If you’re looking for a furniture design feast, look no farther than the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City. While you’re there, you might even spot a celebrity – such as Diane Keaton, whose appreciation for art and design are well known.
Helms Bakery, which
operated from 1931 to 1969, was an institution in Los Angeles. A native
Angeleno, I remember well the Helms trucks rumbling through my neighborhood,
drawing residents out of their homes to buy loaves still warm from the oven,
along with donuts, cookies, pastries and candies.
it has been re-purposed into a warren of furniture showrooms, art galleries,
restaurants and other retail outlets including the famed but now closed Jazz
Bakery. Walter N. Marks, Inc. lovingly restored the historic structure
and its famous rooftop signs when it purchased the building in 1974.
recently met a friend there for a lovely lunch at La Dijonaise, after which we wandered
through a few of the many huge furniture stores in the complex, admiring
everything from fabulous chandeliers to chairs by top designers.
first stop was at Room & Board, where I quickly spotted an iconic Eileen Gray tea table
(displayed as an end table) that is still fresh almost a century after she
designed it. An Irish-born furniture designer and architect and pioneer of the International
Style in architecture, she was unknown for many
years until one of her exquisite lacquer screens came up for auction.
H.D. Buttercup, we spotted a Tulip Chair designed by Eero Saarinen with
Charles Eames. The Finnish-American designer, who didn’t like legs on dining
room chairs, won first prize for the Tulip Chair in the "Organic Design in
Home Furnishings" competition in 1940. Not only a famous furniture
designer, he was with his father Eliel’s well-known architectural firm that produced
such iconic structures as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Jetsons-like TWA
Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. In Los
Angeles, he worked with Eames on Case Study House No. 8 in
Arcana Bookstore, where we spotted Diane Keaton, we discovered a treasure trove
of all kinds of books and other publications on art and design. We could have
spent hours browsing through the huge collection. One of the books on the
shelves was “Tony Duquette / Hutton Wilkinson Jewelry.” Having purchased one of
Duquette’s iconic jewelry designs at auction, I searched through the pages to
find a necklace similar to mine.
Duquette – the first and
only American to be honored with a one-man show at the Louvre in Paris – worked
with business partner and design collaborator Wilkinson for more than 30 years
prior to his death in 1999. Aside from being a designer, he was a collector of
everything from crazy kitsch to high-end style, items he displayed in
Dawnridge, his West Hollywood Hills home. A term was even coined to describe
the eclectic taste – “Duquetterie.”
final treat was buying ice cream at a Helms Bakery Café wagon parked at the
complex. A replica of one of the original Helms trucks, the vehicle – staffed
by a friendly young man in a Helms uniform – was a nostalgic reminder of the
bakery’s glory days. The young man gave us good news – a Helms Bakery will open
in a space in the complex this summer, bringing back delicious baked goods and
a sense of sweet nostalgia.
more could a girl ask for? (Perhaps an
original Eileen Gray lacquered screen?)