In 2004, when I was living in LA, I went downtown to pawn a ring. A gift from a complicated man many years before; I just didn't want it anymore, and at the time, the $33 I got for it bought me a tank of gas. I was also an editor at Western Interiors & Design (a wonderful magazine of contemporary architecture founded by editors from Architectural Digest), and I'd recently done a column on the range of materials for tile surfaces. Scott Wells of Wells Tiles & Antiques let me borrow a couple of his Batchelder tiles for a photo shoot, and I was captivated by one of the peacock designs. You know how sometimes things just strike you? I couldn't help researching the history, and I learned of this exquisite installation of Batchelder's work at the Chocolate Shop, pictured above (photo by Elizabeth Daniels). After pawning the ring, I went around the corner to check out the Chocolate Shop, but I thought I had the wrong address: The building was nothing special, and there was nothing significant in the space. Cell phone cases, tables of electronics, pegboard, trucker hats.
But I was wrong. The murals you can see here were completely covered with plywood, and the owners had turned it into an arcade. How could that have happened? Ten years later, I finally found out, and the story grew to include a few more installations around LA; the limitations of historic preservation; real estate drama; an eccentric tile cleaner who'd been jailed on suspicion of stealing tile at the El Dorado; trends in tile; and more. Thanks for checking it out.