From a corner of Santa Fe Avenue and East 3rd Street, interior designers Kristan Cunningham and Scott Jarrell have had a special vantage point from which to observe the drastic changes happening in the downtown Arts District since they opened Hammer and Spear in March 2013.
"The store was a way to get back to the fundamentals and enjoy design," Jarrell said. But as they settled into the area – which they proclaim to be their favorite among the many Los Angeles neighborhoods they have called home over the years – the focus of their business took other unexpected, happy turns by virtue of working and living in the Arts District.
Nearly two years later, Cunningham and Jarrell took the leap from occupying 1,500 to 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of a historic brick-clad building located opposite SCI-Arc and the newly completed mixed-use One Santa Fe development. Hammer and Spear reopened in March with room to accommodate broader inventory, along with offices for their busy interior design firm. (Current interior design projects include a home in Palm Springs with Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects and a Topanga property designed by Austin, Texas-based firm Andersson-Wise Architects.) Cunningham is also a well-known TV personality, who was the host of HGTV's "Design on a Dime" and regularly appeared on "The Talk" and "Rachael Ray."
"The more time we spent here and met more amazing people," Cunningham explained, the showroom "became more representative of L.A.-based designers" and less about being vintage-focused. And because "we've always embraced the social aspect" of being in the community, she added, some of their most fruitful collaborations came about while hanging out with visitors around their beloved, dramatic Adrian Pearsall-designed wood and resin metallic triangular fireplace they found in Michigan.
"There's a different pace down here, and a great collaborative spirit," she noted. "We want to help support all these artists we believe in." That includes Arts District resident Jonn Coolidge, who once mentioned he makes ceramics when he can find time between his professional photography assignments. The few pieces he brought over to Hammer and Spear sold within minutes. Cunningham and Jarrell work closely with local makers such as (wh)ORE HAüS Studios by Meyghan Hill, who is a model-turned-welder. Designer Sabin Ousey's Sabin furniture is another favorite, with many of his pieces integrated into the shop's intensely neutral palette.
Hammer and Spear's portfolio now includes the Arts District Printing Co., a partnership formed last year with photographer Jonathan Ventura, from whom Cunningham and Jarrell had commissioned a series of Arts District-themed photos. Ventura prints his retro-inflected images of natural landscapes and his surrounding built environment juxtaposed with minimal text, using handmade fruit and vegetable-derived inks, organic cotton paper and Nepalese-made Lokta paper. Arts District Printing Co.'s affordably priced prints are available at major retailers, and at Unique USA and Renegade Craft Fair markets. (Cunningham and Jarrell also incorporated one of Ventura's images of downtown into a Woven Accents rug as part of the window they recently curated for Legends of La Cienega.)
The store's antique display surfaces and new shelving, which is fabricated by frequent collaborators PSS Design Cult, are stocked with an array of otherwise hard-to-find apothecary items, stationery, barware and edible goods. "When we bring something in, it's because we believe in the line. We drop anchor. We don't go shallow and wide," Cunningham said.
Some constants remain as Hammer and Spear continues to expand, however. Whether it's finding a new home for 1980s Gae Aulenti sofas and chairs, stocking a line of grooming products that customers make return trips to buy, or championing work by emerging local talents, "We take the storytelling seriously," Cunningham said.
255 S. Santa Fe Ave., Suite 101, Arts District, (213) 928-0997