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Vintage Places in Topanga Canyon and Venice, California

Updated on April 30, 2012

Topanga Canyon

Topanga Canyon is a gorgeous road that winds all the way from the Pacific Coast Highway through the Santa Monica Mountains, leaving you off in the San Fernando Valley.

It has a legendary rock n' roll lineage and evokes visions of surfers driving beaten-up Studebakers with surfboards peeking out the back and long-haired girls wearing prairie dresses. Canyons are hidden away and so full of nature that you forget you're anywhere near a buzzing metropolis. In Topanga Canyon, birds coo, rare flowers bloom, and the Malibu Creek gently rolls along behind the cabin-style homes. This haven for creative inspiration is the second-most famous of the L.A. canyons (Hollywood's Laurel Canyon is the most famous).

Old Topanga began attracting artsy bohemians in the 1940s, and when folk troubadour Woody Guthrie settled here in the 50s,, its fate was sealed as the perfect spot for those who wanted to pretend to live in the Wild West. Since then, its always been inhabited by characters as colorful as its sunsets and has had many musical hits penned within its borders. Tunes by Bob Dylan (who actually moved here to be like his idol, Woody Guthrie), Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, John Densmore of the Doors, Linda Ronstadt, and unfortunately, Charles Manson, have lived in the canyon. It is here that hippie band Spirit wrote "Topanga Windows" and John Phillips (of The Mamas and the Pappas) wrote "Topanga Canyon." But the king of the rock n' roll canyon was Neil Young. While he was living in a redwood house at 611 Skyline Trail, he wrote the hit song "Cinnamon Girl," as well as the classic LPs, After the Gold Rush (1970), Harvest, and Tonight's the Night (both in 1972), and Zuma (1975).

Topanga even had its own 60s art movement called "Semina" after artist Wallace Berman's handmade magazine of collages and beat poetry. Berman's brilliant circle of friends included Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dean Stockwell, who, together in the canyon, wrote the classic 60s antiestablishment film, Easy Rider. Breathe deeply enough, and you're sure to leave Topanga Canyon with some divine inspiration of your own.

John Phillips- "Topanga Canyon"

Neil Young- "Cinnamon Girl"

Easy Rider (1969) Full Movie

Vintage Place #1: Hidden Treasures

Among the actual tepee commune, giant wooden hula dancers, and taxidermied animals wearing top hats, you'll find a magical cottage covered in seashells and filled to the rafters with incredible vintage finds. As the name says it all, Hidden Treasures is like a pirate's chest full of charmingly shabby additions to your wardrobe and hippie home- that once going inside you won't want to leave empty-hande. Rock n' roll inspired fashion stylists have been raiding this Topanga Canyon hangout since its opening fifteen years ago. Located in what was Topanga's only drugstore in the 1940s, its set up like a rickety little old house where you can wander from room to room, picking up everything from handmade Victorian quilts and silk and velvet 1930s glamour gowns, to tea-stained doilies, animated 1950s waterfall lamps, and beated-up Keith Richard's-worthy leather jackets. Merchandise is dysplayed with a devil-may-care California attitude, and you can have fun sitting on the patchwork of Indian floor rugs while digging through antique steamer trunks billowing over with silk scarves and slip dresses. Most items run about $10 to $30, so its well worth the detour through the long and winding canyon.

Address and phone number: 154 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. (310) 455-2998.

Vintage Place #2: LA Horseback Riding

Embark on either a daytime ride, which provides stunning views of the Valley and Santa Monica Mountains, or a nighttime, full-moon ride, complete with fog rolling over the hills and falling stars. Friendly wranglers will escort you down the trails while riding beautiful Arabian horses. Hi-Ho Silver!

Address and phone number: 2623 Old Topanga Canyon Rd., Topanga. (818) 591-2032.

photo courtesy of The LA Horseback Riding.
photo courtesy of The LA Horseback Riding.

Vintage Place #3: Saddle Peak Lodge

If you're trying to seduce a carnivore who smokes a pipe, collects taxidermy, and reads 60s issues of Esquire, this is the perfect place. But if you're attempting to woo a vegetarian, don't go here. To get here from the beach, you'll drive along twisty canyon roads, passing horse ranches and creeks along the way, which just adds to this restaurant's Robert Mitchum-worthy appeal. Along with the Malibu mountain views, moose heads, and gamy gourmet cuisine, this historic restaurant resides in a landmark, three-story building from 1920, with a woodsy, Catskills clubhouse vibe. It's the type of place where you see someone proposing at the next table. Stars of the golden era, as well as today's front page headliners, have adored this romantic hideaway. They have cozy seating by stone fireplaces in winter months and a gorgeous, tree-lined upper terrace for dining on warm starry nights.

Address and phone number: 419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas. (818) 222-3888.

Vintage places in Venice, California

Watching Olivia Newton-John roller-skate in the 1980 cult classic film Xanadu is enough to make anyone want to hang out here. Venice was developed in 1905 by a cigarette manufacturer and real-estate baron named Abbot Kinney, who happened to be obsessed with the Italian Renaissance.

