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Galerie Sommerlath: A Mod Lover's Haven

Updated on April 26, 2014

Galerie Sommerlath is a Designer's Dream

Galerie Sommerlath
Galerie Sommerlath | Source
Galerie Sommerlath
Galerie Sommerlath | Source
Outside of store
Outside of store | Source

Modern Furniture Rules Supreme Here

If you've ever looked at the show "Mad Men" and wished you worked at "Sterling Cooper" then "Galerie Sommerlath" is your type of store. Formerly "French 50s60s" owner Michele Sommerlath recently changed the name to reflect a wider range of inventory. About three months ago she opened "Michele Sommerlath" next door, a 1,000 square-foot space that reflects her current passion for 70s and 80s Modern design. "Mad Men" is just one place you can see her pieces on a regular basis. Kelly Wexler, interior designer/trendsetter, has also helped the store gain exposure by pushing the look in books, magazines and on t.v..

"I collect all that I carry in the stores," said Sommerlath. "At times my own collectibles even spill over and show up here."

Michelle Sommerlath's French Beginnings:

Born in Paris, France she studied Philosophy at the Sorbonne then later became an antiques dealer and store owner.

"Philosophy prepared me for being in this business because it took me everywhere," she said.

Once married she moved to Versailles and opened her own store specializing in 18th and 19th century pieces. After 15 years of selling that she wanted to learn about new eras so she opened a new store of 30s and 40s pieces.

"I came to the United States 25 years ago after a friend of mine convinced me to move here, then after falling in love with Venice, California, I opened my first store there," she said. "Unfortunately I found out 30s and 40s didn't sell well in America so I switched to 50s and 60s."

Even though she changed the name of her store when the U.S. dollar went down and French 50s and 60s antiques became too expensive to import she insists she still buys one shipment a year from France. After four years the 4,000 square foot space at 9608 Venice Blvd. now includes modern antiques from the U.S. and other places, giving it an eclectism.

The Decorating Style in the Store:

"I think "Galerie Sommerlath" is decorated in a very European way which might be a bit too much for Americans when they first visit," she said. "Some customers tell me they've never seen a store like this before."

Upon entering the shop at 9608 Venice Blvd. in Culver City the yellow walls covered with artwork and mirrors cause you to look up at the brown exposed beam ceilings and silver metal pipes. Part industrial part artist's loft the subtle lighting from the chandeliers and other light sources softly offset the various room vignettes and arrangements of furnishings. The whole purpose of Sommerlath's display layouts are to give customers ideas for recreating their own modern combinations at home.

"Customers will sometimes buy whole vignettes," she said.

This buying trend has inspired her to start a new service called Design Eclaire where customers can send her an email with a digital photo of the space that needs decorating help. She'll then respond with suggestions and help. The great thing about it is you can still get excellent decorating advice about a specific project without using a fulltime decorator.

"I have a lot of experience in doing this type of decorating because I used to do staging for homes that were up for sale," she said.

Sommerlath brings in fresh merchandise daily and claims she buys what she likes first then afterwards she looks to see if it's created by a designer. The most important thing to hr overall are the lines and quality.

"I often buy things from people who're moving and want to sell their modern pieces," she said. "Some have been customers who originally bought their things from me and sold them back to me because they wanted a change."

Galerie Sommerlath's Customers:

Besides modern collectors, who visit looking for designer pieces, Sommerlath gets in homeowners and apartment dwellers who want to add or change their current decor. She's recently noticed that a lot of people who used to be into "Shabby Chic" are now into modern creating a lucrative crossover market.

"The hottest trends are the 1960s to the 1980s with the 80s gaining a lot of notice as the next hot trend in design," she said.

Whatever era it is, as long as it's modern, you can bet it'll be at "Galerie Sommerlath".

For more information call 310-838-0102 or log onto www.french50s60s.com

Mod and Wonderful in Culver City, CA.

A markerVenice Blvd. in Culver City -
Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA, USA
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