GARDE is one of those places where art and design fuse beautifully. Its co-founder, Scotti Sitz, has an eye for pieces that have beautiful craftsmanship and a unique look – from Michael Verheyden’s elegant handmade marble bowls to the sculptural lighting of Apparatus Studio. Her stores, online and brick-and-mortar, are like perfectly curated jewel boxes of design. After the huge success of her store on Beverly Boulevard in L.A., she recently opened up a new location in Summerland, CA with a unique concept – store on the bottom floor, guest house on the second. As a business owner and vanguard of design, we sat down with Scotti to ask her about her professional journey and the new Summerland location.
Can you tell us a bit about your academic background and career trajectory? You spent 20 years in fashion, how did you get into the industry and why?
I had always wanted to be a part of “fashion” in some way. If I couldn’t design, then I wanted to be next to the best designers. I truly worked my way up, starting in retail, then working for luxury brands on the wholesale side where I eventually landed at Giorgio Armani, who at that time (1990’s) was the beacon of good taste.
What were some big lessons that you learned during that time?
Working for Luxury Brands teaches you the importance of a brand’s image and the consistency of every detail that plays a part in developing that brand and that image. I later learned that I wasn’t the best player at corporate life and its politics so that eventually gave me the opportunity to be creative on my own. But what great foundation.
Was there ever a moment that you felt lost or fearful in your career?
Sure, all the time! The Fashion industry, (back then) was very fast, tough, ego-driven, and very demanding. I think under those circumstances you never really feel secure.
How did you come to define your own personal style, was it something that you knew right away or did it evolve a lot over the years?
I feel like we spend time exploring and experimenting, especially if we are creative. However, if I look back at the sum of my style, it always comes back to a tailored, classic, and hopefully, sophisticated style without being too uptight. It’s also how I live in my home, I always like a subtle twist to style, and at different times in my life, I might have a different signature look or item. Twenty years ago I didn’t wear eyeglasses, now I work that into my style, but there has always been a common thread.
At one point you decided to move to Los Angeles and quit the fashion industry, that’s when you pivoted to design. Was there an intellectual/professional reason for that or did you move for personal reasons?
A little bit of both. At a certain point, I decided that NYC and fashion were not sustainable, that it might be time for another chapter. I suppose I also felt that I had been away from home (Los Angeles) for so long, and it would be nice to be close to my family again.
How did you come to open up GARDE?
About eight years ago, I was working on a home design and renovation project for a French director and his wife. The wife wasn’t interested in anything American. We couldn’t find much that she liked here, so we searched around Europe. We fell in love with many of the Belgian designers (including the architect Vincent Van Duysen). After becoming frustrated that I couldn’t purchase many items in Los Angeles, or in the States, I thought, hmmm… Vintage was strong, and you could always find great vintage (American and European) in Los Angeles, but new and emerging designers were harder to come by. Seven years later that has all changed, but I still try to seek less-known and unique designers.
What guides you as you are selecting products and brands for the stores?
Of course quality and design, but there needs to be that common thread. I like to think that I can set an example of how to mix different materials, incorporate a little rustic, or ethnic with new designs and keep things inviting and not too precious. I’m very tactile, although colors may be tonal, the textures vary.
You recently opened up a second brick-and-mortar in Summerland, near Santa Barbara – did you always know that you’d want to expand to more stores?
I don’t think I thought that far ahead when we first opened GARDE. Later, as we grew, it seemed a natural progression. Choosing Summerland was just luck and timing. When we stumbled into our current space and discovered it was available, it just seemed right. This is a beautiful location, which is a big draw, but I also feel there is a shift in demographics in this area. It has attracted more Angelenos escaping the busy city and traffic. Many families have migrated north, and tourists from all over the country vacation here.
The farmhouse is a truly unique space, where on the ground floor you have the shop and the top floor is a short-term stay apartment. What gave you the idea to do this?
The building, which was built in 1921, actually has three floors. Back in the heyday of the antiques business, many antique dealers occupied all floors. The apartment we created is half of the second floor. I wanted to expand our name and ideas by creating a space that was designed by GARDE and was furnished by GARDE. It allows me to test various products that are more lifestyle-oriented and personal as well as showcase furniture and lighting. It can evolve and change. We always have people who just want to check it out.
Take us through the apartment – how big is it and how is the space divided?
GARDE House is approximately 1100 square feet. You enter through custom made doors into a large living area with amazing 16 ft x 7 ft pane windows and oak herringbone floors throughout. Past the living room is an open dining room and kitchenette. The kitchen is efficient and has countertops in black stained oak. The cabinets below with custom hardware created by Peter Van Cronenberg in Belgium. On the other side of the kitchen is a large bedroom with many windows. There is an all-white bathroom down the hall which also leads to an outdoor deck.
What was the space like before you made changes to it?
Tragic. Seriously, the windows were all boarded up. The floors were old linoleum, no bathroom, no kitchen, dark and dingy.
Tell us about some of the brands and makers that are a part of the apartment’s design?
The apartment has wonderful lighting by Apparatus, Workstead, and amazing sconces by Michael Verheyden. Rugs are either vintage or by cc – tapis. The 10’ slipcovered sofa is a GARDE design. We did a large oval oak table in a black finish by Gubi, with the Gubi classic Beetle chairs. The bed linens are all Hale Mercantile, and my favorite bath towels from Italy are by Mirabella.
Is there a design choice that turned out especially well?
I’m actually very pleased with the how the apartment turned out. I do love the black kitchen though. It’s small, so it’s not heavy-handed or too dark for the space. The space is very comfortable, I love that I can change it up at times. I love staying there.
We’d like to move right in – how can we book the space?
You can also call us direct in Summerland.