveling east on Melrose Ave, right across the street from Marc Jacobs you’ll see “Hey B*tch I’m from Downtown,” cheekily scribed in hot pink underneath Please Do Not Enter’s marquee. The West Hollywood location is one of two pop-up satellites to their flagship store located downtown on Olive Street. Sourcing luxury homewares, jewelry, contemporary art and clothing from a variety of local and international designers, PDNE is one of the more avante garde destinations for décor. The featured designers often create exclusive collections only available to PDNE customers that are inspired by the PDNE ethos: “erasing the boundaries between art gallery and retail.”  From exquisite Peruvian sourced raw pyrite jewelry made by Seraphine, to decorative feline shaped embroidered pillows made by SKO Designs, the store prides itself on carrying an eclectic inventory that blur the line between collectable art and practical design.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Da Vetro

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Fabrica Design created a line of Italian hand-blown glass vases, containers and carafes that manage to impress just by sitting on a shelf collecting dust. “The pieces convert allusions to human gesture, postures and scale into a series of playfully poetic, utilitarian objects,” (PDNE) High quality vessels in unconventional sizes with uncommonly shaped handles put this collection in a class of its own. I particularly like the Phallos carafe (which is exactly what you think it is) for its brazenness as well as the pasta container that features a penne pasta shell as the handle. All 30 pieces in the limited edition collection are designed exclusively for PDNE.

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Da Vetro Pasta container

Y’a Pas Le Feu Au Lac

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

Photo by: DJB for TBOT

For those of you out there who speak French you’ll recognize this familiar phrase, which in English translates to “the lake isn’t burning.” It’s a figure of speech equivalent to its English counterpart, “where’s the fire?” According to a very knowledgeable PDNE sales associate, this French company produced hand crafted toy parts for toy manufactures for many years. As globalization would have it, the company couldn’t compete with the cost-cutting allure of Chinese manufacturing. Choosing integrity of design, the company decided to repurpose their handmade parts and collaborate with designers from around the world to make small-scale furniture and useful items for the home. Above all, at the core of their designs is the art of craftsmanship and the recognized time it takes to truly produce something of value.

I fell in love with these serving platters and cake/cupcake stands I found at PDNE’s other pop-up store The Gift Shop located inside The Springs.

 

TUMBLEWEED & DANDELION

Tumbleweed & Dandelion store

No store does elevated shabby chic quite like Tumbleweed & Dandelion. My partner is a dude’s dude, who couldn’t care less about home décor and every time we go to Abbot Kinney he insists on stopping by his “favorite store.” He’s not alone. For over 20 years T&D have been supplying patrons with American manufactured, handcrafted home furnishings. The store exudes charm featuring coastal aesthetic luxury perfect for the Bohemian high rollers that inhabit Venice and Malibu. T&B feels warm and inviting with it whitewashed wooden floors that creak and the porch that’s filled with outdoor furniture and accent pillows. Beyond fine bedding and bath apparel, you’ll find all sorts of vintage and modern treasures ideal for adding that special something to your home environment.

Photo by: DJB .for TBOT

Photo by: DJB .for TBOT

One of my absolute can’t-do-withouts came from T&B. I keep all my jewelry in these antique French Ormolu bronze boxes with beveled glass. Having seen the mass produced knock-offs in other stores, I was delighted to recognize the marked difference in the boxes overall appearance. The quality of the bronze and glass—the weight of the objects all felt authentically valuable. It’s one of many T&B purchases that I’ve come to cherish.  

 

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