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Santa Monica’s Design District:

Look around Santa Monica and you’ll notice that it is blossoming with art galleries, art studios and designers, especially furniture design centers. In fact, there are enough design businesses in town that several of them have formed the Santa Monica Design District, described in its mission statement as “a group of showrooms dedicated to bringing modern design to the home and workplace.”

The Design District was formed three years ago by Mark Robinson of Boffi, and Eames Demetrius, grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, who oversees the Eames Foundation.

“It got started with a couple of us moving into the neighborhood and wanting to create some momentum, as we’d noticed that a number of shops were starting to open with modern furniture, modern design and contact furniture,” says Robinson. “So I grouped everybody together and sat down and came up with the name and mission statement.”

The Design District includes:

Boffi, an Italian-based company, started in 1934 near Milan. Boffi manufactures kitchens and bathrooms, including bathtubs and spas. The showroom is located at 1344 4th St.

Design Within Reach at 332 Santa Monica Blvd., a furniture store with modular designs in both home and office furnishings.

Eames Office, at 2665 Main St., featuring furniture, fabrics, gifts, as well as films and exhibits.

Haworth, at 1601 Cloverfield Blvd., specializing in “adaptable workspace solutions,” office furniture designed to fit the workspace.

Hennessey and Ingalls, at 214 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica’s venerable bookstore for books on art, design, photography and architecture.

Highlights, 2427 Main St., a store featuring lighting fixtures, with a choice of more than 50 collections

Knoll, located in the same building as Hennessey and Ingalls, 214 Wilshire Blvd., features office furniture that will “inspire, evolve and endure.”

Linea, 1327 5th St., showcases modern furniture.

Neoporte, 1550 18th St., specializes in doors, or as they call them: “fully integrated modern entry systems,” and will build to specifications.

Shelter, at 1435 5th St., offers home furnishings with simple designs and “truth of materials.”

Steelcase, at 1217 2nd St., specializes in office furniture designed to help people “have a better work experience.”

Teknion, at 631 Wilshire Blvd., also manufactures office furniture and related products.

West Elm, 1433 4th St., is a furniture store with modern, luxurious yet affordable furnishings.

The only geographic limitation for eligibility in the Design District, according to Robinson, is that design firms or designers must be in Santa Monica. By some coincidence, many of these designers are located in the downtown business area, forming a district of their own between Wilshire Blvd. and Broadway.

“We have two events a year,” says Robinson. “One is a Design Walk in the fall, around Halloween, when we have a ‘wine and design’ where we serve some wine and have a walking tour, where we go from showroom to showroom, sampling the wine and hors d’oevres in each spot.” The wines, by the way, are coordinated to complement the nationality of the designers, i.e., Boffi serves Italian wines, Eames serves vintages from California and so on.

“In the spring we have a similar event. This time, we’re having a design competition called ‘Seating of Some Sort.’ It involves the various design schools and colleges of architecture design departments. They are asked to design a prototype of seating – a place where you put your bottom.” Finalists’ designs will be on display in Design District showrooms and the public will be invited to vote for their favorites. The date for this event will be announced.

For a map of the Design District, contact the Santa Monica Visitors’ Center at 310.393.7593.

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