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STYLE X THREE: Some you've heard of, others not yet.
But these three tastemakers are all in the process
of redefining L.A. style. Think of it as their way
of life, multiplied.

Dana Hollister

She's the girl with X-ray eyes. Where other scene-making entrepreneurs see real estate, she sees the stellar bone structure of the city's overlooked architecture--and the next happening neighborhood.

April 29, 2007|Lynell George | Lynelle George is a senior writer for West

Many an Angeleno will tell you that the only time they ever truly love Los Angeles is right after a good scrubbing. Dana Hollister isn't one of them. And even after a night of unusually theatrical winds, she isn't blown away so much by the here-to-Catalina view from her hilltop Silver Lake home as she is by the details: what got dislodged, what took a tumble--trees, walls, fences--and because of it, what odd, unexpected juxtapositions have been created, what has suddenly been pushed into plain sight.

In other words, Hollister doesn't need high winds or any other sort of weather event to really see Los Angeles. What draws her eye is not official "postcard L.A." She's much more interested in the city's rough edges, its sun-faded soul, the neighborhoods that until recent years existed just outof frame. Places she can doll up with a club or a restaurant or a hotel. "It's just a dream city," she says. "But it is asleep."

For more than a decade, Hollister has been buying up properties, remnants in and around Silver Lake in much the same way she used to scavenge for vintage fabrics to make luxe pillows and opulent draperies or rescued old sofas from sidewalks to reupholster and resuscitate and retail at her erstwhile Beverly Boulevard boutique, Odalisque. "They were beautiful, beautiful things!" she says with the enthusiasm of a new mother. "Carved bottom trims, feet. The frames were beautiful. They were just beat up some--but really, nothing was wrong with them."

The same holds true for her home, the Paramour, a long-neglected idyll now invigorated and verdant. When she first took up residence with her sleeping bag, dog and sawed-off shotgun, it was in need of some good loving--a mess of broken windows, a leaky ballroom ceiling and musty, long-closed rooms. "But," she says, "I knew even then she had beautiful bones."

When Hollister arrived in L.A. from Chicago, fresh out of the Art Institute in 1985, she was set on becoming either a photographer or film director. "Instead," she says, "I became a designer." But really, those previous aspirations can be seen in the nightspots--the 4100 Bar, Cliff's Edge, the Brite Spot (which she owns and operates with her boyfriend and business partner, Jim Venetos)--that she's planted along the eastern curve of Sunset, one of Silver Lake's busiest, still-blossoming business stretches. They are artful collages of mood and time, stripped-down spaces layered with stained-glass windows from, say, an Echo Park church, or perhaps stately wrought-iron gates from a cemetery in the Valley. It's not just what L.A. is now that she sees, but what it was and what it could be.

To be sure, Hollister's Los Angeles isn't what most of us would even give a second glance to as we drive high above it on transition roads or sit stalled so long in gridlock that we begin to look right past if not through it: the concrete boxes and bad stucco jobs, the chain-link and razor wire. It's not simply X-ray vision that Hollister possesses, but a manner of seeing that combines imagination and a brass-tacks business sense, not to mention prescient timing.

To call her "visionary" would put too high a gloss on a process that is much more intuitive and spontaneous. "I'd say I'm less guided by my brain than my heart," she says. In an attempt to parse her process, she offers a glimpse of Los Angeles--her Los Angeles--through her roving eye.

These days she's looking east, the new west--the unrediscovered, the still wild. Says Hollister: "I'm going to take you to the river."

We coast down the hill, past the streets with names of flowers--Carnation, Dahlia--to begin our tour at Hollister's "ground zero," the site of her early Silver Lake years. Hyperion slides over to Sunset. Streets converge at odd angles, stop and abruptly start again, like a disjointed club conversation. We pass the 4100 Bar, which used to be the Detour--dive-y and essentially last-century Silver Lake. "Its parking lot, back then, was a needle park," Hollister recalls. But it's a brand-new day. "Silver Lake. I'm incredibly proud of it. Talk about a bunch of street urchins starting businesses," she says, edging past Sunset Junction, with its hi-lo boho assortment of businesses--Cafe Stella, the Silver Lake Conservatory of Music, the Cheese Store of Silver Lake. Just across Sunset there's new construction, condos from the looks of it, one complex with a retro/Deco feel. "I think that this is an exciting stretch of Silver Lake because it's all about infill--infill architecture--and you look at something like this, this really beautiful thing, and then you see something kinda goony, like the stuff I'm part of obviously, and you think: 'OK, what's going to happen?' . . .

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