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They ditched pricey L.A. rents for laid-back Lake Arrowhead

The broad options that Savannah Cotter and David Lipchik considered when they decided to move someplace more affordable within easy driving distance of Los Angeles is a testament to the region’s geographic diversity.

The couple briefly considered an ocean-centric life in Ventura. Then Lipchik’s real estate development work brought him to Redlands, but they weren’t sold on that degree of desert-adjacency. They did, however, find someplace nearby that struck them as a great fit for their needs: Lake Arrowhead.

The mountain getaway has proved to be the ideal place for them to pursue each of their various professional and creative projects. Cotter crafts air-plant holders (you can see her work on Instagram at @goodsmithshop); Lipchik is a furniture designer, in addition to his real estate venture and a drought-tolerant landscaping business. (Several of his projects can be seen at @localtimber.)

After living at an elevation of over 5,000 feet for about six months, Cotter and Lipchik decided to put down retail roots. In partnership with friends Michael and Rachel Graves, who own Summer Camp lifestyle boutique and framing shop in Ojai, they opened Road Trip.

Cotter described it as Summer Camp’s “sister store” because both businesses reflect a fondness for vintage outdoor gear and the contemporary maker scene. (They also share a logo.) Road Trip offers custom framing services too, which hadn’t been available in the greater Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear area for about eight years, she said.

The San Bernardino Mountains town doesn’t share Ojai’s reputation as a creative enclave, “but once you start talking to people, they all do things. They’re all artistic,” Cotter said.

They share a work studio in the basement of the A-frame building that houses Road Trip. Lipchik builds his larger furniture pieces in L.A., and still they’re both frequently back in town. (Their parents live in L.A.: Lipchik is a native; Cotter was raised in Rhode Island and Virginia.)

Cotter and Lipchik have developed a sense of how to decorate and enjoy classic A-frame buildings that are typically associated with mountain towns such as Lake Arrowhead. The store has 2,000 square feet to fill, and their nearby rental home, also an A-frame, has three stories and three bedrooms.

The design challenge has been to stay true to the house’s 1970s stylistic and utilitarian mountain cabin roots while updating the interior vibe to the tastes of its young, creative occupants. “We have a lot of plants,” Cotter said. “I love gray and I love brown. I have to force myself to pick a color sometimes so the room doesn’t look drab.” Pattern and color from pillows and textiles help break up any monotony, and the stunning views provide plenty to gaze at.

They scoured Craigslist for vintage finds and affordably furnished the house with new pieces from retailers such as West Elm and Living Spaces. They’ve come to consider the structure’s architectural qualities as art, in a sense. “Because we live in an A-frame, we can’t put anything on the walls. I think that’s part of why it looks so clean,” Cotter said.

Naturally, a degree of aesthetic overlap exists in their house and shop. Midcentury influences and clean lines are seen in the former, whereas Road Trip skews slightly more bohemian. At home, however, “I do have some macramé,” Cotter admitted.

Just like at Summer Camp in Ojai, a canoe hangs on Road Trip’s wall, and shoppers can dig into the stuff of Wes Anderson and Moonrise Kingdom-fueled fantasies. Cotter tries to select inventory that “relates to cabins and the outdoors,” which so far means vintage fishing gear and indie crafts and artists’ wares, including Pommes Frites Candle Co., the Small + Savage Wild’s shelves, ABJ Glassworks, Margin Imprints moon calendars, Small Adventure illustrated paper goods and Fortitude Provisions apothecary items.

Lipchik’s benches serve as display surfaces, and they’re also for sale. Cotter sells the planter holders she makes onsite, and other indoor plants don’t compete with their next-door neighbor (and landlord), Lake Arrowhead Nursery. Summer Camp’s hands-on workshops have proved popular, so hosting crafting sessions at Road Trip is part of the plan to attract others to Lake Arrowhead.

As for how the store name came about, “Rachel grew up going to summer camps. I never went to summer camp, but I grew up going on road trips,” Cotter explained. “It was an afterthought, but it worked well.”

Road Trip is located at 187 CA-173 in Lake Arrowhead. (909) 336-0028. shoproadtripca.com

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