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At Local, home is where the art is

Couple's Craftsman doubles as a gallery/boutique.

May 22, 2003|Jessica Hundley | Special to The Times

Many retailers spend millions of dollars in strained efforts to set their customers at ease, putting big money into music, marketing and costly interior design meant to make a shopper feel at home.

At Steven and Chandra Auge and Dewall's clothing boutique/gallery Local, you really are at home -- their home, the first floor of their 1920s Craftsman in Los Feliz to be exact; warm wood, fireplace ablaze, large bay windows streaming yellow afternoon light.

Opened last June to showcase the work of L.A.-based designers and artists (and a few from the East Coast), Local is a wonderfully unusual space, a shopping experience more akin to rummaging through your big sister's closet -- an incredibly well stocked and beautifully organized closet -- than fighting through dusty or crowded department store racks.

"When you come in here," says Chandra, "I want it to be a comforting experience."

Island Records recording artist Rosey is a repeat customer.

"I love everything about the store," she says. "They're very serious about having everything there be unique, one-of-a-kind pieces created by amazing artists."

In addition to carrying products from a wide range of L.A.-based designers, such as Lute and Alicia Lawhon and the handbag designer Kim White, Local also hosts private trunk shows and gallery openings that focus exclusively on the work of up-and-coming Angelenos.

The Dewalls met several years ago, when Steven was photo editor of the music and film magazine Mean.

"I was working as a stylist at the time," says Chandra, who is a fashion designer as well, "and I went in for an interview with him

After moving Steven's photo studio out of their downstairs apartment, the couple decided that they wanted to do something both imaginative and utilitarian and create a space that would combine their individual interests and aesthetics.

"We also wanted to give ourselves the chance to get involved in what was going on here in L.A., to be able to show designers and artists who were doing interesting and innovative things," says Chandra.

To make the Local experience even more intimate, the Dewalls recently began scheduling the private trunk shows, where clients can meet directly with the designers.

"I've found that the trunk shows make people feel a bit more special," Chandra says.

"You can ask questions of the designer, which is not something you get to do every day, and the designers can get a feel for who their clients are," she says. "I think people enjoy it because it's more personal, and it takes place in a little bit more of a relaxed atmosphere."

Local's current gallery exhibition, through July 3, spotlights works by Abbie Baron Morganstein in "Fun With Marshmallows." This whimsical look at life's travails follows marshmallows (a fluffy white symbol of innocence) through the role they play in Rice Krispies treats and other snacks.

Graphic designer and artist Jill Simonsen, who sold several of her paintings at a show at Local, says she appreciates the attention to art.

"They work really closely with you, and they have a nice balance between the art and the clothes. The art is not an afterthought there," says Simonsen. "It's integrated in a way that doesn't feel forced."

Chandra, who says that Local's price range of about $20 to $200 reflects her desire to keep things affordable, adds: "I'm drawn to clothes that have an artistic quality to them. When I do a gallery show, I try to pay attention to the clothing that will be in the store at that time and incorporate it stylistically. I want art-goers to feel that this is a gallery. The ultimate goal is to showcase people together, who are creative in different ways."

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Local

Where: 4431 Sunset Drive, Los Angeles

Hours: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

Info: (323) 668-2085 or www.local-la.com.

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