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Streets of Gold--and Marble, Dupioni, and Toile… Legends of La Cienega Walk May 8-9

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A selection of splendid window displays dotting La Cienega Blvd. (Photo by Mark Savage)

By Gareen Darakjian for LAist

The main characters of Los Angeles aren’t mentioned in the rolling credits of the silver screen or cemented in bronze and granite stars underfoot. They are, instead, emblazoned on streetlights and lampposts, directing the glitterati to their next destination: Robertson for its boutiques and bistros, Sunset Boulevard for its world-famous nightlife and Rodeo Drive for its scenic strip of designer goods.

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An oft-overlooked section of the city, however, is the La Cienega Design Quarter, known for its 40-some interior design galleries, antique shops and other visual spectacles, which is currently being honored in a three day-long festival of sorts by the likes of Los Angeles’ fashion and design elite. It is a long awaited homage to the legendary interior designers and architects who contributed to the boulevard’s prominence amid other retail establishments. Among the guided tours, panel discussions moderated by experts and various exhibits, tributes feature window vignettes put together by today’s top designers who captured the legendary essence of designers past.

The creative spirits of LA were definitely stirring Thursday night at the kick-off event of La Cienega Design Quarter’s Legends of La Cienega Design Walk at antique showroom Therien & Co. Hailing the festivities was Elle Décor’s Editor-in-Chief, Margaret Russell, amid 1,000 other esteemed guests who mingled under the massive rock crystal chandeliers and among various rococo artifacts. “The event really says something about how people really feel about this area,” said Ms. Russell, when asked what the Legends of La Cienega Walk means to the design community. “LCDQ has been the epicenter of design for 50 years. Whenever I’m [in LA] on a shoot or just in town, if I have a few minutes free, I’m always here just walking the street because there is such a range of things you can find. Even though it opened 50 years ago, it’s still inspiring.”

Other prominent figures in the design world were also present, including interior designers David Phoenix (longtime friend and interior designer of Governor Schwarzenegger) and James Magni, as well as fashion designer Catherine Malandrino, who is a participant of the weekend’s festivities. LAist snagged a few words with them about the significance of the event and their thoughts on the future of the industry.

LAist: What do you feel is the most valuable aspect of this event?

David Phoenix: I think it’s great that many years ago, Robertson Blvd. used to be the main design district before the design center was built and that kind of all changed when a lot of restaurants went in, a lot of fashion went in, and so this is just great that everyone’s excited about it and have turned out for it and I feel like everyone’s pulled together. The Pacific Design Center is great - it’s the anchor, but it’s great to have a little neighborhood you can go shopping for antiques, and fabric and furniture that isn’t in the design center.

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James Magni: It’s really about the important designers who are no longer with us who contributed to La Cienega becoming the “It” spot to shop for antiques and unique furniture pieces. It’s a great way to pay tribute to them by designing the window scenes on their behalf. I have John Dickinson who was kind of an old gentleman who wore hats and bowties - that gentleman that doesn’t happen too much anymore.

Catherine Malandrino: I feel La Cienega is very important to design and to fashion. It’s part of an entire world of creation and it feels good to be right in the middle.

Are you currently working on any interesting projects?

DP: I am redoing Sierra Towers which is a high rise on Sunset - we’re doing all the common areas, the lobby. I’m also working on a house in Montecito and a 25-acre ranch in Carpinteria.

David, what was it like working for the Governor?

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DP: Great, he’s an old friend, great to work for. He has great taste and makes quick decisions. He loves antiques; we bought a lot of antiques [at Therien & Co.]. He loves art - he’s a collector, so we made sure to include that in the design. Fabulous art. He loves gardening and loves to entertain.

Who are some rising stars in the architecture/interior design industry to look out for?

DP: My friend John Debastiani just moved here from Boston. He’s a young designer whom I admire. He’s very classic - someone you should look out for.

JM: I know of an architect named Leah Sisson. She’s an organic green architect, very young-thinking, forward-thinking. We have a lot of young people who work with us in their twenties who are designing buildings all over the world. They are definitely ones to look out for.

Where are some of your favorite places to eat, shop and see in LA?

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Margaret Russell: I go to the museums - there’s always something interesting going on. Even going to the Getty - just walking around up there, you feel like you’re in God’s land. We just did an amazing shoot in Malibu today. In LA, the design scene is so different, it’s so open and refreshing. In New York, it’s more in pockets, in LA, there’s more you can actually get to, not closed up in buildings.

JM: I live in the heart of West Hollywood, so I’m right in the hub of all the action. I get to see the way people half my age live, which is a good way to keep my hand on the heartbeat of the way people are living. Young people are living differently they don’t want the same things anymore. I live right around Urth Caffé, I love Hedley’s on Robertson, I do Caffe Primo, I was at SLS last night at dinner with the Saudi prince and princess. I love contemporary art galleries. M+B is a gallery that does photography that has edgy young concept stuff. I love to go to different galleries in West Hollywood. I love Charles Jacobson for Japanese antiques.

DP: I live in Bel Air, so I’m always at the Hotel Bel Air, Tower Bar at Sunset Tower. As far as shopping, I don’t have time to shop!

Take a stroll on La Cienega Boulevard between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard this weekend to take in the classic and contemporary contributions to the design world and gaze at the impeccably styled window scenes. Make sure to check out the spring fashion show hosted by Catherine Malandrino at her La Cienega boutique. For a full list of events, times and locations, visit LCDQ-LA and check out the Legends event.