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Smock Store Spotlight – Urbanic in Venice, California

One of the places right at the top of our list of destinations to visit when we make it to the west coast is Urbanic Paper Boutique, a truly inspired shop dedicated to all things pretty and all things paper, a store we’re honored to call a Smock retailer. Before opening Urbanic, owner Audrey Woollen worked in the fashion industry for many years. She fell in love with the evolution of style and the dynamic nature of the fashion world and that, combined with her lifelong love for paper, led to the opening of Urbanic. She began designing stationery and invitations for friends and eventually was inspired to create a boutique in her neighborhood stocked with a carefully considered array of the best in hard-to-find paper goods. Audrey shares, “I wanted to fill a niche for style-minded brides who wanted something completely original.  I discovered so many great lines (like Smock) that filled this niche perfectly and was bursting with excitement to share these finds with Los Angeles.”

Urbanic, a Smock Store in California

Today, Urbanic is a boutique recognized nation-wide for carrying an incredible variety of paper and letterpress goods geared toward fashionable people looking for something a bit special and a touch unusual. When choosing products and planning events for the store, Audrey is inspired by design of all kinds – architecture, furniture, fashion, graphic and interior design. For her, filling the shop with beautiful things is a true joy. Items are hand-picked with a keen attention to detail, keeping the store well-edited and cohesive so it’s inviting as soon as you walk in the door. When asked about what she loves most about her job, Audrey shares, “I enjoy coming into work because our existence is based around all the good things in life! Weddings, babies, birthdays, gift giving, thoughtfulness…there is a constant flow of creativity around here. Whether we are making paper vines for an event, building a paper pom pom window install, helping customers coordinate their wedding stationery, or doing an over the top gift-wrapping job, there is always something amazing being produced!”

Urbanic, a Smock Store in California

Being such a trendsetter herself, we had to ask Audrey about her favorite trends in paper and stationery and her predictions for upcoming trends…
One thing I am loving (that you at Smock are brilliant for) is the mixing and matching of patterns and colors! Patterned backings, patterned envelope liners, and even folios. I adore the trend of mixing things up without being “matchy-matchy.” There is a way to do this to add a stylized touch, without losing the simplicity and elegance of a clean modern design. As far as the next big thing, I think blind deboss and edge painting will be getting a lot more attention next year as well as unexpected accents…details such as scalloped edges, glassine wraps, and hand accent details like stitching or hand stamping.

If you were invited to the White House for dinner, what would you wear?
Good question – this could change weekly! Right now at this moment I am feeling like I would want to go tailored and classic with a hint of forward style. I envision a mid-length dress with a deep v, and an unexpected asymmetrical detail. Fabric covered buttons down the back and for color, it would have to be an interesting solid neutral like a taupey gold or black plum. I just kind of made this up in my head, so I’m not sure where I could find my imaginary dress, but I am thinking it could be a cross between Juliette Hogan and Milly. To finish off the look I would go with peep toe pumps and pretty, simple jewelry.

Urbanic, a Smock Store in California

What are your top pick destinations for first time visitors to Venice?
I think all visitors should check out the Venice Canals. The city is called Venice because it was built on the canals to resemble Venice Italy in the early 1900’s. It was a resort town and termed “The Coney Island of the Pacific”. Today the canals are full of beautiful homes and modern garden landscaping. There are little boats everywhere; it is charming and a mini escape from the city. Must do’s would include, walk Abbot Kinney Blvd and go bike-riding down the bike path along the ocean. Abbot Kinney Blvd is the upscale and eclectic shopping street in Venice where Urbanic is located. I love our block. It is full of shops, restaurants, art galleries and design firms. The street has a reputation for being forward, creative and alternative. The bike path is just good old fashioned fun.

Where are your favorite places to shop?
Mostly I love exploring new areas in different cities with boutique streets kind of like ours. I love the experience of walking into a shop or bakery when you can feel that proprietor poured their heart and soul into the business. The little details are everything!  Going into Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters is always a treat for obvious reasons. I am completely blown away by how talented their design and merchandising team is. When I am in NYC, I love peeking into the store windows and trekking around all the different parts of the city. ABC Carpet is one of my faves!

Thank you, Audrey, for sharing with us – we can’t wait to come visit when we make it to California!

Smock Store Spotlight – Cotton Idea Studio in Newport Beach, California

Though it may seem crazy to some who live in warmer climates, we’re already starting to notice the very first hints of fall in the air here in Upstate New York. So even though it may only be late August, we’re preparing ourselves for the vast amount of snow we know is to come in the months ahead. What’s our plan to combat the cold weather blues? When it’s cold and snowy this winter, we’re thinking we might jet off to Newport Beach, California to hang out at one of our favorite Smock stores – Cotton Idea Studio.

Born from proprietress Mindy Gayer’s lifelong love for paper and stationery, Cotton Idea Studio is a boutique design studio carrying a beautiful array of delightful social correspondence, invitations and accoutrements. Mindy has been in love with paper for as long as she can remember, spending all of her childhood babysitting earnings at the local stationery shop. She loved hosting festive little holiday parties for her neighborhood friends, complete with invitations, balloons and fun goodie bags. A career in a creative profession was basically a given for Mindy, although it did take her a while to combine her love of design with business. Cotton Idea Studio is a reflection of her love for paper, letterpress and quality design and as Mindy shares, “I know everyone says this, but it truly is a gift to do what you love — it keeps me inspired, passionate and motivated. And I get to work with the most charming people everyday.”