He decided to build his own Venetian Fantasyland just south of Santa Monica, with neo-Italian structures and colonades arcaded along Windward and Pacific Aves. There are also 16 miles of actual canals that were occupied by Gondolas navigated by singing gondoliers in full costume. Kinney also had a 1,600-foot amusement pier built, as well as an attraction called Ocean Park, which garnered Venice the nickname "Playland of the Pacific." From the 20s through the 30s, this is where Hollywood stars loved to ride roller coasters, eat hot dogs, drive bumper cars (as Charlie Chaplin frequently did), and throw parties. There was a legendary night on the pier in 1935 when actress Carole Lombard and William Randolph Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies, let their hair down and had fun with fellow glamour icons, Marlene Dietrich and Claudette Colbert. Sadly, by the 1950s, Venice was in desperate need of renovation, as you can see in Orson Welles' 1958 film noir, Touch of Evil, which used Venice's decaying buildings as a sleazy Tex-Mex border town. As Venice became more populated over the years, the 16 miles of canals became only four blocks, and Ocean Park, along with the amusement pier, was destroyed by fire and neglect. Venice has had its highs and lows and is now experiencing a renaissance of its own. Old buildings are being restored and chic new vintage boutiques, design studios, art galleries, restaurants, and watering holes ar popping up daily.

Vintage Place #1: Animal House

It's a spacious boutique with vintage and up-and-coming designer duds for guys ad girls, housed in the same historic Venetian-style biulding that Orson Welles used as a main location in his classic film noir, Touch of Evil. For guys there is day attire, like 80s rock tees and Levis that are already perfectly worn. For the females, there are flirty floral slip dresses, embroidered tops, and a wall covered in collectibe pucci and Peter Max Pop Art print apparel. Be sure to check out their incredible section of hard-to-find art books and the tiki-tacky Hawaiian home accessories.

Address and phone number: 66 Winward Ave., Venice. (310) 392-5411.

Vintage Place #2: Bazar

This is a vintage home boutique specializing in unique décor from the 1930s through the 1970s, with much of the selection hailing from Europe. Everything here is spectacular ad rare-like the antique canoe hanging from the ceiling or the gold-flecked, oxidized glas apothecary jar from the nineteenth century ($2,400).

Address and phone number: 3108C Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 314-2101.

Inside Scoop

For film buffs, Rydell High (from the classic 1978 film Grease) was actually Venice High. Feel free to sneak onto the bleachers and pretend that you're Sandy and Danny belting out "Summer Nights."

Address and phone number: 13000 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 306-7981.


Vintage Place #3: Bountiful

Interior designer Sue Balmforth's shop looks as if Miss Havisham decided to open a home décor store instead of having a wedding. Entirely desgned in a palette of original worn hipping whites ad adorned overhead with a rainfall of beaded chandeliers, the selection is shabby French country chic. Let this 10,000 sq. ft. boutique be your destination for ornate iron bedframes, mercury glass, Victorian oil paintings, Venetian mirrors with perfect silver patina, birdhouses, old American press-back chairs, British china, and more. With mile-high, mazelike displays of dreamy treasures that nearly topple over, Bountiful's huge space feels like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Hidden in the middle of the maze is a romantic boudoir loft that is actually the proprietes' personal boudoir, where everything is available for purchase. Decorators and serious collectors cn't get enough (neither can Pamela Anderson or Shabby Chic's Rachel Ashwell), bu despite the extraordinary prices, everyboy cn walk away with something they love because the store also has a great selection of seashells, soaps, candles, picture frames, and apothecary jars.

Address and phone number: 1335 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 450-3620.

The new showroom, located inside the old Equator Books store, is triple the size of the old space, making it possible to showcase a much larger portion of the more affordable collection of Mid-Century Modern furniture, art and accessories from Europe
The new showroom, located inside the old Equator Books store, is triple the size of the old space, making it possible to showcase a much larger portion of the more affordable collection of Mid-Century Modern furniture, art and accessories from Europe | Source

Vintage Place #3: French 50s-60s

Owner Michele Sommerlath has been collecting and dealing French antiques for over 30 years, but at this whimsical and colorful store, midcentury modern furniture rules the roost. She ships every wonderful piece directly back from her native France, and she perfectly curates all the furniture you'd need to decorate a Neutra (or Neutra-esque) house into a minimalist dream-but with a sense of humor sprinkled on top. Furniture, lighting, abstract art, shaggy rugs, and accessories are abundant here, and every piece looks like it could decorate the set of Brigitte Bardot's boudoir in a Godard film. Vive le Francais!

Address and phone number: 1103 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 392-9905.

