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Van Brunt Optical Haus puts the focus on chic designs and vintage style

Thoughtfully designed sunglasses can make the summer months all the more delightful and stylish.

This Laura Van Brunt knows.

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For the past 20 years, Van Brunt has worked with premium eyewear brands and shops, such as Oliver Peoples and The Eye Gallery, where she honed her practice as an optician, finishing and fitting eyeglass lenses and frames.

But missing from her work was what she longed to create — an optical shop carrying only independent eyewear collections that were not mass-produced.

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About five months ago, she opened Van Brunt Optical Haus at The OC Mix, in Costa Mesa's SoCo shopping complex.

"Glasses are a reflection of your personality," Van Brunt said in her boutique, which carries about 12 brands. "It's an accessory you can have the most fun with."

Popular among artists and trendsetters, she notes, is vintage eyewear. In the store is a collection of glasses that hold a piece of history — some featuring riveted green glass lenses from the 1920s and one oval, rimless pair dating to the late 1800s.

Of course, the lenses are replaced but the look remains.

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Van Brunt says she shops around the country, at flea markets and antique stores, looking for pieces that are in excellent condition.

Such glasses influence modern-day design, Van Brunt says, explaining that the artistic expression is demonstrated in today's market of cat eye, horn-rimmed and hexagon-shaped styles. For instance, Bohemian-inspired sunglasses complement the hippie chic gypsy fashions that are in vogue this year, Van Brunt says.

Australian brand Sunday Somewhere's round unisex shapes polished in rose gold metal or tortoiseshell remain a best seller, priced at $290.

Vibrant colors are also playing an important role, as customers seek out shapes coated in soft greens, purple or red.

California sunglass line Salt remains such a favorite. The eyewear brand handmakes its oversized round and square shapes and finishes them in bold hues.

And for the timeless style that draws on all the elements of simplicity and craftsmanship, whether aviators or soft-rounded sunglasses, Spanish brand Etnia Barcelona is known for its sophisticated shapes and lens manufactured from pure crystal.

Looks aside, Etnia Barcelona focuses on eye protection. Anti-reflection elements cut UV radiation bouncing off the internal side of lenses and into the eye.

Van Brunt calls herself a "stickler" for cleaning and maintaining eyewear and believes it's her duty to inform shoppers about how to protect glasses from damage.

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Glasses always should be taken off with two hands and never rested on top of the head or left in a hot car. Such conditions will only stretch the handles and make loose over time.

Nothing can prevent eyeglasses from carrying tiny particles of dust or dirt, but to clean the greasy or cloudy residue, rinse the glasses under cool water and gently dry them with a cotton towel.

As for putting them away?

There lies the most important rule.

"If they're not on the face," Van Brunt says, "keep them in the case."

Van Brunt Optical Haus is at 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa. For more information, call (714) 394-0083 or visit vanbruntopticalhaus.com.

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