At the dawn of the 1950s, there were 350 furniture factories in Los Angeles. It was a $200 million dollar industry churning out sofas, chairs, and tables for much of the country. Strange and unusual new materials were being fashioned into furniture by midcentury design titans like Richard Neutra, whose plywood Boomerang chair was included in each unit of low-income housing he designed in San Pedro. Charles and Ray Eames created the prototype for their fiberglass shell chair in their Westwood apartment, and Frank Gehry conjured an entire line of cardboard furnishings after a meeting with NASA.
Many of these classics can still be found in L.A.’s plentiful midcentury-specific vintage furniture shops. Digsmodern (107 W. Foothill, Monrovia) has an encyclopedic collection of design classics in its showroom in downtown Monrovia, but the real action is at its 12,000-square-foot off-site warehouse. For the rarest of the rarest treasures in furniture design, you’ll have to wait for L.A. Modern Auctions (16145 Hart St.) to hold one of its thrice-yearly events at its Van Nuys warehouse. There’s also Urban Americana (1345 Coronado Ave.), just a few blocks from 4th Street Retro Row in Long Beach, where you might find a whole room filled with groovy ski lodge fireplaces. The indoor-outdoor space features almost 50 vendors, allowing you to time-travel through the entire twentieth century. Fat Chance (158 N. La Brea Ave.) was one of the first stores to sell furniture from the 1950s when it opened its original story on Melrose Avenue in the 1980s. Back in the New Wave days, a Harry Bertoia chair sold for a staggering $100. Today, a rare brutalist coffee table from the shop could set you back $10,000.
Love thrifting and buying used? Check out our full Secondhand L.A. guide here.
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