Get to Know…Hammer and Spear The newest addition to the LCDQ is a curated, cool, collective of art and design dreamed up by a pair of aesthetic soulmates
It seems Hammer and Spear founders, designers and marrieds Kristan Cunningham and Scott Jarrell were fated to partner up…personally, professionally and aesthetically. Both hailing from the same area in West Virginia, they attended rival high schools and ran in separate circles… “I was a cheerleader and he was a musician,” muses Cunningham. Then in college, they found each other at the same Super Bowl party and that, as they say, was that.
After graduating and pursuing some creative endeavors, they made the move to Los Angeles and soaked up much of its architectural allure, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, house to house. “We’ve lived in a Buff & Hensman design in Pasadena, a faux Normandy on the canals in Venice, a Spanish duplex in West Hollywood and a storybook revival in the hills of Los Feliz,” recalls Cunningham. “Just to name some.”
“Nothing comes into the shop that we don’t love and that wouldn’t be in our home.”
For the next 15 years, both worked in television and lived a bi-coastal life traveling back and forth to New York City for an assortment of shows, most notably HGTV’s “Design on a Dime” where Cunningham delighted audiences with chic, money-saving designs. After a potential permanent move to NYC fell through, the couple committed to their adopted city and a new creative endeavor.
After visiting Art in the Streets in 2012, Cunningham and Jarrell say the creative possibilities they saw in the Arts District proved too powerful to resist. “We’d always toyed with living downtown,” says Jarrell. “And now we were ready for the change.” At the time, there were enormous warehouses aplenty and the area was very walkable, a rarity for L.A. The move also prompted a shift professionally as well. A bit burned out from the breakneck pace of television, they made an impulsive decision Cunningham recalls. “A year or so after we moved down here, we literally woke up on a Wednesday and said, let’s do this,” she says. “This” was opening a design store on a still largely sleepy South Santa Fe Street in the Arts District.
“We hope you love coming here because it smells good and you enjoy seeing what we have. You’re invited to be part of this world.”
Feeling the palpable start of what was going to be the next chapter in Los Angeles’ evolution, the pair was excited to build something that was truly theirs and made them happy every day. “We had no business plan,” says Cunningham. “We just wanted to experience the neighborhood and highlight the amazing talent that was already living and creating downtown.”
Quickly, Hammer and Spear became an alluring shopping hybrid. Part showroom for the local craftspeople coterie including Stephen Kenn and Neptune Glassworks and part cool general store for downtown residents and urbane tourists. The early and continued success they’ve enjoyed comes from an authentic passion for design and artistry that Cunningham and Jarrell share. “Nothing comes into the shop that we don’t love and that wouldn’t be in our home,” says Cunningham. This can range from a hand-forged brass spoon to couture-minded cloth art pieces; dramatic wrap-around headboards to dreamy, minimalist incense pyres.
The mix just worked and started attracting both shoppers and more makers. “People just started coming in and hanging out,” says Jarrell. “And that’s how we started meeting all the local artists. And they were fine with our vibe. They liked it here.”
“We tend to be drawn to things with heft, nothing too delicate.”
Today, the 5,000 square foot space now houses the showroom, shop and a successful interiors studio. Working with a team of designers, architects and product designers, the firm has had a slew of notable projects and clients including the Topanga Canyon home of TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie and the Woven Accents showroom on Melrose. There’s also the creative hub in Santa Monica for a movie maker where they blended modern cool with Old Hollywood effortlessly.
When asked how the the retail space informs design projects and vice versa, the pair says many of their clients initially ask for a mirror image of the store. “But none of our projects end up looking like Hammer and Spear,” says Cunningham. “Once you get into it, we realize they are responding to the collective look, the aesthetic. I describe it as old world meets futurist. I think people are looking for that juxtaposition.” Whether the project is a modern in Palm Springs or a bungalow tucked in the hills, Cunningham says their mission is unchanged. “We’re looking to create something that feels like the family has lived there for a long time,” she says.
After a slew of rewarding projects and an ever-expanding offering at the store, the couple was ready for a new challenge. After designing a much-talked about window for Legends a few years back, Cunningham and Jarrell realized there was perhaps a bigger audience for their work. “We thought, ‘How do we break into this club, and should we?’,” says Cunningham. “After meeting the community and discovering how open and friendly they were, we decided to make the move.” Earlier this year, Hammer and Spear West opened its doors in the heart of the LCDQ, sharing a courtyard with seminal antique dealer Lee Stanton—a longtime fan of the shop and its owners. “It was Lee Stanton who wooed us into West Hollywood. He’s been asking us to join his ‘creative courtyard’ for years now,” says Jarrell. “And we love the space.” Considerably cozier than the Arts District space, Jarrell says it presented an opportunity to edit the offerings and make a different kind of impact. “We had to create more of a gallery meets shop.” In both locations, it’s key that people feel welcome not intimidated. “We hope you love coming here because it smells good and you enjoy seeing what we have,” says Cunningham. “You’re invited to be part of this world.”
“We are first and foremost a storytelling brand.”
Though diminutive in size, the design impact looms large. Curated furniture, artwork, and accessories fill the space. Modern Shaker benches from Studioilse for De La Espada mingle with curvy brass lamps from Jan Garnacarek with loads of lush, moody sheepskin throws and raw cotton Mexican pillows placed around to soften it all a bit. Each story effortlessly blends into the other while maintaining their individual impact. “We tend to be drawn to things with heft, nothing too delicate” says Cunningham. “But no matter what, we think it’s important that there is a story. Whether it is the artist themselves, where the artist lives, or how the artist is using a material. We are first and foremost a storytelling brand.”
Lucky for us, the Hammer and Spear story continues. Next up for the busy brand is a line of rugs with Christopher Farr, unveiling a dream creative compound in Jackson, Wyoming complete with Yoga Pavilion, Wine Cave and Arcade. And perhaps some other product designs of their own. No matter what the future holds, the pair says they’ll face it with the same instinct that drove them from the start. “We promised ourselves as long as we maintain our point of view, we’ll just kind of figure it out,” says Cunningham. “We’ll let this become whatever it wants to be.”
765 N La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
T (310) 622-4458