The Fernish Effect

When approached by Fernish founders Michael Barlow and Lucas Dickey, we were intrigued. In part because their business model surprisingly abuts with our own in some ways, though at first glance it's glaringly dissimilar to what the Lily Spindle ladies do.

While Fernish seeks to help people feel unencumbered by the commitment of furniture and decor, we are huge advocates in finding the unique pieces of furniture, art, lighting and accessories you love and adore and procuring them for the long run. Fernish aims to make your living space changeable month after month, should someone so desire. We, adversely, want our clients to wholly love their space day after day, so much so that the option of switching it up for a few months wouldn't be terribly alluring.

However, when all four of us chatted it out over lattes and pastries in the Santa Monica sunshine, with an indigent dude banging a quarter incessantly on the metal cafe table behind us (Michael was kind enough to give him a scone, I think), it made sense! We may approach the livability and functionality and aesthetic of design differently, but we're on the same proverbial page when it comes to "short-term" furniture. The kind you screw together, the kind that smells dodgy and chemical-laden when taken out of its shipping box, the kind that has no real longevity to it and will surely be tossed in the trash when a newer, and significantly better, piece comes along. Fernish shares a similar disdain for the bane of "land-fill furniture" - sofas and chairs, dining and cocktail tables, beds and case goods purchased to fill a space for a short while but then, a year later, left on a sidewalk, alley, or somewhat clumsily broken apart and shoved into a dumpster.

What Fernish does is create a freedom of livability for the more nomadic creatures of city life - the 20 and 30-somethings who live and work in Los Angeles, for instance, but don't yet own a home, may not want to stay in the city for longer than their job requires them, will likely move into a new place within the course of a year or two, and don't wish to invest in the more sophisticated furniture and art they'll likely amass over time once they've (what's the word so commonly used? oh, that's right...) settled. Providing a design-inspired life to its subscribers while keeping the impact of landfill furniture at bay, Fernish rents its pieces a la carte to their subscribers for a stretch of time, cleans and restores them upon pick-up, and rents them out again. And again. And again! *Think "Rent the Runway," but with furniture.*

And SO, a few weeks ago, when they asked if we could help them fulfill a beta client's wishes to have a 1200-square foot apartment in a circa-1937 building outfitted for a "Fernished" showing in a matter of days, with a strict and extremely tight budget constraining all our decisions, we were like, YEAH. NO PROBLEM. LET'S DO THIS.

It helped considerably that the architecture was lovely as hell to begin with...the apartment gets loads of light, and the ceilings are just shy of 11 feet, but filling a dining room, living room, and bedroom in a matter of days with some pieces purchased online, others all over Los Angeles, was a cuckoo crazy endeavor. We brought in a few pieces from our Lily Spindle stash and our own homes to add to the intimacy and character of the space, but mostly everything you see in these photos was approved + purchased by Fernish to complete the space. Vintage credenza, dining chairs, and nightstand, most of the lighting is new, while the upholstered bed, tufted sofa, velvet accent chairs, rug, and coffee table are all new pieces purchased predominantly via Los Angeles-based retailers. 

Here are our BEFORE shots. Lots of measuring, y'all. LOTS of measuring. 

And our AFTERS...

xx - Rebecca + Deb

(By the way, while Fernish isn't officially live until the first week of March, if you're interested in trying out their services as an early beta customer, pop on over to, sign yourself up, and the Fernish peeps will get you started!)

Finding beauty + pursuing happiness

welp, 2017 was one heck of a year, wasn't it? Overbrimming with joy, angst, triumphs, setbacks, struggles, empowerment, excitement, rancor, compassion, creativity, unity. . . and throughout it all, LOTS + LOTS of beauty to be found. As 2018 launches itself into orbit, we're promising to bring more beauty into every day. Whether it's adoring the shape of one of our dog's snouts or seriously digging that first sip of an almond milk latte at the local coffee shop, donating more money or time to a cause we care about deeply or visiting an art gallery to expose our peepers and imagination to ever-new shapes, colors, and concepts...we're determined to find the beauty, people! (collage below is an assemblage of some of our work from last year, not always professionally photographed, so please forgive ;), but it was super fun to see a bit of our handiwork all cobbled together into an itty bitty square, and if you can't discern from the rooms shown, we ain't afraid of color)


With regards to Lily Spindle and what we do, as well as how it relates to our own personal lives, Deb and I feel that beauty is an integral and vital part of a happy existence. It matters. It feeds the soul in ineffable ways. It inspires happiness. And beauty begets beauty, so the more we/you make, the more there can be in this world. Read this short TED Talk on the importance of beauty!

