Antoinette Loupe is a serial entrepreneur, design aficionado, Francophile and tastemaker. Her charming little shop, Le Bien-Vivant in Downtown Manhattan Beach, is equally a delight. A bright orange bike stands guard at the alley lined with wine bottles, and French flags hover overhead. The shop is filled with decor and treasures crafted by both French and American artisans, as well as various other treats to charm visitors to this experiential design shop.
Antoinette describes her venue as a mélange of vibrant, soulful coastal living with design influences from Harlem to Hermosa. The bathtub that she artfully placed in the middle of the room is an immediate conversation starter, and students of the French cooking classes and wine tastings she hosts in the shop’s kitchen are invariably drawn to investigate it. The bathtub is just one of many unique pieces Antoinette carries. Each one tells fascinating stories and makes you curious to explore.
The kitchen is truly the centerpiece of the experience, with home-brewed tea and fresh croissants to entice guests. Even the kitchen counter, treated with a wood-burning technique called shou-sugi-ban, is a work of art.
“I’ve always wanted to try this technique in the kitchen. If you put it on the outside of your house, it can clearly work in the kitchen,” she says. “So that’s why I have it in this wet area with a sink. It’s very clean. It’s not cold, it’s not precious, but it’s special.”
Explore deeper and you’ll find another little room—a music-listening experiential space—where you can hide away from the world, put something on the record player and snuggle into a blanket of sound.
Sipping tea by the kitchen counter, Antoinette shares her story. She was born in Hermosa Beach, an only child. Her parents divorced while she was young, and Antoinette spent her formative years moving from place to place in Los Angeles.
“It was a very different time,” she explains. “Being an only child, plus not necessarily being able to form a firm root of friends at a young age, I found myself being in my own little world.” She was interested in creating beautiful spaces wherever she moved. Her dream was to be an architect.
Her father, Stan (aka Stan the Man), was an avid surfer. She has early childhood memories of her dad plopping her down on the beach in Hermosa while he surfed. She would amuse herself by drawing in the sand and picking up tiny crabs and shells.
At age 14 Antoinette moved in with her grandparents. Already an independent teenager, she was ready to fly a couple years later. She was accepted at Louisiana State University to pursue her goal of becoming an architect, but after 18 months she wasn’t loving it. She also had respiratory issues that turned out to be walking pneumonia.
Her grandmother encouraged her to return home. She moved back to Los Angeles and attended UCLA briefly before finishing her education in marketing at Cal State LA.
Unsure of what career path to take, Antoinette worked with a temp agency and gained exposure and experience in many different fields. One assignment placed her at a new production company as an assistant for Brian Grazer and Ron Howard of Imagine Entertainment.
She went on to work at Capitol Records, followed by Interscope Records where she stayed for a long period. She worked with many of the renowned bands of the ’90s, including Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Bush and No Doubt.
Then came the Dr. Dre album drop. She was hanging out with the likes of Snoop Dogg, 2Pac and several kings of rap as well as touring with Marilyn Manson. She smiles nostalgically, “I couldn’t say that I had real direction, but that was the best time ever.”
Although Antoinette was a music lover, she got bored easily and sought fresh ways to expand her horizons. With experience in film, television and art directing, she accepted an offer to create the production design for a new play. The play turned out to be a Snoop Dogg production, so Antoinette found herself touring with Snoop on both coasts.
In New York, she moved to a job in marketing in the fashion industry for Liz Claiborne and then for Dana Buchman, falling in love with fabric and textiles. After designing Dana Buchman’s office and their first store opening on Fifth Avenue, things started clicking for Antoinette. She loved working with the architect and designer, and because of her early college education, she had a good foundation and sensibility for designing to scale.
While living in Brooklyn, she took her interest further by signing up to be a full-time student through an extension program at the renowned Pratt Institute. Through her vast network, she started doing commercial jobs and designing for restaurants.
In 2008 Antoinette was offered an incredible opportunity to design at the Pasadena Showcase House, where her work was published in several magazines. After the financial crash that same year, Antoinette returned to New York to become a project manager for design-build projects. She chose everything from the paint color to the baseboards, windows, doors and light fixtures—up-leveling the finishes and earning the contractors more money through the higher rents they were able to charge.
This New York stint turned into a 12-year stay. During the pandemic Antoinette decided to return to her L.A. roots. She found a home in South Redondo with a little bit of land where she dreams of one day cultivating wine.
Antoinette’s vast experience in different industries has helped hone her design sensibility. Her approach is rooted in the architectural philosophy of thinking through how people feel in the space. She explains that anybody can be a decorator, but having a fundamental understanding of how a building is supposed to make somebody feel is the starting block.
“I don’t want to impose my own style on someone,” she says. “I want to create a space based on the essence of my client.”
In October 2021 Antoinette combined her design skills, experience and know-how and opened Le Bien-Vivant. When she first saw the space, it was love at first sight. She even enjoyed the mystique of an alley location and not having an obvious storefront.
“I’m not here to be popular,” she says. “I’m here for somebody who wants to travel down a little path and seek me out. When I set the store up, I made it very personal. It’s about me; it’s about my family. It’s a place of curiosity. Everything has a story. And that’s the draw. I source very specific things. I’m a source-eress.”
The store name Le Bien-Vivant holds great sentiment for Antoinette. It translates to “good living” in French, but the meaning goes far deeper. It is an ode to her mother, Vivian, combining both their first names. Vivian, who passed away five years ago, always spoke of living your best life.
“I’m here for somebody who wants to travel down a little path and seek me out. When I set the store up, I made it very personal. It’s about me; it’s about my family. It’s a place of curiosity. Everything has a story. And that’s the draw. I source very specific things. I’m a source-eress.”
“My mom was beautiful, even through her pain,” Antoinette shares. “It’s about me and my mom. It’s about my black surfer dad plopping me on the sand here as a child. It’s about the passions for all these different things that bring it all together.”
Antoinette offers project management and design services to clients worldwide, often drawing inspiration through soulful Afro-French influences. Her gift to her clients is her incredible experience and taste, along with the ability to connect deeply with them. “I like to make sure that people understand I’m only a conduit. I don’t want to come in and tell you what you need. I want to be part of the journey with you.”