Smock Store Spotlight - Cotton Idea Studio

Quite simply, Mindy truly considers her lovely boutique as an extension of herself, evolving as she recognized a void in the market for specialized retailers. With that in mind, she wanted to create a unique boutique, believing it truly needed to be personal and special — a direct reflection of her and her personal style — if customers were really going to get it. Believing a customer should be just as in love with a store as with the merchandise they carry, Cotton Idea Studio is as much about merchandising as it is about the delightful products they offer. Mindy was passionate about not wanting her shop to become just another store and one of her favorite things is when a customer spends a considerable amount of time simply walking around, oohing and ahhing over all of the thoughtful details. “Their appreciation for the design and craftsmanship of our products, paired with their overall store experience, is what inspires me to continue making the store fresh and overflowing with creative merchandising.”

We think this careful and considered approach to everything she does with Cotton Idea Studio is what makes Mindy’s business so inspired and so fabulous. “I’m constantly inspired by my surroundings, and see design in the small, everyday places. I have such an affinity for well-developed retail spaces, and I love to see how people design and build their workspaces; whether it’s local coffee shops, eateries, retail shoppes, or general office spaces — there’s always room for clever build outs, vivid branding efforts, classic signage typography, and more.” Needless to say, we are really, truly in love. We find nothing more inspiring than creative people who find exciting ways to celebrate the small details in life.

Smock Store Spotlight - Cotton Idea Studio
{Mindy at the entrance to Cotton Idea Studio | The patio of her favorite neighborhood coffee shop.}

And in true Smock fashion, we had to know a little bit more about what makes Mindy and Cotton Idea Studio tick…

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken and why?
I’m not sure if one can consider a college semester abroad a vacation, per se, but it was definitely a wonderful time away from home. I spent a fall semester studying in Cambridge, England, and was able to embrace a natural season of self-exploration, which was amazing. I’m a fairly independent person, and being abroad gave me the space and time I needed to be reflective, experience culture and people, and dream about my future. I don’t think it matters where I am or how far I travel from home, even a 30-minute drive to a nearby town can set my mind brewing with new ideas.

If you could describe your personality in letterpress, which Smock invitation would you be?
Letterpress anything captures my heart. I adore the Aberdeen collection with champlain backing and lining, in dove and verbena hues. Perhaps finished with edge painting…I love the subtle detail of edge painting.

What’s your favorite part about what you do for a living?
There are so many highlights to this creative profession: Being surrounded by design on a daily basis. Discovering new designers and developing relationships with our vendors – our vendors truly make running this business a joy. Helping to preserve the charm of handwritten correspondence. Being able to bring the best products, by the most talented designers, all together under one roof. Having happy customers; producing quality, custom letterpress goods for our clients is one of the best things about this business, because they walk away happy with a completely unique and exquisite product in hand. And, letterpress – it’s absolutely beautiful! As a shoppe owner, I love supporting designers who commit their professional lives to producing such wonderful products by hand.

Smock Store Spotlight - Cotton Idea Studio
{The front window display at Cotton Idea Studio | One of Mindy’s favorite local shops, Trovata.}

What would you suggest as “must see” destinations for first time visitors to Southern California?
I love my hometown, and could write a mini-guide on all of my favorite spots! A few must-sees in Orange County include:

  • Cannery Village: this is where our shoppe is located. It’s a charming, hidden neighborhood that locals adore. We have an amazing fish market next door, Bear Flag Fish Co, which is a must for lunch! Alta Coffee, D. Kruse, The Cannery and The Dock are also great finds.
  • Corona del Mar: a darling community with cute boutiques and eateries. My all-time favorite is Zinc Café.
  • Newport Beach/Costa Mesa: so many great finds in both of these towns, including A Market, Eat Chow, Haute Cakes, Goat, The Camp and Milk + Honey.
  • Balboa Island: perfect for any out-of-towner! It’s the quintessential seaside town, complete with mom-and-pop dining establishments, independent boutiques, a ferry, fun zone and surf shops…even a darling little fire station (kids adore it here!)

Smock Store Spotlight - Cotton Idea Studio

Where are your favorite places to shop?
Some of my favorite retailers include Anthropologie, Hable Construction, Orla Kiely, Toast, JCrew, DWR, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, ABC, along with local shops like Molly Wood Garden Design, Laguna Supply and Juxtaposition.

Can you describe the sweetest or most memorable card or stationery you’ve received or would love to receive?
The letter that first comes to mind was written by a lovely online customer just last month. It came on a morning that succeeded a heavy week, both personally and professionally, and proved to be a ray of sunshine. It’s amazing how a few heartfelt, encouraging words from a person I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting can change my state in an instant. Admittedly, I all too often underestimate the importance of sending frequent love notes to friends and family. We all need encouragement to continue being who we are, and pursuing the things that are worthy of our pursuit.

We could not agree more. Smock is all about the belief that fine stationery and the thoughtfulness of a hand-written note can go so far to brighten someone’s day.

Mindy, thank you so very very much for letting us take a sneak peek into the inspiration behind Cotton Idea Studio – we are completely inspired and getting ready to pack our bags for a visit come winter!