Since last summer, when we launched our first-ever Maine issue—since long before that, actually, before we first featured the sculptural house of a sculptor and a clothing designer on Spruce Head—we’ve had our eye on the state and the design revolution quietly taking hold there. Maine has an evocativeness to it, a pull. And now, as of this summer, a sense of it can be felt all the way across the country, in perhaps the most unlikely of places: Rose Avenue in Venice, Los Angeles.
This is Rudy Jude, the first brick and mortar shop of the plant-dyed clothing company of the same name, by Julie O’Rourke. (It was her “Soot House” on Spruce Head we featured back in 2017.) And though it’s 1,800 miles away from the Maine coast, with its rocky coast and scraggly pines, there’s an echo of Maine when you step inside the shop. For starters, the design of the newly opened space—a 1920s Spanish revival, formerly a house before it was divided into two storefronts—is the work of O’Rourke and her husband Anthony Esteves, the builder whose sculptural style we so admired in their island Soot House. “It was important to me to have touches of Maine,” O’Rourke says. “We used some antique doors and hardware, a Shaker peg rail—but mostly we wanted to peel back some of the modern touches that had been done and really let the history of the building shine.”
Together with a West Coast crew and a few East Coast friends, Esteves stripped down the interiors and re-fitted them simply with wood, plaster, and concrete—the same materials that gave the Soot House its sculptural feel. O’Rourke adds tiny details and ephemera to the purposefully spare space—billowing cloth, rocks and shells, antique glass doorknobs—which, together, evoke Maine and summer, all the way in LA.
Take a look at a few of our favorite elements.
Photography by Nicki Sebastian, courtesy of Rudy Jude.
1. Create a bioswale garden. Above: The entrance to the shop. O’Rourke and Esteves repainted the exterior, from black to bleach-bone white.
The couple also transformed the small plot of land that leads to the shop’s entrance. “It was fenced off with a tall black fence and had a big, built-in seating area and astroturf,” O’Rourke says. They scrapped it all and built a low retaining wall, which now surrounds a small bioswale garden by Tahereh Sheerazie of The Plant Artist. “All of the plants in the garden are native to California, from within 80 miles of the store,” O’Rourke says. “A bioswale is essentially an underground river, and with California’s long and dry summers, this little river helps keep our plants thriving without the need for sprinklers or ground irrigation.”
2. Keep the bones simple. Above: Inside the shop. If the simple, textural walls look familiar, it’s because O’Rourke and Esteves borrowed the formula from the Soot House, on the opposite coast: gypsum plaster with titanium white “mixed in for textural and color variation,” O’Rourke says. The trim is painted in Dunn-Edwards Droplets DEW381, and the newly installed headboard ceilings, milk paint. The concrete floors were existing, but the couple sanded the shine down for a matte look, “like a giant beach rock,” O’Rourke says.3. Think of doorways as frames. Above: O’Rourke uses doorways and windows as opportunities for framing rooms and vignettes. Here, a wide, ceiling-high opening—set off by a floor mirror, at left; a small chair, at right; and a natural-fiber rug beyond—creates a thoughtful composition. The focus is always O’Rourke’s plant-dyed clothing for children and adults, dyed with natural materials and sewn in LA.(Note also the jigsaw puzzle on the low table by the entry.)
4. Collect natural ephemera.
Above: The shop is dotted with tiny bits of nature—yellow-and-white flowers, branches, sea glass—that make the space feel personal and intimate. Wares by Maine-based makers—ceramics by ANK Ceramics, photography by Jonathan Levitt, and jewelry by Ursa Major—are also on offer.
Above: Smooth rocks and a hollow crab shell next to some Rudy Jude denim.5. Hang a cloth. Above: The doorway to the shop’s petite dressing room is draped with a simple cloth, as is the back doorway (scroll down for a photo)—an effortless solution for leaving doors open and letting in the breeze.
The wooden door here is another tie to Maine: it’s from the 1700s, left over from Esteves’ work on the 1754 Cape across a small clearing from the Soot House.
6. The evocativeness is in the details. Above: O’Rourke kept the bones of the space simple, and leaves the evocativeness to the tiniest details she places throughout the shop: vintage books on Wyeth, shown here; or, elsewhere, a miniature mirror (not pictured) and a children’s chair. “The small mirror I bought off of Etsy from a little shop in France,” she says. “I actually had no idea how tiny it was until it arrived, but it is just absolutely perfect in every way, even the little angle that it sits at.” Above: More tiny details: an oil lamp beside a ceramic vessel by ANK Ceramics.7. Use a branch for display. Above: In the front window, a curved branch displays a Rudy Jude Day Blouse—and bundles of dried flowers. (For more ideas like this, see The New Rusticity: 11 DIY Ways to Use Branches Indoors.)8. Create sculptural shelves. Above: Along one wall of the small space, the couple added a wide, stepped pedestal reminiscent of their Maine house and Esteves’ training as a sculptor. (It’s white concrete, O’Rourke says, finished in the same plaster mixture as the walls.) Above: The pedestals were built specifically for the dusty brown tumbleweed that sits atop them: “We drove from Maine to California with both of our boys and a truckload of antiques and tools,” O’Rourke says. “Somewhere between Marfa, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona, I made Anthony pull over and get this tumbleweed for the store. We ended up building the pedestal for it, which is kind of ridiculous, but it just sits so perfectly right there.”9. Hang peg rails. Above: A small desk area in the back of the shop is surrounded by another New England touch: Shaker peg rails, painted white.
The double doors at the top of the stairs are “antique double doors we sourced from an architectural salvage in LA,” O’Rourke says.
10. And Adirondack baskets. Above: O’Rourke hangs Adirondack baskets from the peg rails. Beautiful on display, they’re also ample-bodied, for storage.. Above: An Adirondack basket—and one of Rudy Jude’s trademark net bags.11. Keep the bath vintage. Above: The shop’s bathroom only looks like it’s been there forever. “There was an existing bathroom, but it had seen better days,” O’Rourke says. “We replaced all the fixtures with the antique minty-colored ones, also sourced locally in LA; then we found new tiles to match.”12. Keep the outside spare. Above: “The double doors lead to a back patio that we share with our neighbors and friends, Olderbrother,” O’Rourke says. She’s kept it spare, and keeps the doors open—save for another simple white cloth—to let in light and air.
(Note also the vintage drying rack by the front door.)
Above: The shop’s simple signage.
More Maine stories:
Downeast via Texas: The Newly Revived Squire Tarbox Inn in Maine Shopper’s Diary: Sugar Tools in Camden, Maine The Lost Kitchen: A Glimpse Inside Maine’s Most Wildly In-Demand Restaurant #California #Shopper'sDiary #ClothingStorage #LosAngeles #White