OK Store Curator Brendan Cameron Offers His Perspective on Shopping Local and How He Finds Inspiration Is Everywhere
What does it mean to mix SoCal cool with vintage chic? For the OK Store, this means offering items that are not just local to L.A., but, rather, are from around the globe, bringing international flair to every home’s much-needed finishing touches. Our pursuit of neighborhood wonders led us to this one-of-a kind, eclectic store, which we love not only for its curation but also for its curator. The passion and one-on-one design guidance that OK Store Silverlake curator Brendan Cameron is committed to both inspires and enchants us. His personality, heart, and devotion to his work are evident—and they’re exemplary. Bringing top-notch customer service to everyday customers makes a trip to this shop more than just OK. It makes it truly extraordinary.
Almost two decades ago, design guru Larry Schaffer decided to open up shop on iconic Third Avenue. His unique boutique, the OK Store, saw popularity soar, and as years passed, he felt the need to open a secondary space. This time he scoured the hip neighborhood of Silver Lake.
Finding the perfect spot down the road from Hollywood, just off Santa Monica Boulevard, Schaffer established another must-see, must-do for tourists and locals alike. Whether a resident of one of the refined hillside homes or merely a shopper choosing to uncover an L.A.-designed gemstone, one will find chic gifts as well as budget-friendly finds, ranging from art to barware and home office to accessories.
For Cameron, the opportunity to be part of the OK story has been overwhelming—and truly rewarding: “I have been living in Silver Lake since the 1980s. I love the neighborhood. I love the way it has grown and changed and become better as time rolls on. The Silver Lake store is very small and entirely about being part of the neighborhood, catering to the people here. And OK has always been about the relationships we have built around our clients and our vendors. Now, our store is more about that than ever before, being part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”
With the Silver Lake location reaching its sixth anniversary, Cameron said he recognizes the added flavor that the store brings to the indie, modern community—and how it’s given residents the chance to see what they may bring to the table (so to speak).
“The store is finally getting to know me this year. I believe people are starting to come back for more than just our fine selection,” Cameron explained. “Time spent in our shop is more than just ’OK.’ It is an experience that nurtures an appreciation and a knowledge for fine objects. A genuine appreciation for what we are offering you.”
“We want to bring functionality and an aesthetic into your life’s routine.”
With the modish flair that OK displays and the impact it’s made on the many residents in and around L.A., we decided to get Cameron’s take on selecting products and becoming the store’s on-hand design connoisseur.
Q: Aside from your ever-vigilant eye for style, how did you get into this business? Can you tell us about your background, before you came to the OK Store?
Cameron: Growing up, I would stay home “sick” from school to decorate our house. Fake-coughing into the receiver, asking my mother where a ceramic-barn cookie jar was stored. Eventually I attended the Los Angeles High School for the Arts. I graduated in 2010, with a visual-arts major and a specialty in fashion. I went on to FIDM in San Francisco for fashion design ... then stepped away from the school, yet I remained in San Francisco, seeking a career in design but outside of fashion. That’s how I found myself employed by Jonathan Adler. When I moved home to L.A., from San Francisco, to Thousand Oaks, the next best thing was a design-specialist lead at Pottery Barn. This took me to West Elm on Beverly, where I discovered OK on a lunch break.
Q: How do you curate items for the store? What does this process look like or entail?
Cameron: Larry travels the world in search of our perfect pieces for our two stores. I oversee what comes into the Silver Lake showroom and how it is placed.
Q: How do you or Larry determine relevant brands and/or artists?
Cameron: When it comes to purchasing, we look for the classic and unique. Larry is always working with smaller independent book vendors who offer more than your standard array of Taschen and Moleskine products. We are after products with exquisite craftsmanship and which are typically handmade. Jana Turner, Larry’s longtime colleague, purchases our jewelry. She visits multiple trade shows throughout the year, sourcing mostly local designers. Choices are made for brands, artists, and goods that provide longevity. We strive to provide things that people want to own for a lifetime, the kind of things that instead of going to the landfill will have value to future owners.
Q: How do you keep the offerings fresh and applicable to the store’s consumers?
Cameron: OK is always more about quality, less about innovation. Our process is additive. We still carry things that were in our original location when we opened 20 years ago. We add things all the time, but again, it’s the idea that good design still looks fresh and new, regardless of age.
Q: What should customers expect when they visit the OK Store?
Cameron: To always discover something else they missed on the shelf.
There is simply too much to take it all in once, or ten times! And here I am, always wearing something that speaks to my mood that day, which is usually outlandish, or some shape of sophisticated silliness.
