In a fast-paced world dominated by technology, why launch a business that could be considered old-fashioned at first sight? Sugar Paper took just such a chance, focusing on stationary. In defying the odds, the L.A.-based brand found immediate success.
“In 2003, we started tinkering with a letterpress and helping our friends put beautiful paper in the mail,” say Sugar Paper cofounders Jamie Grobecker and Chelsea Shukov. “It’s hard to explain why we thought it was so important and why we felt such a connection to it. Maybe because our mothers always told us how important thank-you notes were or how much we loved her handwriting, and the fancy pens and paper they used.”
Going beyond simple words, every message conveys an emotion and is truly personal. “As each bespoke piece was sent, more and more people inquired,” say the founders. “So more and more stationary was made.” Today, the brand has a presence in thousands of stores across the United States and around the world, including an international shop-in-shop at Harrods in London. Its two Southern California boutiques—in Santa Monica and Newport Beach—invite passersby to discover brand’s unique, subtle aesthetic.
The white background of Sugar Paper spaces foster an overall feeling of airiness, despite the storefronts’ small size. Perfectly curated, products are harmoniously staged with a great sense of detail. Soft blues and pinks combine with touches of gold to create a cozy yet glamorous atmosphere, reminiscent of the pre-Internet age.
“We took a risk and stayed focused on building our business offline, making beautiful, tangible things by hand that would far outweigh anything in the digital space,” say Grobecker and Shukov. Quality, creativity and personalization are at the heart of the Sugar Paper concept.
“There is something special about personalized paper,” Shukov explains. “It’s a simple luxury that feels elegant.” With every card designed and hand-printed at the brand’s Los Angeles studio, Sugar Paper uses extra thick paper and subtle variations in ink, and every envelope is lined by hand. Candles are individually hand-poured and available in two scents: crisp white linen and pale pink petal, reflecting the beauty of the handcrafted.
“Good things take time,” say the cofounders. “We believe love is in the details.” The collections also comprises baby books, wedding planners, notebooks, pens, journals, calendars, phone cases, place cards and key fobs. “At Sugar Paper, we make practical things for busy people,” note Grobecker and Shukov. “When no one in the studio can live without something we’ve made, we know we’ve created something special.” Helping people get organized, connect with others and be inspired, Sugar Paper is also a way to go back to basics. It’s a breath of fresh air in an era when many people are rediscovering the beauty and value of small, well-made things. sugarpaper.com
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF SUGAR PAPER
Written by Jenn Thornton
L.A. tastemaker Wanda Wen is a case study in following your bliss. Armed with a background in fashion, an eye for artistry and a mind for business, she opened her classily curated West Hollywood paper-arts boutique, Soolip, in the midst of the Digital Revolution—a gutsy move that proved visionary, with a boldface following and spinoffs, from A Soolip Wedding to the Wen-penned The Art of Gift Wrapping. Now, in her first foray to attain luxury brand status for Soolip, Wen turns her exquisite touch on developing a new line of scented candles to bring a little more allure to the home.
The beauty and intelligence of nature has always inspired me, paper too. Ever since I was young, I loved exchanging and embellishing Valentine’s cards and family photo albums. It was always in my blood.
As a businesswoman and an aesthete, how can paper inspire the way home and office space is utilized?
Today, we live in a world fraught with email, E-vites and E-cards, Facebook messaging and digital technology. While there’s no doubt about the great benefits of electronic messaging, nothing captures a moment better than putting pen to paper. The handwritten note is making a comeback in the business world as the single-most effective way to engage a client, as it indicates investment.
Did Soolip’s other ventures spin off organically from the boutique?
Yes. Soolip Weddings came out of what I felt was a need in the wedding
industry to curate a collection of the best of Los Angeles, along with a certain aesthetic level, and an inspired way of doing business. From this luxury showcase grew client interest in my styling [for] actual weddings and adding the
What are you working on now?
A new line of candles—my first step into the lifestyle world, outside of paper. I’ve formulated the scents, concept and the packaging, and the line will be available on our website, Soolip.com, by this fall, as well as at select retailers.
I’m attracted to scent and how it transports people, and am naturally responsive to sensory and tactile elements, as all humans are. That’s the reason why people gravitate toward paper, because it is tactile and touches our senses. It’s also a way to package the Soolip brand into something that is accessible to many.
There’s a romantic, time-honored quality to everything you touch. How do you keep it all modern?
For me, it’s about staying true to my aesthetic with always a nod to nature. I’m a modern woman living in a modern time, so the burning of a candle, writing a letter, taking time for oneself—to me that’s the new luxury. Soolip is a luxury brand, but not what many may still be hanging onto, where it’s about flash and bigger is better. The new luxury I refer to is about time-honored experiences and quality. That’s my vision.