Speaking of beauty and power, it's been a whole dang year since the Women's March. And here we are again, thousands of us, sneakers on and signs in-hand, ready to gather together in unity, stand up and shout in defense of what's right, and rage against what's wrong. Assembling with solidarity gives us strength and bolsters our vehemence and makes our collective voice LOUD AS HELL. But it also makes us trust one another in a very unique and palpable way and, well, truly give a shit about each other. Last year's march felt like an awesome, energized convergence of 350,000 awesome, energized people. We had each others' backs, watched out for each other, and respected our fellow humans and their unquestionably valid worries, fears, indignations, and desire to pursue happiness, not just for one's own self, but for the happiness of humanity ...and if we all did more of that, imagine what kind of spectacular planet this would be? 

xx - Rebecca

The Lily Spindle + Rita Earl Blackwell photoshoot

We knew it was time to recreate our website. A lot had happened with Lily Spindle in nearly three years and I was like, "jeez, my hair is so much shorter now" and Deb was like, "yeah, my hair is so much blonder now" and, of MUCH greater importance than our respective coiffures, Lily Spindle had new/different projects we wanted to share! A vital element of the reboot was in finding a photographer in Los Angeles who was able to snap photographs of us, our dogs, and us WITH our dogs. The photographer would need to be 100% comfortable around multiple dogs of varying sizes and mixed breeds, would be able to capture the relationship of said dogs with their people, and would need to be gifted in snapping portraits in which the subject didn't appear strained or awkward (and, in my personal case, not looking like a strangely gesticulating, raging lunatic). Deb and I threw a few names around - all photographers we adore and revere, each of them gifted and talented and incredible. But one particular photographer's name kept coming up - Rita Earl Blackwell.

Here's a bit of scoop on Rita Earl Blackwell:
A native New Yorker, she's lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, but her accent is so strong people have a difficult time placing it (seriously - I overheard someone ask her if she was Australian). She says she's had a camera in her hand for as long as she can remember. A devoted animal lover and advocate (as well as a senior dog mom and hospice dog foster), Rita rescued her first dog in California back in 2006 and soon realized there was a way in which she could give back to the rescue community ("without adopting them all," she jokes). Thusly, she donates her photography services to "shelters, rescue groups, and any animal in need." Oh, and this is how gorgeous and sweet she is with the (now deceased) fur babes, Jujubee and Fiona:


I was familiar with Rita's photography namely because I'd seen RITA EARL PHOTOGRAPHY watermarked on countless fabulous photos of adoptable dogs and cats available at various Southern California-based shelters and animal rescues (Angel City Pit Bulls among them - they're awesome!). Deb met her when Rita was photographing for Dawg Squad and Deb was handling a new Dawg Squad addition - South LA Shelter dog named Darwin (formerly Frankie). And, last month, I'd seen Rita's handiwork myself at an A Purposeful Rescue adoption event. In short, the two of us knew Rita's way with animals is truly magical. But her way with humans is pretty magical, too. Lively, carefree, enthusiastic, with what borders on Job-like patience...

Fast forward to now...and here are a few snaps from our shoot! It was madness. Hilarious madness. We were scurrying around in 4" heels and dresses, herding seven dogs (go here to see our respective crews!), sweating our chimichangas off in an oppressive heatwave, gulping champagne, and trying not to appear crazed and anything more than intentionally "dewy." Our husbands, by the way, were on hand to help handle the dogs, but mostly they sat together sipping beers, discussing art and surf. (Love you guys.)

Rita was amazing through it all.
Lovely. Joyous. Persistent. Unflappable. And every one of our dogs immediately adored her, of course. 

This fantastic woman deserves a medal.
Or some kind of shiny trophy.
Or a stone bench in Los Angeles's Grand Park extolling her gifts and altruism.

(PSSSTTTTT . . . you can contact her right here for your very own unforgettable, sweet, and hilarious photo session!)

And, as a tribute to our usual SHAPERS' q+a features, here's a lickety split rapid fire round of just a few questions:

LS: Who are your top three all-time favorite photographers?
Rita: Inspired by and in awe of: Amanda Jones, Kristie Lee, and Sophie Gamand.

