WHO Saralynne Lowrey Precht and Michelle Pedersen, local moms who met through their sons, who were attending the same therapeutic school.
WHAT Saralynne and Michelle discovered they shared a mutual love of art and design, and an aesthetic that favored originality and humor. With a knack for discovering artists, designers and craft geniuses who sometimes work in obscurity, they curated a unique and affordable collection of clothing, housewares, accessories, candles, cards, toys, and gifts that are beautiful as well as functional. The majority of items at their boutique, treehaus, are made locally.
The back wall of the store is a rotating art gallery, and a series of events at the shop will bring artists and designers together with the community for interactive workshops, rather than the usual stand-around-and-talk art openings.
WHERE They started by doing pop-ups at various Los Angeles venues. By selling their wares out of a 1977 VW bus (known as Green Jeannine), treehaus grew from "rolling retail" into a brick-and-mortar gift shop in Atwater Village, at 3153 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90039. They share their space with SewLA, a local makers haven, offering sewing classes, workshops and the most incredible fabrics!
WHEN The pop-ups started in December 2013. With offerings such as wood-framed sunglasses by Siempre Verde; bat skull jewelry by Miyu Decay; and uniquely constructed dresses by Bathke, demand grew for treehaus, which also participated in artisan flea markets downtown. Sadly, Green Jeannine gave up the ghost in June 2014, catching fire on the 5 freeway. Saralynne and Michelle had--thankfully--just signed the lease on their first permanent space. What’s that expression? One door goes up in a fireball and another one opens?
WHY Both women were looking to pivot in their careers, which had changed radically in the digital revolution. Michelle had worked in television and production and was a photographer; Saralynne has been an art director at national women’s magazines for more than a decade.
Longtime fans of California design and its independent spirit, they decided to create a showcase for new ideas manifested in brilliant products that were being made locally. They also observed that the up-and-coming neighborhood of Atwater Village was in need of retail--especially a store that would reflect the conscientious, artistic nature of so many of its residents.
The name treehaus reflects the pair’s sense of fun and humor, as well as the dichotomies of their aesthetic: high/low, femme/butch, natural/mod. It also references Bauhaus, the German art school, that trained artist-craftsmen/women who brought beauty, modernity and functionality into the everyday. treehaus offers the best and brightest from the current wave of self-made, eco-conscious, local artisans.
HOW Michelle and Saralynne became friends after meeting through their sons, who are both on the autism spectrum. They bonded over the challenges of finding the right services and resources for their kids. Their friendship was based on much more than their children, but their bond through autism was auspicious. After deciding to start a business together, they discovered that the resourcefulness and perseverence they had developed as parents of special-needs kids also gave them the skills to find brilliant design at great prices.
It's a family affair at treehaus. Michelle's husband constructed the tree-trunk sales counter and many of the store’s furnishings. Saralynne's husband and son are the shop’s tech gurus.
To give back to the community of parents of autistic children, treehaus devotes its charitable giving to organizations helping children on the spectrum, their parents and caregivers. 1 in 68 children are affected.
Michelle Pedersen & Saralynne Precht
Saralynne Lowrey Precht
A San Diego native, Saralynne Lowrey Precht sought out visual stimulation wherever she went, which eventually led her to two of the world's most beautiful cities. She spent her junior year abroad in Paris, and then, after graduating from UCLA, settled in downtown New York. There, she landed a job in graphic design for the then-new magazine Paper, which would go on to win design awards. In her professional career, Saralynne progressed from layout artist to art director to design director. And in her free time, she all but lived in museums, art galleries, and those underground cultural institutions known as nightclubs. Saralynne also participated in the scenes she traveled in, playing bass guitar and taking photographs that would appear in art shows.
In 1999, Saralynne returned to the West Coast to be closer to her family. She met and married Vincent Precht, a teacher, education activist and admitted tech nerd. When the magazine that most recently employed her as associate art director moved to New York, she finally had the time to partner with Michelle Pedersen on treehaus.
Michelle Pedersen's passion for photography came about in an unusual way. "In college, I went to Europe, and I took a ton of pictures. And they sucked!" To discover why they sucked, she dove into the technique and art of photography, and soon became proficient in it. She even had a darkroom. She got work in the field, which led to a job as a floor director and camera operator for a television news station and an independent photographer.
Michelle came to Los Angeles from her native Minnesota (she grew up near Minneapolis) to be with her boyfriend, an actor, whom she would eventually marry. Though she continued to work professionally as a photographer, she found herself more and more drawn to art in other formats. She also became intrigued with the new sharing economy, and wondered how she could carve out a livelihood that matched her keen eye for design with her desire to do something about rising inequality. treehaus, she believed, could support artists and designers, who have increasingly become priced out of big cities.