A downtown LA destination for aficionados of off-beat antiques and cutting-edge design

Hammer and Spear’s mélange of modern pieces draws actors, former presidents and legions of locals, says Christina Ohly Evans

Scott Jarrell and Kristan Cunningham inside Hammer and Spear
Scott Jarrell and Kristan Cunningham inside Hammer and Spear | Image: Emily Berl

We hunt, curate, and ferret out timeless design,” says Kristan Cunningham of the aptly named Hammer and Spear, the shop that she opened in downtown LA’s Arts District in 2013 with her husband and design partner, Scott Jarrell. On any given day in the industrial-cool space – once home to a grocery distributor – you’ll find a Victorian easel ($3,800) next to a sleek white ceramic tile table ($4,500) by architect-turned-artist Nima Abili, or sculptural shot glasses ($120 per pair) from Neptune Glassworks complete with imbedded bullets. It’s this unexpected mix of periods and pieces that makes a visit to Hammer and Spear such a singular sensory experience.

Spurred by the desire to curate an environment that’s equal parts retail outlet and design showcase, the duo has filled a neighbourhood void by providing everything from contemporary candles and pantry goods to light fixtures and furnishings, with many of the offerings created by local makers. From its inception the showroom was set up to resemble the duo’s home, which features an eclectic mélange of antique, vintage and modern pieces – and is, above all, welcoming. Clients from Japan, Australia and France flock here for unusual finds both large and small, and at all price points. “The fact that it’s quite hidden gives us a certain cachet,” says Cunningham – although Bill Clinton and Jennifer Aniston have found their way here as well.  

Pestle and mortar, $3,500
Pestle and mortar, $3,500 | Image: Emily Berl

The diversity of the offering is what delights, from a sumptuous wingback Dubois bed ($9,830) by Luca Nichetto for De La Espada clad in crisp linens by LA’s Morrow Soft Goods – “always in shades of charcoal, greige and cream,” says Cunningham, “which is in keeping with our neutral, muted aesthetic” – to a pair of crystalline meteorite tables ($22,000 each) in subtle shades of iron and nickel. Textural hand towels by Japanese maker Kontex (from $25) sit side-by-side with restorative skincare products by Australia’s all-organic Grown Alchemist, the shop’s lone beauty brand, whose “beautiful glass jars and minimal typography resonate with us,” says Jarrell. Handmade iron vessels ($145) by Mad et Len that hold oil-based potpourri over amber resin rocks add to the shop’s distinctive SoCal-meets-Memphis vibe. 

Among some of the larger ephemera currently for sale is a “gnarly, monumental” 3ft-tall mortar and pestle ($3,500) sourced on a buying trip in West Virginia, as well as an antique African dark-wood wind bellow ($6,500) that sits majestically on an enormous steel stand. Antique Persian rugs ($35,000) and vintage-modern kilims ($6,192) in various shades of beige round out the tightly edited offerings. 

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“We hope to offer the best version of everything,” says Cunningham. “A simple deck of playing cards that costs $10 should feel like a luxurious purchase.” This approach extends to Hammer and Spear’s exquisite packaging: foil bags, twine and black wax seals.

“Our consistency is a lack of colour and attention to form, material, texture and, above all, craft,” says Cunningham. “We’re constantly changing and we hope that people will just come by and take it all in.”

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