Q: How do you try to provide a unique customer experience?
Cameron: Sincerity. I’m not here to sell to you. I’m here to enhance your life with products that are personalized to you and [to] assist in finding what’s right to gift to those in your life fortunate enough to receive. We do complimentary gift-wrapping in a beautiful brown paper with a bow. We want to bring functionality and an aesthetic into your life’s routine. Beyond that, we genuinely care how our frequent visitors are doing, and take note of their personal lives, because we end up being a part of so many special moments.
Q: How does the concept of local shopping apply?
Cameron: There is more and more discussion about the concept of local. I think this has some value, but what is more important is “locality.” Everything is local to somewhere. The question is, do those items retain their “sense of place”? When we carry goods from our “here,” I just make sure they feel like “here.” But at the same time, we carry goods from Japan, and they can feel like they are from Japan. I carry goods from Scandinavia that feel like Scandinavia. It is more important to me that goods feel like where they are from than [to be] where they are actually from.
Q: The Third Street Store has been a Beverly Hills neighborhood staple for a while. How do the two stores complement each other? Are there major differences between the styles and pieces curated at each one?
Cameron: The Third Street store is very central and draws people from all over the city—and the world. We have a very committed clientele who have been with us for years—who come from this area, the West Side, the Valley, the South Bay, but also many people from other parts of the country and Europe—who say they visit us every time they come to Los Angeles.
Comme des Garçons leather goods and Carl Auböck now dominate our display cases. There is a deeper assortment of ceramics, and there is definitely a Japanese-Scandinavian-Danish “design mood” dominating our Silver Lake space.
Q: Describe the Silver Lake store’s style. What color combinations are you bringing in right now?
Cameron: We are handcrafted, handmade, hand-blown, earthen, functional, clean, classic, stylish, sometimes understated, artisanal and wabi-sabi. Natural tones, teals, pink, evergreen, and brass are all dominating right now.
Also, did I mention I’m personally obsessed with soft pink?
Cameron’s trained eye has spotted these color trends in interior design and home décor.
Q: Describe how you define good design and what elements you believe make up a well-designed piece.
Cameron: Function and practicality, as well as quality and longevity. It’s not about where it is made, but how and by whom. We’re also about ethically sourced goods. We strive for a collection of classic pieces that have stood the test of time. Signature collections like the Cylinda barware for Stelton, designed by Arne Jacobsen, these become staples for decades.
Q: What trends have you noticed while working at OK? What trends are you most excited about for interior design and home décor?
Cameron: We don’t really follow trends, but felt is a big deal, and wool in general. I think this is a great renewable resource, and if humanely sourced, most anyone can get behind it.
Q: Where do you seek inspiration and how do you stay on top of your creative game?
Cameron: I find creative inspiration in the collective energy that surrounds us. It is an awareness of the collective conscious, what is visually necessary for the times. Through this, I’ve done my best to stay true to myself, while still listening to something greater.
Q: Are you working on any other projects? How are art and style a part of your everyday life?
Cameron: I do have an alternative project. Let’s just say, an art collective of gifted youth. I like to think that life is art—it’s anything you can get away with and I might get away with too much. Nightlife is art. I appreciate anonymity of expression. It comes back to this idea of a collective consciousness. It is a visual culture that communicates and informs itself, without a word being said. Love is art. Freedom of self-expression is art. Art is all about a project in the making.
“I find creative inspiration in the collective energy that surrounds us. It is an awareness of the collective conscious, what is visually necessary for the times.”
Q: Name a few of your favorite local designers and share why you love them so much.
Cameron: Sunja Park Ceramics, for their genuine wabi-sabi aesthetic. Black Barc jewelry, for Mizuki’s attention to sourcing the most unique metal alloys.
Q: What are some of your favorite pieces carried by OK?
Cameron: Trois mots: Comme des Garçons.
Q: All in all, what’s the best part about working in the store, curating the pieces?
Cameron: Bringing my flavor to Silver Lake. I think this neighborhood needs as much diversity as possible, and I am happy to represent this space. Larry allows me to be by myself here, and having that is the most precious return a job has ever given me. I am here because I have a boss that believes in me, believes in what we wake up to every day, and believes in the products that we bring to the people we are here to serve.
Get a glimpse of the many unconventional finds and beautifully chic pieces carried by OK when you visit its website. Or better yet, stop by for a visit and understand why this store is making a major name for itself.
For more future updates on Cameron and other design minds, be sure to follow Design in Color on Facebook and Instagram.