Forget destination shopping. Beautiful Things LA, a new mobile store, makes the journey to its customers while offering a sense of discovery.
Outfitted inside a vintage Blue Bird school bus, Beautiful Things LA has been shuttling around Los Angeles since September. The mother-daughter business team of Susan Forrest-Reynolds and Lucia Reynolds purchased and partially modified the bus in Portland, Ore. The roof was raised 3 feet, and the interior build-out was then completed in Southern California to carry Beautiful Things LA's intriguing inventory of home and personal accessories.
Instead of embracing a hyper-local sensibility, the boutique has "to cater to a wide market of L.A.," Reynolds noted. "We have to find consistency and be eclectic but cohesive." In the home items category, the attention-getting vehicle carries Los Angeles-inspired prints and cards from Ink + Smog Editions, Turkish kilim pillow cases, Tunisian hammam linen towels, Soma biodegradable water filters and heavy sheep's wool Bolivian blankets from Little Journeys.
Over half of Beautiful Things' stock is the work of California makers, such as Myers Collective necklaces, Janessa Leone hats and Beatrice Holiday bicycle seat covers made from up-cycled materials in Venice. Forrest-Reynolds and Reynolds scoured local artisan markets searching for objects with the right look and feel for their project. "We try to find things that have meaning," Reynolds said, whether it's incorporating environmentally friendly production practices or supporting micro-enterprise in developing countries.
The concept presented particular opportunities -- as well as challenges -- vis-a-vis its own interior design. "We wanted the space to feel like a home or a gallery," Forrest-Reynolds explained, yet the many loose contents inside the bus need to be stored quickly and then easily reassembled when locations change. They worked with Julie Goldman of J. Latter Design in Los Angeles to maximize efficiency and comfort in an unconventional setting. As a result, almost every volume contains storage; inviting linen cushions sit atop two solid oak benches that disguise wheel wells and also provide more interior space. A pegboard allows for flexible displays.
Updated information about its Thursday through Sunday whereabouts can be found at Beautiful Things LA's website and Twitter feed (@BTLA_bus). Stops so far include local weekend street fairs as well as other semi-regular locations in Mid-City and Toluca Lake. Forrest-Reynolds and Reynolds aim to ramp up its street presence during the holiday season.
Beautiful Things LA provides a unique merchandise mix along with an irresistibly novel element. "It can be a surprise to stumble upon us and be caught off guard," Reynolds said. "In a good way."