LS: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Rita: My dogs make me a morning person. ;)

LS: Could you share one special trick for getting an excellent pet portrait?
Rita: There's a few, but just one would have to be having soft + smelly treats on hand. And lots of 'em!

LS: Describe the traits of an elderly dog that makes them especially amazing. 
Rita: Their ability to chill and enjoy every minute of it. 



Custom sofa surfin' in the City of Angels

Sometime last year, I purchased a vintage, tufted, gold velvet sofa from a woman in Long Beach and lashed the sucker into my beater Toyota truck (now driven by my husband's son) and drove back to Venice, where I then left it outdoors for several days because: cigarette smoke + Febreeze. Long Beach Lady, you weren't fooling anyone with that disgusting nonsense. 

Once finally aired out and tolerable, the vintage velvet became the anchor of our living room. My dogs licked it, rolled on it, slept on it, played on it, jumped on it, and within a year, it was toast. Sofa toast. Not structurally, mind you. But the velvet, mostly due to that aforementioned LICKING, was crusty and discolored and dear god, trust me when I tell you that no amount of lemon juice and baking soda can remove that deeply-entrenched grossness seeped into velvet and no throws or sheepskins can wholly shroud what I knew was lurking underneath. After the new year had commenced, I grabbed the other half of Lily Spindle and we visited with my dear, dear, dear, hilarious and wonderful friend Steve, the owner of Living Room Home in Highland Park (previously on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake for many years and, fun fact, MY FIRST JOB IN LOS ANGELES UPON MOVING HERE IN 2007!) 

Not only does Steve have a quirky and eclectic eye for vintage furniture (and a disturbingly extensive collection of clown paintings), but he knows his shit. He's been in this biz for a LONG time, as managing partner at Civilization on Venice Blvd from 1990 to 2006, opening his 8000-square-foot Living Room Home on Sunset in 2007, and, within the last year, relocating and downsizing into his darling Highland Park space on York Blvd. While he now does a helluva lot of seriously good home staging as part of his business, he continues to understand the function and design specificities of furniture instinctively. All that being said, when I wanted to make a custom sofa for myself, I knew he was my dude.  He knows me super well, I trust him completely, and he's funny as hell, so his company is always A++. 

My living room is a logistical nightmare, really. A designer's horror show. There are windows and doorways, antiquated heating units and slanted walls foiling my desires at every turn. It's a fairly long room, but riddled with layout complications. Consequently, there's only one wall along which to place my sofa and that limits its length to 80 inches. I'm on the taller side and since my sofa will inevitably be shared with a brood of pooches and a 6'2" husband, I knew I wanted it to be 36" deep from front to back, with a seating depth alone of at least two feet.

Bench seat with poly-fill to avoid getting too mushy? Check.
Two back cushions with down fill and down wrap? Check.
Relatively skinny arms to maximize the seating width? Check.
Made locally? Check. 

Ah, and finally, the upholstery . . . I actually looked to our Instagram followers for feedback on this. And many of them so thoughtfully and kindly shared their opinions on the very hearty and substantial fabrics I'd pulled together as viable options. (#3 in the image below was the winner, fwiw.)

How many greys and versions of brown can one woman gather as upholstery options? Answer: Too many. 

How many greys and versions of brown can one woman gather as upholstery options?
Answer: Too many. 

But, this is the trickery of textiles (much like paint color) in relation to light and hue - these fabrics looked depressing as all get-out in my living room. I was going for neutral with the ability to bring in color with pillows and throws but what I was actually getting was the drabbest dentist's office circa 1987. These particular fabrics were beautiful elsewhere, but ghastly in my living room. I spent a week thinking about it off and on, revisited the swatch books a zillion times, and then texted a photo of the teal version of one of the original options to some friends and they were all like YESSSSSSS. AND HERE IT IS! 

I couldn't be happier, really. It's fresh and cheerful and just the right infusion of mid-century modern in our home. And this upholstery, for all its beauty, is virtually bulletproof. I can vacuum and scrub it when needed and it is seemingly impervious to the daily ins and outs of life with animals. As you can see, my knucklehead quadrupeds are pretty goddamn thrilled with this new addition, too. 

On all kinds of personal and professional levels, I've got massive amounts of gratitude and respect for Mr. Living Room, the one and only Steve Melendrez. Lily Spindle cannot recommend him enough for all things vintage and fun,  in addition to producing custom furniture creations right here in Los Angeles. (He throws a mean party, to boot, so you ought to check out one of his future Highland Park art opening fetes!)

