Ladies of de LaB Dig Deep Into the LA Design Scene


The women of de LaB like to joke that cocktails are the fuel that keeps their educational design nonprofit running. (“Our magical formula is two parts education and one part libation,” says cofounder Haily Zaki.) But just like buying another round, the group’s lively events, studio tours and boots-on-the-ground neighborhood explorations are things that are possible only in person. de LaB (or design east of La Brea) is made up of four hosts—Haily Zaki, Alissa Walker, Marissa Gluck and Erin Cullerton—who dream up, organize and preside over brilliant design events around the East Side of Los Angeles, from Design–N–Dim Sum (an evening bike tour that pairs studio visits with a dim sum crawl) to the Subway Terminal Building tour, where they take 35 lucky visitors underground to explore LA’s abandoned subterranean rail system.Founders Zaki and Walker met for the first time at a design event in Santa Monica and bonded over gripes that the parties always seemed to happen across town, “where I would invariably incur a parking ticket,” says Zaki. Walker had a different problem: In addition to being a whip-smart voice on the city’s architecture and urban planning scene, she is also known around LA as “that design writer who doesn’t have a car” (she gets around strictly by bicycle or public transit).

As the organization’s momentum (and schedule of events) grew, Zaki and Walker recruited Gluck and Cullerton to join them. This year, they are celebrating another milestone: A recent $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts has allowed them to roll out Making LA, a series that will highlight 10 important East Side projects in the works and culminate in the first-ever de LaB conference. Explains Walker, “We’ll gather designers and urban leaders for inspiring presentations and frank conversations to figure out how the city can enable more people to implement their awesome ideas for LA.”

Having traversed the city countless times by foot, bike, car, train and bus, the ladies of de LaB know LA like nobody else, and here, they share their favorite haunts, hikes and hangouts. The creatives of de LaB dig deep into the Los Angeles design scene and invite everyone along for the ride.

ERIN CULLERTON | Founder, Design Agency Co.


1. Clare Vivier“If you are an Angeleno, you definitely have to consider your handbags carefully. Clare Vivier is the absolute best—I have one of her foldover clutches, and I constantly get compliments on it. Plus, the store boasts a fantastic design (by Barbara Bestor), so it’s always a treat to browse.” 


2. District Millworks“Working in a former flour mill, the craftspeople of District Millworks make the most amazing hand-hewn tables this side of the Mississippi. You can see (and sit at) their pieces at dozens of LA hot spots, including Forage in Silver Lake and Bestia downtown.” 

3. Lawson-Fenning“Glenn Lawson and Grant Fenning have created a true one-stop-shop for design lovers. At their two locations—Beverly Boulevard and Silver Lake Boulevard—they stock everything from design books to vintage furniture to Lawson-Fenning’s own signature furniture and accessories line.” 

MARISSA GLUCK | Cofounder, Radar Research


1. Sisters of Los Angeles“LA architect Barbara Bestor designed this line of fun products that are little love notes to her hometown. Her Rocks Glasses are my go-to gift—everyone loves them—and I have collected all four from the Canyons series (Laurel, Runyon, Beachwood, Topanga).”


2. The MAK Center at the Schindler House“A museum housed inside a work of iconic architecture, the mak center hosts incredible art and design exhibitions. I’ve volunteered there for nearly a decade, and I’m still discovering new things about that house all the time.”

3. Store.LA“This online shop carries only pieces made in LA, from pottery to furniture. I’m in love with the Wow & Flutter configurable speakers from Anonymous Architects, as well as the hanging pots from tw workshop.”

HAILY ZAKI | Chief Operative Secret Agent PR


1. Jai & Jai“This Chinatown gem is run by two sisters. It’s part art gallery, part retail shop, part creative laboratory—you never know what you will find there, but rest assured it will be awesome. Their recent exhibition of resin art sculptures is a personal favorite.”

2. Ba Restaurant“Ba is a new French eatery on York Boulevard—the ‘it’ stretch of shops and restaurants in Highland Park. The space is small but dramatically decorated: blush-pink walls, damask wallpaper, and an amazing painting on the ceiling—it’s like Highland Park’s mini version of the Sistine Chapel.” 

ALISSA WALKER | Design Writer


1. Poketo“When I need a gift or design inspiration, or if I just want to make some new friends, I head downtown to this Arts District design store run by husband-and-wife team Angie Myung and Ted Vadakan. Besides carrying incredible products from LA and beyond, Poketo hosts tons of community events, from gallery shows to book signings to workshops. They’re a real hub for the creative community.

2. DnA: Design and Architecture“There’s no better place to put your finger on the pulse of LA design than this KCRW public radio show hosted by the amazing Frances Anderton (who is also one of our de LaB advisory board members). I work on the show along with three other “DJs,” or design journalists, profiling emerging and up-and-coming designers and architects working in LA.”

3. Los Angeles Design Festival: “For an incredible local celebration of design, this festival—now in its second year—is a must. It takes place every June across the city.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Fall 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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