La Cienega Boulevard is the purest distillation of everything that is Los Angeles.
Logistically, it is one of the main thoroughfares to take passengers from the airport to Hollywood and back again – a well-traveled literal and figurative journey. The street’s proprietors are an odd assortment – from strip clubs, laundromats and auto body repair shops to some of the world’s hottest design havens.
Despite its humble beginnings, La Cienega Boulevard has become a design playground for the world’s preeminent tastemakers and the clients for whom they decorate. Stores like Dragonette and Downtown have window displays so stunning you could throw a dinner party in them. Celebrity clientele pull up to chic stores in black SUVs to pluck a candlestick-here-and-a-side-chair-there and then disappear as quickly as they came.
It is against that backdrop that I received a call inviting me to meet with Jamie Bush at his new
studio on La Cienega.
I almost missed his spot; in fact, I did miss it. When I asked for directions I was pointed to a
nondescript glass door and interior stairs so steep they made last night’s SoulCycle seem easy
on the legs. As I ascended I couldn’t help but think that this entry felt like it should lead to, on
opposite ends of a spectrum, a painter’s studio in Paris’s Left Bank or a private investigator’s
office in Brooklyn.
Once I turned the corner at the top of the stairs, I was greeted by a vast studio so stunning, so
unexpected, that it was worth the climb. I had arrived at a cool nest in the sky. Whether it was
illusion or reality, I felt so high above La Cienega that I wasn’t quite sure what floor I was on.
Designers were making phone calls and sourcing. Sure, there was private investigating going on,
but it was the sort designers do to try to find the perfect piece to make a client’s house a showstopper.
Bush is good-looking, but there is a disarming boyish charm behind him. In fact, in many ways the
new space is a reflection of him: Open, bright, and just the right amount of put-together.
While he has a who’s-who of clientele and is one of the most in-demand designers in Los
Angeles at the moment, the purpose of our meeting wasn’t to talk about that. It was to discuss the
La Cienega space, which he had recently finished renovating.
Bush, who was trained as an architect, had been looking for a new space for quite some time,
and found this unusual loft space for rent. He had previously worked out of a “very decorated”
West Hollywood bungalow and felt it was time for a change, and a dramatic one at that.
If the bungalow was a real estate version of a diamond – flawless in its every millimeter – the La
Cienega space was quite the opposite. In his words, the space was initially “broken-up” and
“dark” (hard to imagine now) with carpet, post-modern details, and an acoustic tiled ceiling. Bush
did a total renovation and made it “raw and rougher, more about the actual space, not the décor.”
The result is a workspace that is in perfect proportion, one where the light’s always great. The
new simplified, de-cluttered environment has allowed a simplification in his life and work. Bush
tailors his designs to his client’s tastes within a variation of modern styles, however he prefers to
work in what he calls an ‘eclectic, organic modernism.’ He explains, “Well designed architectural
spaces can get leaner, less fussy when the right natural materials are selected. The materials
themselves can have an inherent depth, texture and irregularity where one doesn’t need to over
decorate to achieve a warmth and character.”
While you don’t necessarily “feel” La Cienega in the studio itself, it is certainly felt the minute you
walk out the door, and the sense of community has been one of the integral parts of the new milieu for Bush.
While the community has been critical from the perspective of a designer, interestingly, the other
byproduct of Bush’s new studio on La Cienega has been his newfound, burgeoning career as an
artist. Bush had attended art school, but hadn’t painted for years. The new, wide-open studio
space gave him the “physical and mental space” to start painting again. Joe Lucas, down the
block at Harbinger, began selling his art, and Marc Phillips is now launching a line of rugs based on his paintings. One can also peruse both the available and unfortunately sold pieces at www.jamiebush.com.
When our chat was over I walked down the steep stairs, up the way we came. As I walked out on
to La Cienega Boulevard and looked left and right I breathed in Los Angeles. It was all here, on
this street, and above me Jamie Bush was perched above it.
Learn more about Jamie Bush at Dering Hall.
Photos by Laura Hull.