After six magical, delightful years, I have decided to close Madley on Abbot Kinney and will be moving the entire shop online.
After six magical, delightful years, I have decided to close Madley on Abbot Kinney and will be moving the entire shop online. | Source

Vintage Place #4: Madley

Madley is a magical store, decorated with a large carousel in the front window and chock-full of 1980s rock n'roll inspired apparel and handmade one-of-a-kind accessories. Much of the merchandise is designed by the boutique's owner, the adorable Coryn Madley. She is influenced by the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, as well as her deep-rooted love of nature. Her clothing is mostly comprised of handknits, some with pouffy princess sleeves, in romantic shades of metallic gold, mauve, midnight black, and shadowy gray. They are like the colors of Venice Beach at sunset, which also happens to be Ms. Madley's hometown. Her jewerly designs are vintage findings strung together-Victorian jet beads, cameos, raw crystal, seahorses, shells, feathers, and broken chains. These findings become stunning necklaces, brooches, and bracelets. She also stocks clothing by young neighborhood designers and displays works by California artists she admires. Items run from $40 for a vintage dress to $700 for a hand-crocheted shawl.

Address and phone number: 1227 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 450-6029.

Every wonder what happens to old playground equipment? Neptina turns it into artwork. Just another local store specializing in "mid century glass, lighting, tables, and art."
Every wonder what happens to old playground equipment? Neptina turns it into artwork. Just another local store specializing in "mid century glass, lighting, tables, and art." | Source

Vintage Place #5: Neptina

Neptina features twentieth-century modern design, with an eye toward the whimsical side of the machine age. It's the perfect place to look for Art-Deco furniture and streamlined home accessories-if you're going for that Metropolis-meets-Disneyland vibe. Aside from furniture, they've got great lamps, salvaged architectural details, and a mind-boggling selectionof fluted glass decanters. The store also has featured playground toys that owner Lianne Gold has named her "platinum zoo." They are aluminium rides, found in East Coast schools and playgrounds, that were discarded to be replaced by modern resin rides. They weigh about 50 pounds and come in shapes like seahorses, rocking horses, hound dogs, snails, and bumblebees. Lianne has stripped, polished, and priced them from $850 to $2,200. They work brilliantly as striking conversation pieces or as yard sculptures.

Address and phone number: 1329 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 396-1630.


Vintage Place #6: Surfing Cowboys

Donna and Wayne Gunther are the uber-cool married owners of this amazing home décor shop. They first met when he was a fashion photographer and she was an art director for Elite models. As they worked and traveled together, they found they shared a common love for "junking" and would sneak off after shoots to look for undiscovered thrift stores. Sick of the drama, they soon dropped out of the fashion world and, thankfully, opened an awesome store. They are now the greatest purveyors of vintage beach culture memorabilia on this side of sunny California. You can buy enough midcentury furniture and accountments to deck out any pad in authentic surf style. Their genius lies in that they not only know how to mix different eras together in a room, but they specialize in mixing West Coast with European style-like placing 60s California pottery atop a Danish coffee table. They have superb eyes for the unusual, including in their mix a 1960 Ducati Brio scooter ($2,500), a tim Blake paddle board from the 1930s ($25,00), and a giant filter from a 50s Boeing jet that would make smashing wall art ($2,000). They also have atomic-age coffee shop-style swag lights, vintage Hawaiian surf photographs professionally framed and matted, Italian film and advertising posters, mosaic-tiled tables, vintage 60s surfboards. and freestanding metal, wood-burning fireplaces.

Address and phone number: 1624 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 450-4891.

The front of Surfing Cowboys is painted with a sign that says "Purveyors of Beach Culture & California Lifestyle" and that pretty much sums it up. Owners Wayne & Donna Gunther have created a bright, happy space filled with all of the items that make
The front of Surfing Cowboys is painted with a sign that says "Purveyors of Beach Culture & California Lifestyle" and that pretty much sums it up. Owners Wayne & Donna Gunther have created a bright, happy space filled with all of the items that make | Source

Vintage Place #7: World on Wheels

This is the best, old-school, 70s skating rink, and it hosts a rad monthly roller disco-themed party called Space Is the Place. The party is a 70s-inspired "dance and skate," and a World on Wheels is a rare in that it has a full bar (most roller rinks do not serve any liquor-roller boogying is dangerous enough sober). It also features an upstairs dance floor that plays funk, disco, and rare grooves. There's also a video game arcade to complete the vibe. Note: Thrusday and Sunday nights are 21 and over. Space is the Place is every fourth Saturday of the month.

Address and phone number: 4645 1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice. (323) 933-5170.

Inside Scoop

To view World on Wheels and the Venice Beach roller-skating scene during its disco heyday, watch the so-bad-it's-hysterical 1979 movie Roller Boogie, starring Linda Blair.

Roller Boogie Trailer


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    • PDXBuys profile image


      6 years ago from Oregon

      That is funny... I used to drive by Venice High almost daily on my way to Starbucks and I never made the connection that it was the high school in Grease! I used to live just a few blocks east on Venice, closer to the 405. I will have to watch the film again now! Thanks for the hub!

    • pongogirl2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jasmine Pena 

      8 years ago from California, USA

      Thanks JamaGenee:)! I always believe that every place has it's own history, no matter where you go old or new, history is everywhere:)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Fascinating look at an area that most of only know as a name shrouded in in myth!

      Voted up and awesome! ;D


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