Los Angelenos Leigh and Cliff Spencer—now partners and co-owners of Cliff Spencer Furniture Maker—came together in Hollywood meet-cute style, while living in the same Santa Monica building. “It was this fantastic 1940s apartment. I asked him out,” she says with a laugh.
The Spencers now live in Venice Beach and run their woodworking studio in Marina Del Rey, where they produce gorgeous wood pieces perhaps best illustrated by the Fossil Accent tables, made of slabs of salvaged Claro walnut, which is famous for its striking grain. Thus far, they’re two of the lucky artists and designers who haven’t been priced out of their increasingly high-end neighborhoods. “[Venice Beach] is beachfront property, but it was undervalued for a long time,” she says. “I haven’t been personally displaced by the prices, since our landlord has been supportive, but it’s no longer as conducive to sustaining artists and makers.”
Below, a must-hit list of the Leigh Spencer’s favorite L.A. destinations—primarily on their native Westside, but with a couple forays into the east, as well.
Bucato 3280 Helms Ave, Culver City
We worked with them to create their 16-foot bar and bar stools. They have a very similar sensibility to ours, only with food. They make every single piece of pasta by hand, as well as butcher their own meat. It’s obsessively artisanal. The pasta is incredible, but we love their fried squash blossoms, filled with an ever-changing assortment of yummy cheeses. I call them “foodie jalapeno poppers.”
Red Bread 13322 W Washington Blvd, Culver City
A great, postage stamp-sized bakery featuring a communal table. Rosie Lawrence, the owner, makes everything by hand—fantastic bread, jams, sodas, homemade interpretations of Pop Tarts and Fig Newtons. We’ve done a bit of work for her, too, including creating a big maple box for her to mix dough in, so she could kneed her bread. Get a biscuit or the quiche.
Abbott’s Pizza 1407 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
Hip places abound on Abbott Kinney, but this is honestly where we eat the most. Other new spots—like Salt Air and Gjelina—are great….but sometimes I just want a slice of pizza. We’ll order the Wild Mushroom or Gypsy pie.
Blum & Poe 2727 S La Cienega Blvd, Culver City
A great gallery on Cienaga’s Gallery Row that launched Takashi Murakami’s career in the United States. We actually helped to build out Blum & Poe years ago, installing the cabinets in the space.
Platform Experiment 5027 York Blvd, Highland Park
I met Sarah Brady through the L.A. Box Collective [an artisan community resource for woodworkers founded by the Spencers], and she’s an amazing supporter of local artists. The Platform Experience is the gallery-shop she owns with her husband, Alex, to showcase a rotating experience of local design and up-and-coming artists. They also hold neat workshops like indigo dyeing and woodcarving.
Fifth Floor Gallery 502 Chung King Ct, Chinatown
Robert Apodaca [the owner] is a friend and fellow woodworker in the L.A. Box Collective, as well as an alumnus of Otis [College of Art and Design], my alma mater. The things he selects have a sort of architectural-feeling—clean, modern lines—with a bit of whimsy. His upstairs gallery is where he has his shows, featuring both furniture-makers and artists.
General Store 1801 Lincoln Blvd, Venice
They sell beautiful things by Commune, which is a really great design firm based out of L.A., as well as vintage fabrics and nice jewelry. It’s store to wander through and enjoy seeing really well made things.
Burning Torch 1627 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
Burning Torch is another place that we have some associations with; we’ve made Karyn [Craven, the owner] a jewelry case, a bunch of mirrors, a table…. Karyn has beautiful, eclectic taste. I love her recycled sweaters: she uses remnant fabrics to piece together cashmere sweaters that feel really luxurious.
Will Rogers State Historic Park 1501 Will Rogers Park Rd., Pacific Palisades
You can’t even believe it’s in the middle of a big city. It’s the former estate of Will Rogers, set on acres of green land, offering an entryway to the Santa Monica Mountains. We’ll do a short hike with the kids and then go hang out on one the estate’s many grassy areas. For Father’s Day I gave Cliff a L.A. Parks parking pass—such an LA thing to do, give a parking pass.
The Hammer Museum at UCLA 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Westwood
They made it free for everyone, so it’s really accessible. It offers an interesting perspective: some historical collections intermixed with more contemporary work that’s sort of wild.
Photographs by Cydney Puro