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Highland Park’s Bookstore, Owl Bureau: A Sanctuary for LA’s Art & Design Lovers

(LA Trend) — From the outside, Highland Park’s Owl Bureau may seem like a garden variety independent bookstore in a budding hipster neighborhood, but don’t let that fool you. It’s really more of a literary temple of art, fashion, architecture, and design. Anyone with even a dollop of creative fancy can seek refuge within Owl Bureau’s hallowed walls.

Opened in 2019 by Richard Christiansen (founder of the ad agency Chandelier Creative), Owl Bureau was launched to enrich the cultural diets of Angelenos, and to create a singular experience of depth and beauty that often gets overlooked in the sprawling concrete landscape of Los Angeles.

In an LA Times article, Christiansen stated: “There are a lot of coffee shops, a lot of libraries and other places to go on my side of L.A., but I didn’t feel like anyone was wrapping their arms around all these amazing creative people here in California, the doorstep of the world’s imagination, and doing it through design and art and fashion.” It’s an interesting gap in the market that needs consideration—especially in such a creative region of the world. Which is one that Christiansen has taken upon himself to address. “We wanted to create a center for culture and creative people to come together on this side of Los Angeles.”

A herculean task, undoubtedly, but a brief perusal of Owl Bureau’s interior is enough to prove that Christiansen has what it takes to turn Northeast Los Angeles into a flourishing arts hub with this gem of eccentricity.

Curated in collaboration with Mast Books out of New York City, Owl Bureau’s inventory consists of a wide variety of new, vintage, and rare books and magazines on art, fashion, design, architecture, photography, gardening, cooking, and more. Their literary supply also features around 200 or so titles from Christiansen’s own collection, adding a touch of personality rarely seen in most bookstores.

Another subtle yet cool feature is the way Owl Bureau displays its books; instead of arranging them by spines like your average bookstore, they’ve wisely chosen to arrange them by cover. This may seem like only a minor aspect, but it fits perfectly in line with the store’s passion for aesthetics. What better way to entice guests than with the pretty, exotic, and unique images that adorn each of their items?

And because the selection and themes change on a weekly basis, repeat trips to Owl Bureau are practically required to fully appreciate what makes it such an uncommon delight.

However, it’s not just the contents of the bookstore that reflect Christiansen’s mission. Not even the layout and design of the place can escape the clutches of his passionate fancy.

Eschewing the traditional, staid bookshelves that normally populate bookstores, Owl Bureau displays their books on a massive curved wall of blond California wood designed by the Los Angeles-based designers Waka Waka and Machinehistories. There’s also a large pair of doors intricately carved with reliefs of owls, cacti, and bumblebees, serving as a shrine to print media, that was designed in collaboration with the Paris-based architects Studio KO.

And because freshness and creativity is always on tap at Owl Bureau, they even went the extra mile by commissioning LA artist Abel Macias to create vivid, vivacious murals below the signage to signal to any passerby that this is a small slice of Wonderland in their very own neighborhood.

But what really makes Owl Bureau so special is how accessible its treasures are to everyone. Whether you have an advanced degree in a creative field or just like to look at beautiful things, Owl Bureau doesn’t discriminate against any level of taste or interest. Even if you’re not in the market for an obscure book on Italian furniture, feel free to relax in the various curved loveseats that dot the interior and take in the eclectic yet classy atmosphere. Your imagination will thank you later.

Owl Bureau is located at 5634 N Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042

For more information, check out their official website. Be sure to follow them on Instagram.

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Joe Garza | Editor

Joe Garza is an LA-based writer and musician. With a deep passion for the arts, his interests include screenwriting, reading, composing, and playing guitar and piano.

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