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Kitsch and class: This pair wears it well

High-brow collectors might cringe, but the Silvers don't care. They love their odd mix.

July 27, 2006|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

AT Patti and Stanley Silver's house in Beverly Hills, a Picasso portrait hangs in the entryway next to a goofy statue of a corpulent butler. In the backyard, a museum-quality bronze by Lynn Chadwick stands just steps away from a batting cage and a trampoline. The downstairs bathroom has a soft sculpture of a man caught with his pants down, and the office is lined with hundreds of baseballs and shoe-shaped snuffboxes, and a charming Henry Moore lithograph.

Art? Kitsch? The Silvers don't bother with that distinction.

For them, decorating isn't about being correct or the latest retro style. These quirky grandparents aren't students of Kelly Wearstler's Hollywood Regency or Jonathan Adler's midcentury modern. Instead, their home is a tribute to the power of personal taste, and a scrapbook of a life fully lived. They are not afraid to surround themselves with things just because they make them smile, or to place flea market finds next to museum pieces worth 100 times as much.

The approach may seem odd, but it has taken them far in business, making their 36-year-old boutique, Fred Segal Feet, a national force because of its consistently surprising selection, from $60 flip-flops to $7,500 Jacob the Jeweler sneakers. The Silvers were early to the Ugg boot craze, and the first retailers in L.A. to stock Miu Miu.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 28, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Stone artwork: In Thursday's Home, a photo caption with an article about Patti and Stanley Silver's art collection incorrectly identified sculptor Woods Davy as Woods Cavey.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 03, 2006 Home Edition Home Part F Page 7 Features Desk 0 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Stone artwork: A picture caption in last week's Home section about Patti and Stanley Silver's art collection incorrectly identified sculptor Woods Davy as Woods Cavey.

Footwear News, the industry bible, calls the Silvers' tiny, 605-square-foot Melrose Avenue shoe store the second most powerful in the country after Jeffrey New York in terms of market influence, which means mainstream retailers and knockoff artists watch what they sell. More than ever, fashion is not about what you wear, but the accessories you dress around. People are looking for shoes and bags that are conversation pieces.

And the Silvers know conversation pieces.

"Going back to 1869, I've got balls from every Hall of Famer," says Stanley, 71, in his favorite silver Nike sneakers and splatter-painted Roberto Cavalli pants, which themselves look worthy of framing. "We also collect menus from our favorite restaurants abroad," he says, eagerly leading a guest upstairs and taking a menu off the wall to show how it is autographed by the chef and framed in double-sided glass.

THEIR four-bedroom, neocolonial house was built in 1942 by Paul R. Williams, although the Silvers hadn't heard of him when they moved in 32 years ago, not long after relocating from their native Chicago.

"I fell in love with the house. I didn't know who built it and I didn't care," says Patti, 63, in a crystal-studded tunic top and Armani pants, her hair blown out big. She's the daughter of the late Chicago businessman, art collector and philanthropist Leo S. Guthman, a plastics manufacturer who developed the coating for the inside of beer cans, among other things.

"My father had art on his ceiling," she says.

The Silvers don't have art on the ceiling yet, but they do have it hung frame-to-frame on the stairwell, crowded on coffee tables, even in the bathrooms. They introduce pieces in the front entry and living room like old friends, without a hint of pretension. "There are two Robert Grahams, a Laddie Dill, a museum piece by Tom Holland," Stanley says, pointing to an abstract wall relief above the fireplace. "There's a nice little George Rickey mobile and a Bernard Meadows."

"We have a lot, but it's only because we keep finding things," says Patti, who serves on the acquisition committee for Modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Then there are the collectible giraffes -- a glass statuette on a shelf here, a wood figurine in the corner there. "Patti loves giraffes," Stanley says.

The two met through mutual friends after Stanley's mother saw a newspaper photo of Patti at a Jewish cotillion dance. They married and moved to L.A. in 1966 for the weather, initially operating leased shoe departments in several different stores, before scaling back to just the Fred Segal location. They recently launched an online site at

"I love fun," Patti says. "I will buy fun shoes that nobody understands but me. A Sonia Rykiel shoe I bought for summer has a little face on it. And it's sold OK, but to me it's wonderful."

Her husband agrees. "If somebody comes into the store, they might think a shoe comes from Jupiter or Mars. But we like conversation pieces, that's what we're known for."

The living room has a player piano with another life-size soft sculpture at the keys, keeping good company with a Picasso pitcher sitting on top.

"We don't go by color or relationship," Patti says of their style. "We go by what looks good where we put it."

Right now, they're trying to figure out where to put the 20-some scrolls and drawings they bought on a recent trip to Asia, where they visited 10 cities in 19 days. The Silvers travel often on buying trips to New York and Europe in search of the most eye-catching shoes from such designers as Giuseppe Zanotti, Valentino, Vicini, Gianfranco Ferre, Gina, Missoni and Yves Saint Laurent.

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