Johnston Marklee’s flagship showroom for HOLLY HUNT polishes an existing industrial space

Nested Villas

One long, unbending stretch of North Highland is unassuming, as far as Los Angeles streetscapes go. Its gas stations, doughnut shops, and a low-slung patchwork of commercial storefronts and light industrial buildings are typical haunts on this major north-south L.A. artery.

Over the past decade, galleries, design showrooms, and high-end retailers have quietly moved in, forming a nascent art and design district where, to paraphrase Sharon Johnston, founding partner of L.A.-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee, you’ll find a lumberyard next door and a pet hotel across the street.

Johnston is describing the location of North Highland’s newest destination-denizen, the L.A. flagship of luxury interior brand HOLLY HUNT. Housed within a corner-hugging, 1940s-era concrete warehouse, the flagship strikes a modest presence from the street; inside, Johnston transformed the raw, two-story space into a dynamic showroom suffused with bronze and leather accents. The expanse is anchored by a pair of freestanding, multiroom “villas” flanked by an interior promenade that forms an open, double-height gallery along the showroom’s natural light–flooded eastern facade.

“By nesting two villas within the warehouse, which are further delineated by materials—raw oak flooring within the rooms of the house and light gray terrazzo outside— and through lighting, daylighting, and various furniture vignettes, we create generous, domestically scaled interior spaces, while the surrounding spaces preserve the tall ceilings and views to the city,” Johnston explained to AN Interior.

The double-height area along the eastern facade is brightly illuminated, making it an ideal place to meet and examine finishes. (The Ingalls)

The “house within a house” concept realized at HOLLY HUNT Los Angeles is the latest Johnston Marklee–helmed adaptive reuse effort; another recent example is UCLA’s newly completed Margo Leavin Graduate Art Studios in Culver City. “In the HOLLY HUNT Los Angeles showroom and the UCLA project we embraced the opportunity to treat the existing warehouses as as-found archaeology, preserving the patina and materiality of the existing buildings, removing outmoded elements, and then optimizing the existing conditions for contemporary uses,” Johnston said.

Complementing HOLLY HUNT’s existing L.A. presence at the Pacific Design Center (the brand will retain one of its two showrooms there, which will focus on textiles, wallcoverings, and leather), the new North Highland flagship has a patently L.A. mystique to it—a certain furtive allure inapplicable to the Cesar Pelli–designed “Blue Whale.”

“We love L.A. spots that are a bit background and gritty, from the scale of the car or even the sidewalk, woven into the fabric of the city, but are full of surprises in scale, inside-outside experiences, and atmosphere—the distinct light of Southern California—on the inside,” Johnston said. “Projects like HOLLY HUNT Los Angeles are both timeless and ephemeral, and with each visit one will discover something new.”