Shopping in downtown Los Angeles, the new mall alternative

Irony of L.A. No. 467: Holiday shoppers looking to avoid mall madness can find their respite in the heart of the city — downtown Los Angeles. Certain parts of downtown are easier to navigate on weekends, at least during daylight hours. People are fewer. Parking can be easier. Most important: Downtown's micro-neighborhoods — notably the arts district just east of Little Tokyo — continue to evolve in surprising ways. Here's a snapshot of some of the newest and most promising spots, with an emphasis on home design.

ARTS DISTRICT

Alchemy Works. This smartly styled design gallery opened two weeks ago with an eclectic mix including furniture by downtown designer Tim Campbell, ceramics by Echo Park potter Victoria Morris and made-in-L.A. Weiss watches. “It's a California edit on everything,” creative director Raan Parton said. One exception: The 1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Spider sitting in the middle of the modern, skylighted space. 826 E. 3rd St., www.alchemyworks.us.

Apolis. Before Parton opened Alchemy Works, he dropped anchor in the arts district with Apolis, another handsome boutique with men's clothing, unisex accessories and gifts by local designers. Half of the goods are made within a three-mile radius of the shop, Parton said. Other products — alpaca sweaters from Peru, jute tote bags from Bangladesh — have been created in partnership with artisan coops around the world. 806 E. 3rd St., www.apolisglobal.com.

Poketo. Here at the intersection of Cool and Cute, you will find stationery, ceramics, candles and modern crafts. Petite pots by Chen Chen and Kai Williams are molded into the life-size shapes of avocados, oranges and horned melons ($28 apiece). For kids: adorable masked badger dolls ($38). (Here's a story we published on the store's DIY display tables, an idea that could be replicated for a home office desk.) 820 E. 3rd St., poketo.com.

PHOTO GALLERY: Downtown Los Angeles shopping

District Millworks. The single best piece seen during a recent scouting run: the display shelf in Alchemy Works, which turned out to be a custom design by this furniture design studio a block away. District Millworks has completed installations for an impressive list of restaurants, including Umamicatassen downtown. The studio also produces furniture for residential clients. Check out the website, and if you like what you see, set up an appointment to stop in. 917 E. 3rd St., districtmillworks.com.

Guerilla Atelier. The clothing boutique has a store-within-a-store partner in Ron Robinson, the Fred Segal boutique, offering candles, fragrance diffusers and gift books. 821 E. 3rd St., www.guerillagalleries.org.

Hammer and Spear. New and vintage decor blends with sophistication here, where the vibe is part national park lodge, part steampunk den. 255 S. Santa Fe Ave., hammerandspear.com.

Cleveland Art. A few blocks from Hammer and Spear you'll find the warehouse for Jason Wein, who buys up the nuts and bolts of closed American factories to create furniture and lighting with a pleasingly industrial bent. This location is open Saturdays; on Sundays, you'll have to head for the expansion store on La Brea Avenue. 110 N. Santa Fe Ave., clevelandart.com.

Rafu Bassan. From any of the previously mentioned spots, you're just a half-dozen blocks to Little Tokyo, chockablock with Japanese trinket emporiums. If you have time for only one stop, you might want to make it this old standby. Cast-iron wind chimes, porcelain tea sets, ceramic bowls, lacquered serving trays, flower arranging accessories and a mind-numbing selection of origami papers — they're all here. 326 E. 2nd St., rafubussaninc.com.


CHINATOWN

Realm. The modern housewares shop is loaded with affordable gifts: vases, picture frames, toys and glassware. Antibes glasses with a festive hexagon design are $15.25 apiece. 425 Gin Ling Way (off Broadway), www.realmhome.com.

K&A Co. Across the courtyard from Realm, this shop's windows are filled with flat-packed wooden toys — like puzzles in 3-D — that assemble into tall ships, helicopters, the Eiffel Tower and a zoo of animals. Most are $3 to $10. The store's address pops up on Internet searches as 487 Gin Ling Way, but the better address to use for GPS is 951 Sun Mun Way (off Broadway).

Hong Kong Import Co. On the walk toward another set of shops on Chung King Court, you'll pass this place with a wide selection of inexpensive cloisonne — metal pill boxes and animal figurines with painted enamel decoration and prices starting at $6. 950 N. Hill St., (213) 620-9438.

Fifth Floor. Robert Apodaca's gallery is loaded with design amusements, from $15 Fragment vases made with test tubes and wood scraps to craftsman Jason McCloskey's Wing chair, an ethereal swoop of bent walnut that sells for $5,500. 502 Chung King Court (off Hill Street), www.fifthfloorgallery.com.


CENTRAL DOWNTOWN

Kinetescape. Andrew Meieran, proprietor of the Edison bar downtown, has set up his riff on the antiques shop — a collection of obsolete technology and curiosities. The trick is catching the place when it's open. We've had no luck. 655 Spring St.

Angelo:Home. The store is an ever-changing mix of moderately priced furniture, lamps, pillows and blankets, and it makes a concerted effort to incorporate the work of local artisans and craftspeople. Acne Studios clothing store is preparing to open next door, and Urban Outfitters and the Ace Hotel are slated to move in nearby as well. 847 S. Broadway, www.angelohome.com.

Pussy & Pooch. Gloriously indulgent gifts for dog and cat. 564 S. Main St., www.pussyandpooch.com.

Raj Lotus. An accidental discovery amid the office towers downtown. You'll find inexpensive dhurrie rugs imported from India, dhurrie-upholstered ottomans and small-scale furniture blending painted wood with mother-of-pearl inlays. 900 S. Main St., www.rajlotus.com.

PHOTO GALLERY: Downtown Los Angeles shopping

Nadia Geller Designs. Something of an outlier, at least geographically, but worth mentioning because of its proximity to the restaurant Church & State and the new Urban Radish market. When The Times first reported on its opening, Geller described her shop as a place “where someone could pop in and grab a gift on their way home from work.” Open weekdays and by appointment on Saturday. 1801 E. 7th St. (entrance on Mill Street), nadiageller.com.

@cnakano  |  craig.nakano@latimes.com

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