How do you balance art and commerce so beautifully and successfully?
I grew up within a family of entrepreneurs, which taught me about work ethic. And I knew that business would take me where I needed to go. Being passionate about what I do has always been most important to me. Now that Soolip is 20 years old, I’m ready to leverage the value of the brand.
What do you hope Soolip’s legacy will be?
I want to see Soolip as a premier luxury brand, moving the luxury consumer to
see luxury in a way—time-honored and mindful. I see it as aspirational and touching many facets of design. The gift that I want to leave is to inspire others to see beauty in the simple and the unexpected, connect people back to nature and to themselves, and to foster the celebration of those who work with their hands and hearts.
Written by Constance Dunn
Photography by Paul Jonason
The creative roots of Artistic Habitat reach deep into Mexico, where owners Monica and Carlos Muller were born and raised, and from where much of their standout collection of home decor originates. A display of eye-grabbing wood tables handcrafted in Mexico City—some 20-feet in length and all bursting with sculpted, organic character—meet you when you stroll into the couple’s new South Bay showroom. Then come colorful pillows, hand-loomed by women in a Yucatan Peninsula co-op, and bold glasswork from Orfeo Quagliata, the Mexico City-based son of famed artist Narcissus Quagliata.
“In Mexico, we were constantly exposed to the artisanship that is an innate part of the culture,” explains Monica Muller. “We are preserving this workmanship through a modern interpretation of traditional techniques. We have always felt that there’s a certain dignity in preserving handmade products. It’s nice knowing you own something that’s completely unique.”
Lest you think this design team, which includes daughter Katja, son Alexis and daughter-in-law Andrea, are stylistically wed to one part of the world, a look around their roomy two-story showroom—steps from the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Catalina Avenue, near the border of Hermosa and Redondo Beach—reveals an aesthetic fed from many corners of the globe. “We’re made in Mexico with foreign parts,” says Carlos Muller with a laugh. “Our family comes from a long line of nomads and pioneers, traveling from Europe, United States, Cuba and Argentina, and back around.”
It makes sense, then, that Artistic Habitat offers European antiquities and super-mod French kitchens, along with velvet pouf chairs and smartly upholstered couches by sustainable, LA furniture makers Cisco Brothers. My eye flits to vintage Hollywood studio lights affixed to the ceiling. Below them is a tapestry bench, custom-upholstered with an antique Middle Eastern rug.
“We have friends and family that have been in the business for over thirty years,” notes Monica. “Perfecting and keeping alive old trades, and employing master artisans who meticulously handcraft every piece we bring to you.” Items at Artistic Habitat are distinct, yet the collection is so well-honed that words like “eclectic”
or “funky” never come to mind. The showroom feels thoughtfully individualistic and of-the-moment, or perhaps a few moments beforehand.
The second floor is home to a design studio, “a creative environment where projects can be developed,” says Monica. There’s plenty to stoke your creativity, starting with a wall of hand-distressed wood flooring. “The Sun-Bleached is the most popular in this area,” says Carlos, pointing to a creamy vanilla slab with subtle graining.
The Muller’s, longtime Palos Verdes residents, tell me they select items with the local area in mind. “Many of the homes in the South Bay are walking distance to the ocean,” notes Monica. “The culture is very beach and nature-oriented. We know there is great pride of ownership in this area, and people have an understanding of what it means to have a table made from the slab of a hurricane-tumbled log that’s 100 years old, or floors made from wood that’s hand-aged and finished.”
Wood plays a central theme at Artistic Habitat. “All of our woods are recovered, reclaimed or originate from reforested plantations across Latin America,” says Carlos. “And sourced from Taracea, the factory of our Mexico City partners.” Notable pieces include a grand mirror inlaid with six types of wood, including deep-hued rosewood and orange-tinged Bubinga, and Parquet floors inlaid with regal European patterns that take a master artisan two hours per square foot to complete. I sink into a mod lounging chair that looks as if it were sculpted from a hunk of driftwood, yet feels as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy.
The Muller’s emphasize Artistic Habitat as a place where folks can get a shot of design inspiration or start moving on a project. This open-door policy extends from architects, designers and project managers to homeowners who casually pop in for advice. “We invite people to use our facilities, interact with our products and samples and just be creative,” says Monica. “Remodeling can be overwhelming and stressful, but creating a place to live in is like curating your personal museum. It’s important to find pieces that make you feel something, and create spaces that give you the feeling you’re right where you belong.”
705 N Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA 90277 | 310.937.2000 | ArtisticHabitat.com