Here's a little quiz for Hollywood locals: How many times have the words gentrification, renewal, and Harrison Street appeared in print in the same sentence during the last two years? Answer: A number at least equal to Harrison Street's ever-increasing populace of faux gas lamps and dramatically lit palms.
Despite diligent reconstruction efforts, the street still lacks the bohemian village feel that developers frantically insist exists. Tucked away on the corner of 20th Avenue and Van Buren Street, however, the Painted Cottage offers a peek of what Harrison Street could be if its focus swung from slick packaging to down-home content.
Run by artisan Margo Aguirre, the bungalow is a showcase for handcrafted baubles. The folksy assortment of objets d'art includes decoupaged shoetrees, papier-máche pelicans, and mosaic tables and mirrors, which Aguirre pieces together from shards of old dishes and tiles.
A Miami native and former advertising executive, Aguirre ditched nine-to-five drudgery last October in order to focus on her craft. "I just love to take old things and give them new life," she explains. Her first project was transforming the cottage, a gutted 1940s house, into a now-enchanting shop and abode. With its refinished hardwood floors, antique rugs, French doors, and many windows, the cottage exudes a hybrid vibe -- historical, à la Hansel and Gretel.
Outside, signs guide visitors toward a short-but-enticing slatted wooden boardwalk that angles through a yard adorned with flowering foliage and large, hammered-metal sculptures of a giraffe, a lion, and a fern-hungry hippopotamus.
Inside, Aguirre's work (and that of local artist Tracy Keating) winks and glitters from every nook of every room. The place is populated with hand-painted rocking chairs, antique mesh handbags, and even a glossy rooster mosaic made solely from frijoles.
When Aguirre's busy creating her custom work or showing her Tennessee walkers at horse shows, her glamorous, hat-clad mother, Wyline, minds the store and offers its visitors mini-tours of the pixyish cottage.
Even Aguirre's side projects mirror the diverse crafts she makes and sells; she has orchestrated a tulip mural, refurbished a 1915 Victrola phonograph, and recently agreed to landscape a patron's home. "She liked what I did so much with the outside of this place that she asked me to do her yard at home," says Aguirre. "She even bought the giraffe and the hippo."