Brass Tack Upholstery & Mercantile

Behind the counter of her latest home, Brass Tack Upholstery & Mercantile owner, Melissa Kanarek, revisits her roots in traditional upholstery. A collection of travel essentials, Fair Trade accessories, and household apothecary, her shop pairs as both housewares boutique and refurbishing workspace. While apprenticing in furniture design in London, Melissa built a relationship with objects that tell a story in ones home. Believing that ones living space should reflect the life and travels of its owner, Melissa reminds us to embrace the home through experiences we live through.

We meet with Melissa to discuss the shop and its connection between home and the community.

Can you tell us about how you developed the concept of your shop?
I wanted a place where I could work and do all the things I was trained to do, which were upholstery and self furnishings. I also wanted to capture the energy of Downtown Laguna Beach as people come in and out of the shop. It's a place where I can work and stay engaged in the community.  

Tell us a bit about your background.
I moved to London in early 2000. I didn’t have a work permit, so I took a course in traditional upholstery — working with horse hair, twine, springs, and tacks. I just fell in love with all of it. I was flipping through Vogue and saw this chair called the Moneypenny  it was beautiful. I contacted the designer and asked if she was looking for an apprentice. She asked when I could start and things took off from there.

What are a few of the specialty items in your shop and how do you source them?
Right now, we have a few Art Deco chairs that we salvaged from a theatre in Downtown LA. I find it to be really cool when we can salvage something, repurpose it, and give it a new home. We’ve got some hand-woven bowls from Rwanda as well. The designers go to the villages, design the bowls, help the women in the village make them and bring them back to the U.S. We find our stuff everywhere.

How do you bring a piece of your experience in London back to Orange County?
I think the coolest houses tell a lot about the people who live in them. You can see where they’ve traveled, what they're into, and what their personality is like. I try bringing that perspective to this store. I travel a lot with my husband. It’s great to have a shop to bring back whatever I can fit into my suitcase.

Please tell us about the neighborhood you’re in and your experience here.
Laguna Beach is historically an artist colony. It attracts people from all over the world. There’s no shortage of interests that walk through our door. It always makes for an interesting day.

How would you describe the customers that you attract?
The people who come in and keep coming back seem like-minded. There’s a vibe from the people who just want to live in a cool way and have things that aren’t too precious. This is a place for people who want cool, beautiful, things that they can really live in.

What impact does your store make in the community?
In addition to recycling furniture and refurbishing customers’ furniture, every item we carry in the boutique is either Fair Trade or U.S made. I think Laguna Beach is a socially conscious community. I think these qualities are appreciated here and by the people who visit from out of town. We’re working with small brands at amazing price points. We don’t skimp on quality or design. We feel good about selling these products and hope customers feel good buying them.


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384 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651