By  on October 21, 2008

LOS ANGELES — Catherine Malandrino Maison, which opened here on Monday, is intended to feel homey and utterly unretail — quite a challenge for a 6,000-square-foot-space.

The boutique has four rooms, each featuring the designer’s personal items, such as movie posters and pieces of art. There are bookshelves, couches and tables, a fireplace, two “inspiration” walls of personal photos, a subdued gray exterior, polished concrete floors and ceiling-hung display racks.

The store carries Malandrino’s two lines, Malandrino and Catherine Malandrino, as well as her recently launched jewelry collection, sunglasses and books. Merchandise includes tops from the contemporary line ranging from $395 to $595, Malandrino designer dresses from $1,600 to $2,450, shoes starting at $600, handbags between $900 and $1,600 and jewelry pieces from $400 to $2,000.

Despite the bleak economic climate, Malandrino said she thinks her market niche is somewhat shielded.

“What I’m proposing to my customers is not a commodity,” she said. “It’s not about things you need, it’s about things you want, about beauty and giving yourself a moment of pleasure despite what’s going on.”

The two-story unit on La Cienaga Boulevard at Melrose Place is the 10th addition to the designer’s retail presence and it comes as she marks 10 years in business.

The store is near retailers such as Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Sergio Rossi and Ports 1961. It looks more like a luxurious town house than a boutique, with the interior featuring 25-foot ceilings at the entryway.

The new concept incorporates a namesake cafe, with catering by local French brasserie The Little Door, which occupies the store’s south side.

“Los Angeles is so much a part of the worldwide scene that it’s not about just this market, but about the customer overall — a worldwide traveler, a sophisticated woman who could live anywhere — Los Angeles, New York, Paris,” Malandrino said.

The store was originally scheduled to open in the spring, but construction, permit and other delays forced the date back six months.

The company has a 15-year lease, and spent a year renovating the residential structure. The designer said she was set on the neighborhood and looked for months before discovering the space she wanted. The structure is set back from the busy street by a patio. Landscaping, including lemon trees, will partly shield the facade from the sidewalk.

The focus of the store’s entryway is a huge signature chandelier, also featured in one of the designer’s New York stores, which has 725 hanging, hand-blown glass bulbs.

The design of the boutique — and the chandelier — is the result of Malandrino’s collaboration with French architect Christophe Pillet, as are custom bookshelves and fixtures.

The second floor, now being used as a stockroom, may eventually be converted into a VIP area and veranda cafe, as well as housing other elements of the designer’s collections, including some men’s formalwear and swimwear.

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