Hefty thanks to my friends, IG followers, husband, and, of course, my Lily Spindle partner, Deb, for enduring this process with me and weighing in (repeatedly) when I needed an extra dose of wisdom and levity. This beautiful + oceanic blue end result has quite literally changed the way that I live, work, relax, and play in my own home and isn't that what it's all about? 

xx - Rebecca

Dogs + design forever

SO MANY THANKS to Jennifer Herrera, the ingenius founder of shopdogshopcat for featuring us during her Interiors week! Says Jennifer, "It's tempting to love LA-based design duo Lily Spindle simply because they're dog lovers.  Even if you don't hear about them through the rescue community (like we did) - it doesn't take much research to notice their penchant for the four legged kind. BUT - to love them simply because they love dogs is to entirely miss all the other things that make them special."

Click the link to read the rest of her kind words and check out some of our past projects, one of which features a pretty adorable little custom A-frame dog house and mid-century modern slat fence we created for a client and their blind chihuahua Annie last year.

Why do we go to such great lengths to make life for our furry friends so seamlessly and stylishly merged with our own and, in turn, for our clients? Because they are, without question, family. They make our lives better. Happier. Richer. Fuller. Sweeter. As Andrew Tuck writes in The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes (a gorgeous and excellent book, btw), "Dogs make a house a home; make it cosy. They add vitality. They add humour, kindness, comedy, and mischief. And they can be budding geniuses, too." 

Miss Bella the rescue pup being beautiful in "her" (um, her parents') newly Lily Spindled bedroom. 

Miss Bella the rescue pup being beautiful in "her" (um, her parents') newly Lily Spindled bedroom. 


Jennifer Reitman's a fellow Scorpio, which means that when we met several years ago while walking our dogs (of course), we immediately became friends. She's one of those people who's instantly kind of awesome - opinionated, smart, wonderfully caustic, tirelessly driven, and a fighter on behalf of the rights of others, both two-legged and four. She founded her incredible magazine, DAME, in 2008, but "put it on ice" until 2012. The voice of DAME is fearless, loud, brilliant, discerning, sardonic, and, oh, did I mention fearless? What was originally launched as a "women's version of Esquire" is now being retweeted by the likes of Joy Reid, Molly Ringwald, Missy Elliot, Yoko Ono, Martha Plimpton, and was included in the teaching syllabus of the late great David Carr. Not too shabby for a tiny operation run out of Los Angeles, with massively talented writers all over the country penning pieces on religion, race issues, sexual assault, the current administration, and the long, winding, often ugly road of politics. 

We're beyond thrilled that Jennifer took some time out of her bonkers busy schedule to answer our SHAPERS queries and talk about the Women's March, wolf dogs, HRC, and wisdom for all women everywhere. 

xx - Rebecca

Can you tell us a bit about DAME Magazine's irreverent and extremely insightful tone? It's razor-sharp smart, so I reckon it rankles a few readers while gaining a hugely devoted following. It also feels incredibly crucial and necessary these days...

DAME was built for the current political and policy climate.  There has never been another time in recent history where covering the litany of issues affecting women, people of color, the LGBTQ, the environment, children, civil rights and the like have been more important.  While we’ve always had a critical lens on these issues, today we’ve got a klieg light shining behind that lens. 

The flow of headlines and news is un-relenting; we’re just as exhausted by the news as everyone else.  But with that, we know we have incredible responsibility to help women (and men) parse the onslaught of information so they can be better informed about what is happening.

And so, when it comes to our readers, our tone, take, and coverage are particularly resonant and paramount in this moment.  We’ve always been a bit provocative, and this doesn't rankle them, it reflects them.  Our readers are incredibly insightful and erudite.  And so when it comes to our voice, we want our features to feel like a conversation you’d have with your friends: sharp, informed, clever.  And this only happens because of the incredible wealth of journalistic acumen and instinct of our writers. They are just so terrifically talented, it’s awe-inspiring – and I know DAME would be nothing without them.

The Women's March - we gotta talk about the march, right? This was a massive, monumental, indelible, impassioned movement unlike anything we've ever seen before. What are your thoughts on it? How do you perceive the current climate for women, globally and domestically, and what is the ultimate glass ceiling? 

