Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chic in LA: JF Chen

I remember seeing some vintage tortoise shells in House & Garden magazine many years ago that were credited to a place called JF Chen. It always stayed with me and I thought that I must visit this place someday. On my recent trip to LA, I finally got the chance. I'm not even sure how to describe JF Chen. I don't think warehouse or even store do it justice. It's really a giant jewel box. It's so expansive that I joked that I thought I should leave a trail of breadcrumbs so I could find my way out again. I read that it's treasures go all the way back to the 12th-century and up to the 1970's. The best part is that they are all displayed together in various vignettes. Since I love mixing periods and styles, I was in heaven! Christian of Maison21 and I introduced ourselves to the proprietor, Joel Chen, below, and he took time to walk through the vast space with us and to the gallery space he has opened on the lower level. More on that later. Joel has been collecting for more than thirty years and instead of traveling the world in search of the best furniture and accessories, they now come to him in the form of emails from people looking to sell. I asked him if he knew every designer and style now and he actually replied that he does not. For such a small country, Denmark had a surprising number of furniture designers and he still finds pieces who provenance is unknown. I think it is this curiosity to learn something new that keeps many of us going in the design world.

He also likes to point out the different designers who buy from him. Where else could Kelly Wearstler and Michael Smith both find furniture for their clients? Ralph Lauren also buys many of their props for photo shoots from JF Chen and I bet Mr. Lauren himself does too. Christian thought it would be fun if we both posted our favorite finds from JF Chen to see what different items we were drawn to in the showroom. It was a bit overwhelming and also hard to take photos since you didn't have much room to back up but I managed to shoot quite a lot that caught my eye. My favorites were anything Asian, especially the screens, and of course the artwork. At the end, you'll see that even the entry staircase isn't immune from decoration. After remembering the name JF Chen for years, I'm so glad that my visit was definitely worth the wait!

Photos by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic

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