Now, I'm 100% purebred Norwegian, and there are certain traditions that go along with that. I host a Christmas Glögg party every year, and I like to wear a little something that makes me look even more Viking. One year I was searching online for just the right frock for that year's shindig, and came upon a website called "Huset" (meaning "Home" in Swedish). Every single thing was adorable. I noticed that the site was based out of Malibu, California, so included an invitation to the owner to join us for glögg if she was able, and that's how I met Holly Hallberg.
Hallberg was unable to join in the festivities that year, but we kept in touch online, and in 2010, I received the good news that she was going to open a physical store on Abbot Kinney! We met in person, and Hallberg was just as lovely in real life, and it's been a true delight to see her store - and herself - thrive here in Venice.
A native Californian, Hallberg grew up with designer parents, so that aesthetic was in her blood. While working in the film industry in the sound department, she met her Swedish husband, Per Hallberg (an Oscar winning sound editor), and was soon an honorary Swede (but I still like her. That joke is for the Norwegians). Spending a lot of time in Sweden led Hallberg to wonder why there was no real great spot to get all the wonderful Scandinavian goods available over there, here in the U.S., and set out to do something about it. Huset was born online in 2007, and Hallberg has been procuring gorgeous, beautifully made Nordic items - from candy to fashion to housewares - ever since.
Abbot Kinney was always the spot that Hallberg envisioned for her store, and when the former maternity store (the name escapes me right now) space opened up, Hallberg leaped at the opportunity. Her dad did the build out for her, and the beautiful space was soon open for business, with all the Scandinavian flags represented in this destination for goods from the (my) old country.
"I felt like we would be appreciated here," Hallberg told me, correctly. "Abbot Kinney had a good vibe, it fit our demographic, and I wanted to create a full Scandinavian experience for both the locals and tourists." To transport everyone to the nations that always come in first in the happiness polls (and educate them), Hallberg spins Scandinavian music playlists, you are welcomed in by birch trees and blondes speaking Swedish, the air smells great from the scented Nordic candles, and you can taste the same candies that kids of all ages eat up all over Northern Europe (with extra special treats available on the weekends!).
The sweets section was really amped up when Hallberg expanded her store's space late last year, and Huset is one of the only places you can find the loose, bulk candy that is so beloved - and so good! - by anyone who grew up with it. In fact, I offered some to my Danish friend, Tim, last night at the VNC meeting, and he already had some in his pocket! Good stuff.
As Abbot Kinney rents remain ridiculous, Hallberg invited her friend, Anthony, to open up a shop within a shop (as is done all over Europe), and The Mac Studio opened up for business in the back of Huset when she expanded. Not to be confused with the makeup store, The Mac Studio is your place in Venice to get your Mac items fixed. You can bring in your computer or phone or Ipad for repairs, service, data recovery, education, or whatever it needs, all without waiting forever for one of the "geniuses" to help you at the Apple store in a mall. Fast, reasonable, awesome. Put this info in your back pocket for the next time your tech goes nuts and stroll on over!
Hallberg loves Venice, and recently got an apartment in town, because Malibu doesn't have the same vibes as Venice does ... or the Huset store! "Venice is special. No other beach city has what Venice has, and we need to protect it." She's speaking my language (which is good, because I don't speak Swedish). If you've been in Venice for any decent amount of time, you know what we're talking about. Venice has been like a sanctuary, with an invisible moat around it, protecting it from lameness and closed minds and Republicans (often one in the same) since its inception, and YES, we need to protect that. You know. Hallberg explains, "Venice has its highs and lows, but that mix is what makes it cool. We're not Beverly Hills, and we're not deep Compton, we're somewhere in between. I love the eccentricity." And I love her for loving it.
There's truly something for everyone at Huset, where the whole family can shop together. Mom will love the beautiful clothes and household goods, Dad will dig all the new items for men that are coming in (think knives, cool accessories, Viking needs), and there are a zillion darling things (THE cutest clothes ever) for kids - plus all that candy. There's also something for every price point, from real expensive Scandinavian designed furniture and centerpieces to a marble eraser from Denmark for 50 cents (plus all that candy!).
LA Magazine voted Huset the "Friendliest store in L.A." a few years back, and Hallberg is very proud of that. She makes sure that Huset embodies the Danish concept of "Hygge" (cozy and charming living) and "Fika", the Swedish word for a cozy coffee break, and soon you begin to understand just why those countries have such a high quality of life (and clean up at the Olympics! Go Norway!!!) I asked Hallberg what her most favorite item in the store was, and without hesitation she walked me over to a basket full of sheepskins called "Gotlan". They are the coziest things imaginable, and Hallberg knows the very farmer that makes them. As cold as it was in Venice yesterday, this is just the right thing for your chilly, starry nights by the fire. Hygge!
Hallberg's own Venice go-to's are getting her coffee from Menotti's, and her gifts from another design wonder shop, Tortoise (who I also still have to sit down with and learn their tale). The merchants of Venice are all great about shouting out the places that they love and support, and that gives me some hope that there is still a grass rootsy aspect to our dear Venice. And, as almost all of my interviewees say at some point, that Community is also vital to Hallberg, and why she chose to work and now live within that spirit. And - again - to protect it.
Viking friends (or "Scandophiles" as Hallberg refers to herself), there are weekly arrivals of fantastic pieces coming to Huset from Europe, so there is always something new to discover when you stop in for your own dose of hygge.
SKOL to Holly's Huset!
Huset is open every day from 11-7.
1316 Abbot Kinney
The Mac Studio