When I was a young girl, my mother took me to the March on DC for the Equal Rights Amendment. I remember the women spilling from busses, dressed in Suffragette white, all of us with our sashes and signs.

Some 40 years later, there I was marching with my mother in Los Angeles – but this time wearing pink pussy hats.  I was overwhelmed by the crush of people - of humanity really – standing up for our beloved country and all of its denizens.  I can’t think of anything that’s ever been as impactful and inspiring. 

Lily Spindle WOMEN'S MARCH signs

Lily Spindle WOMEN'S MARCH signs

But I worry every day that we are normalizing, as there doesn’t seem to be the same fervor.  I worry our outrage is giving way to resistance fatigue.  I’m concerned by low turn outs in special elections and what it may forebode for 2018 midterms – and frankly, apathy around civics and government is what got us here in the first place.   

It probably comes as no surprise that I’m not particularly bullish on what I see as the current climate for women and women’s rights.   I think little by little our rights are being eroded, and whatever strides we’ve made, whether that be in reproductive rights or equal pay or health care, are being dragged back into the dark ages.  And when we can’t claim a moral high ground or set the example on the world stage – what does this say to countries that need to be held accountable for atrocities against women?

That said –I’ve also seen an incredible dialogue around feminism and women’s rights emerge as a result of the election.  And this is what it takes to equalize women’s rights – bringing all issues to bear – from domestic violence, to equal pay, to reproductive rights and everything in between. Surfacing the challenges means we can identify the solutions. That’s part of the conversation that DAME wants to propel forward.

Goliath + Laska. BFFs forever. 

Goliath + Laska. BFFs forever. 

Here at Lily Spindle, we lovingly call you "the mother of wolves," as you have two wolf-content dogs - Goliath and Laska. Both rescues. Both gorgeous. How are these types of dogs different from your average wonderfully mixed mutt? What's life like as the mother of two wolf dogs?

Well, first I have very very low content wolfdogs – meaning, the percentage of “wolf” in my animals is very little.  For all intents and purposes, they are dogs. I call them "Dog Plus." I thinkthis is important to call out because one of the issues in the wolfdog world is misrepresentation – animals like malamutes or huskies being called wolfdogs, this has caused many animals to lose their lives.  But even with them being low content, the differences are distinct, can be significant and represent some unique challenges.  One of the things that is striking is their independence.  Wolfdogs don’t have the same need to please their human as a pure domestic dog.  This has to do with the way dogs have been domesticated and how they mature.  Dogs are in a perpetual “puppy state”, they never fully mature mentally over a certain age (which is actually the mental state of a 30 day old pure wolf, if you can imagine). So when it comes to wolfdogs, as well as my two animals, even with their diluted bit of wolf content, they are fiercely independent.  They just aren’t driven by getting my approval.   I refer to them as my 100 lb cats.  It’s very much the same “on their own terms” that you see in the way cats co-exist with humans

The second thing that is striking is the intensity. Everything is at 11 on the dial with them. Whether that be meeting a new person, or smelling things – it’s exaggerated when compared to a doggie dog.

Finally, intelligence – they work things out in a way that keeps you on your toes constantly. From thieving things you don’t want them to destroy, or figuring out a way to get out of the yard – they have an incredible ability to problem solve.  To the extent that I installed 12 ft chain link fencing on my property to make sure my pups can’t escape.

Let’s just say – they aren’t for everyone, particularly ones with a lot of wolf content. And if someone thinks they want one – they must do their research and be willing to give up a lot.  I’d caution anyone who is considering one to go spend time at a wolfdog rescue and learn as much as they can before hand. It would save a lot of animals from ending up in rescue, as most people aren’t prepared at all for what it takes.

Goliath and the teeny little Donut. 

Goliath and the teeny little Donut. 

You're involved with animal rescue, particularly shepherd and wolf-hybrid rescue, not just in Southern California, but all over the country. What are some of your most respected rescues in the U.S.?

Well, I’m not involved right now. I had to take a step back to focus on business.  But hopefully someday soon, I’ll jump back in.  There are so many wonderful wolfdog rescues across the country, and the ones I’ve worked with have my utmost respect.  Out here in California I really love Apex Protection Project and Wolf Connection.   In North Carolina, Full Moon Farm. In Florida, In Harmony With Nature and in Texas, Texas Wolfdog Rescue.  They all do amazing work, with literally no money.  The biggest challenge with wolfdog rescue is that there are so few of them, but the need to place animals is huge.  A wolfdog is not a Labrador – you can’t just pull from the shelter and plop into a foster.   There are so many animals, yet so little space. Couple that with a shortage of qualified homes, and you can imagine the challenges.

