Fresh Perspective

With her interiors business DACHA, Lauren Alexander challenges the design sensibilities of the South Bay.

  • Category
    People
  • Interviewed by
    Darren Elms
  • Photographed by
    Lauren Pressey

When you walk into a South Bay home store, you’re likely to encounter a flush of coastal colors and collectibles that evoke our beach-centric lifestyles. Not necessarily at DACHA, a retail space and design business in Manhattan Beach curated by Lauren Alexander. She may not be looking to alter the aesthetic landscape of the community, but her personal and progressive approach to design certainly digs deeper than the ebbing tide. We caught up with Lauren at the start of the year to see what 2018 had in store for both her and the business.

 

Where did you grow up, Lauren?

Marin County, just north of San Francisco. I was so fortunate to grow up close to the city, the coast of West Marin, the mountains of Lake Tahoe and the rolling hills of Napa Valley.

Were you always attracted to design?

Absolutely. From the time I was 5 years old my mother had a floral design business. I grew up in her store and was always brought along to clients’ homes, designer showcase houses, the flower market, flea markets. I have vivid memories of wandering around these incredible mansions in Marin County and San Francisco as a small child, watching artists and designers transform each room.

I was basically always brought up to appreciate the aesthetic value of things—that one’s home should be beautiful and inviting. I do the same thing now with my daughter, taking her to galleries, artists’ studios, showrooms—basically everywhere I go. I think it is a great early education.

How did you get your start in the business?

I was always interested in design, but it wasn’t really until my early 20s that I started doing interiors. I didn’t study interior design in college (I was a lit major), but after I graduated from UCLA and was living in San Francisco, I started designing my friends’ apartments. People would come over to my place and love what I had done and ask me to help them—always on a minuscule budget, of course.

A few years later when I was living in New York, managing the Decorative Home department at Bergdorf Goodman, clients would invite me over and ask me to help them decorate. It started out casually and built over time into a design consulting business that I continued when I moved to L.A. I realized early on that even when someone knows what they like (and not everyone does!), they often have a difficult time executing. It is so rewarding to be able to help my clients achieve the home they want.

What prompted the move to Los Angeles?

I moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2013. I had the opportunity to work with Kelly Wearstler; meanwhile my boyfriend (now husband) was finishing film school. L.A. made sense for both of us professionally at the time. I had always planned to move back to California but thought it would be San Francisco. I love S.F. and go up often, but ultimately I am glad we ended up in L.A. There is such a rich art and design culture down here. And the lifestyle is easygoing, social, very much about being outside; it embodies the principles that DACHA is founded on.

How was it working for Kelly Wearstler?

I was store director at Kelly’s flagship in West Hollywood for two years. It was an amazing experience and education. I met a lot of incredibly talented, smart people and worked at the highest level of design. What most impressed me during that time was how Kelly manages every detail of her brand—from her designed collections to her social media presence to the gift wrap in her store. It can be really challenging, but I strive to maintain that consistency at DACHA so that the voice of the brand feels “right” and resonates across all avenues.

What attracted you to open DACHA in Manhattan Beach?

My dad’s family all lived in Manhattan Beach when I was growing up, and I would come down to visit every summer. I loved the feeling of community and the beach culture. Then when I was at UCLA I often came down to Manhattan Beach to hang out.

Years later when I was deciding where to build my business I saw a void here. There is nothing else like DACHA in the South Bay, and I found it appealing to create that niche. There is, of course, a big market for the blue-and-white beach coastal style, but I wanted to offer something different—a more eclectic, global, current aesthetic. The response has been really tremendous.

What’s behind the name?

A “dacha” in Russian refers to a country home, a summer retreat. Dacha culture is very much about being outside, entertaining, enjoying oneself. The belief at DACHA is that one’s home should be a retreat—a place of beauty, enjoyment, creativity and inspiration. I was very close with my grandparents, who were from Russia, and this is how my grandmother lived. She always made her home beautiful and was never happier than when it was full and loud and busy. It seemed fitting that this would inspire the name of my business.

What is your design philosophy, and how does that translate in the store?

My philosophy is that one’s space should feel collected, layered and curated. I like a room with character and soul. So many designed spaces feel formulaic and as though they were staged for a catalog shoot rather than created to reflect the lifestyle and interests of the homeowner. I want to walk into someone’s home and discover who they are by looking at the art on their walls, the books on their shelves, the objects gathered from family and in travels.

This definitely informs the offering at DACHA—an eclectic mix of natural elements, vintage pieces, globally sourced accessories, art, sculpture. DACHA is a living portfolio of my design philosophy, which is great because clients can come in the store and experience the vibe.

What design trends are you enjoying most right now?

I love that people are so interested right now in artisanal, handmade goods. They want something different than what is available everywhere, and they want a story behind the items they buy. So much of what I carry at DACHA is either vintage or made by local California artists, and people seek me out for that reason. I have a lot of great lines by local ceramists, printmakers, textile designers. I hear over and over again that people want something unique and well crafted, something with provenance.

And plants! Indoor plants are everywhere (think Jungalow), which I love because I firmly believe that every room should have a living green plant … otherwise it feels flat. DACHA has a great assortment of interesting, low-maintenance plants.

Any big plans professionally or personally in 2018?

Yes! 2018 is going to be a big year. As the store continues to become increasingly self-sufficient, I am shifting more of my focus to design—starting with a new project in San Francisco. I have several exciting events—shows with artists that I work with—coming up in the store. I am also expanding our store offering to include more outdoor/garden items. On a personal note, I am relocating to the South Bay (we currently live in Beverly Hills), which means a new home and, of course, a new project!

 

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