Inside Design Icon Rose Tarlow's New L.A. Oasis

·3 min read
Photo credit: John Cizmas Photography
Photo credit: John Cizmas Photography

One of the most exceptional new buildings in Los Angeles is not by Frank Gehry, not made of glass or spun carbon, not a Prada Store, and not Downtown. In the works since 2018, what at a glance can appear to be a very tailored collection of sheds has quietly taken shape and opened this month at 425 N. Robertson Boulevard.

This is the new Rose Tarlow/Melrose House shop, base of operations for the tastemaker who considers herself more of a dealer and antiquaire—but in doing so created environments so irresistible that along the way she became a reluctant decorator for friends-turned-clients like David Geffen, Oprah, Eli Broad, and—wait for it—Bruce Springsteen. Her legend is today bigger than ever (and in the fall, with the release of her second book, will grow yet more), and can be described in three parts: her form-giving taste, her talent as a businesswoman, and her love of saying "no" to projects most decorators would retire on.

Photo credit: John Cizmas Photography
Photo credit: John Cizmas Photography

The building is designed by Marc Appleton (but really anything for Rose is by Rose), with shiplap Alaskan cedar boards and staggered gables to evoke from one angle the Sea Ranch, from another the work of Hugh Newell Jacobsen—and from any perspective the view that Californian style can, in any scale, still set the bar and be a leader. In its intimacy and integrity the new Melrose House store is a gift to the street; and, as LA increasingly turns its back on the low-rise, organic scale of its past in favor of mega-development, it would not be an exaggeration to say a gift to the City as well. “Yes!” says Rose Tarlow, in response to my suggesting the architects’ names above as inspiration for her shop. “But,” she explains, showing me a picture of vernacular agricultural buildings that offered the light-bulb moment, “what I was really thinking of was an English country barn.”

Two things can be true. Since she opened her first store on Melrose Place in 1976 (“I left the door open hoping people would just fall into the shop”), which pioneered a style that pairs the patina of old wood with the spartan, architectural shaping of space and light—essentially using antiques to make a modern environment—Rose Tarlow’s taste has meant to California what Axel Vervoordt’s has meant to Belgium, and inspired a generation of disciples along the way. As they say about certain movie directors, she makes a World.

Now, besides her eponymous furniture line and the 15 new designs introduced to celebrate the point of view of the store, the newest iteration of that world includes Fortuny fabric from Venice, outdoor furniture and textiles you would swear belong in the living room, and something else, which is not for sale—the latest and best example in a five-decade career that creativity is an inexhaustible resource, and the more you use, the more you have.

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