If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And where would you dine?

Is there any other answer than Hillary Rodham Clinton?  I’d actually want to host her in my home for a caterered lunch so I could sob uncontrollably into her shoulders for the first 15 minutes without embarrassing myself.  And then I’d ask her every question under the sun, she’d try to answer, I’d start crying again, we’d hug goodbye and she’d wonder how she got wrangled into such craziness with me.

Wolf Momma. 

Wolf Momma. 

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Morning.  To a fault. Like a 4am fault.  I wake up before my dogs do. In fact, I'm pretty sure I keep toddler's hours.

Laksa in the "wild" (aka the west side.of LA)

Laksa in the "wild" (aka the west side.of LA)

What's currently on your bedside table?

Water, my glasses, spare leashes in case of an earthquake, my phone and a stack of magazines I never have a chance to read.

As a progressive, independent, powerful 21st century woman, what's your key piece of advice to other women?

Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will.  You’re going to get knocked down. A lot.  Take the bruise, and get back up and do it all again.  It will never not be hard, but it always be worth it

*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.


Strolling through the massive Art Los Angeles Contemporary show earlier this year, we spotted (and Instagrammed) one of Meg Cranston's incredible dog portraits and we immediately knew we had to feature her in SHAPERS. Currently the chair of the Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, her sculpture, paintings, and video/performance work have earned her international accolades and she's exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, The Getty Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, The Carnegie Museum, K21 Museum, Dusseldorf, and the ICA, London, to name just a few.

Also, she has a super cute pooch named Jenkins and began a shelter dog photography project back in the mid-2000s, which ultimately helped to increase the number of dog adoptions, and we are always and forever 100% fans of that kind of altruism and creativity! 

Many,  many thanks to Meg for so intelligently and thoughtfully tackling this SHAPERS q+a! Enjoy!  

Can you tell us about your project photographing shelter dogs back in 2008? What was the experience like, what inspired the project, what was the endgame artistically or otherwise and how did it affect you/your work?

I was looking to get a dog and spending some time on the shelter websites. I decided to try to photograph all the dogs in LA shelters over a one month period. I tried to photograph them myself but quickly realized it isn't that easy to photograph a dog. So I partnered with the various shelters to get their photographs. That was a bit tricky because it involved working with the Chief of animal control. He was suspicious at first because he had to make sure I wasn't creating an expose on the shelters but then was happy to help. The most interesting thing was the quality of the photographs from different shelters varied a lot. At one shelter, the worker taking the photographs was careful to "art direct" the images. He posed the dogs in green settings even with some fake flowers arranged. He had the dogs standing in action poses so they looked lively and happy.

Compared to other shelters ,were the dogs were photographed in cages or on leashes, those animals looked highly adoptable. That shelter in fact did have higher rates of adoptions.

Because people primarily look at shelter dogs on websites, being photogenic is a life or death issue. 

The paintings I did of the shelter dogs takes that a bit further. Historically there are many dogs in paintings though typically they are high status dogs - hunting dogs or pets of wealthy people. The paintings of George Stubbs would be an example. I decided to do rather monumental portraits of ordinary dogs - shelter dogs who would not typically be painted.

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

What's your favorite thing about living in California?
I like the attitude of people in California. Theyhave a relaxed confidence that's easy to be around. The artists in Los Angeles aren't freighted with a lot of rules. They do whatever they want. Europeans especially admire that. 


How does teaching art influence your own artwork?
Besides paying the bills? I love teaching because in my courses, I have to write lectures about new topics all the time. If I didn't teach I doubt I would read as much or stay as current. Also there is a part of me that's a performer. Giving lectures is a kind of performance. It's fun. Of course the students are all fantastic. I have said many times, I have never had a bad student.

Art students are the best and most interesting students one can teach.

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Which decade resonates most poignantly with you - 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s? I admire art of the 1960's for its clarity and optimism, art of the 1970's for its intellectual rigor, art of the 1980's for its focus on recasting artistic values as political. 

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for  Made in L.A. , 2012.

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for Made in L.A., 2012.

The scariest thing you've ever done?
I do stand up comedy. That's pretty scary especially for the audience.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a night owl who has to get up at 6am. It's a dilemma.

Name three of your favorite sculptors/3-dimensional artists and use a single word to describe each.

Alberto Giacometti  -  armature
Brancusi  -   base
Franz West  -  scale

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School


*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.


Over on swanky Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, there's a darling and intimate, sexy and wonderful eyeglass shop that's been in existence for just shy of a quarter of a century, holding strong throughout the street's many retail vicissitudes since 1994. That darling, sexy shop is none other than Montana Eyes, owned by Marla Cohn and managed full-time by her daughter, Rebecca Cohn. The vibe is generous and sweet and they have seriously INCREDIBLE frames for sunglasses or spectacles, crafted by designers all over the goddamn world. I can think of at least a handful of devoted clients (me and my husband included) who will go to no one else to find beautiful frames that actually complement your face and are a refreshing and resplendent departure from uninspired, fairly ubiquitous eyewear. Also, Montana Eyes is mega dog-friendly - they have an enormous terrier named Mia, who rules the Montana Eyes roost. 

We're obviously stoked they were willing to tackle our SHAPERS Q+A! Thank you, Rebecca + Marla! We adore you! xx - Rebecca

Rebecca + Marla - a dynamic duo like no other! 

Rebecca + Marla - a dynamic duo like no other! 

1 - How long have you been in the designer eyewear industry

I suppose you could say I was born into the industry. I’ve never remembered a time in my life there weren’t glasses all over the house. My mother Marla, the owner of Montana Eyes, has been in the optical industry since she was 18 years old. She opened the store twenty-three years ago, and though it’s gone through several changes; remodeling, new brands, and new neighbors, it has always been my second home.

You guys are one of the most dog-friendly spots in town, with glass jars of dog treats on the main table and oftentimes terrier Mia is in attendance. How did your rescue terrier find her way to you?

Well I think dogs and glasses have simply always made sense to us. My mom grew up with dogs, and we always had dogs. Mia finding her way into our family is sort of kismet. We had a dachshund for eighteen years named Elroy. Losing him was really tough, and it took my Mom several years to be ready for a new dog. My Mom had been in contact with a boutique/rescue up the street on Montana Avenue called Two Wag For, and they called us and said they had a puppy we should come meet. I went up the street and there I saw Mia - a small, awkwardly adorable black and white scruffy puppy. I called my mother and said something like, “You have to come see this angel”. The next day my Mom and I came to see Mia, and I kid you not when my mother picked Mia up, they hugged each other. I could cry talking about it, because it was kind of one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wholeheartedly believe they are soul mates.

Oh, Mia. 

Oh, Mia. 

As one of the absolute BEST spots to get bitchin' glasses and shades, you have a fair amount of celebrities who frequent your shop and are wholly devoted to Montana Eyes. Can you share a few names or a fun anecdote about one of your fave famous clients?

I think one of the best parts about Montana Eyes is that we’ve created a safe environment for everyone to feel at home. My mother and I have never been name droppers and very often we have to hide how star struck we are. We treat all customers the same way, even when they are some of the most famous celebrities worldwide.

Party down at Montana Eyes! 

Party down at Montana Eyes! 

What is your favorite room in the house and what surprises would we find there?

My living room is very much my happy place. The space is eclectic with colorful desert tones. I have a very healthy cactus in a rust colored pot named Montana (clearly after the Avenue the store is located on), a record player and cabinet with an assortment of vinyl I’ve been collecting for years, vintage speakers and throw pillows I’ve picked up in Joshua Tree over several visits.


What is your go-to album (or albums) to listen to while road tripping?

Lately I have fallen in love with a newer indie-rock band called Whitney. Their album "Light Upon the Lake" is sweet, peppy, and extremely easy to drive to. Perfect "drive-up-the-coast" music. 

Tortoise, plaid, or ombre?

Tortoise, always. Tortoise reminds me of my childhood and the retro styles I grew up seeing.

Name three of your favorite eyewear designers and use a single word to describe each.

Jacques Marie Mage- Strong
Theo- Architectural
Cutler and Gross- Nostalgic

Soft focus glamour and gorgeousness. 

Soft focus glamour and gorgeousness. 

What’s your favorite spot in California to daydream and reset your soul?

I love the newer Getty. I could spend an entire afternoon out there in the garden with my journal and Polaroid camera. It’s a quiet bubble above what feels like the world.