On a recent weekday afternoon, the South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa is inhabited by an eclectic crowd — young hipsters sipping lattes at Portola Coffee Lab, professionals in business suits nibbling on carnitas de pato at Taco Maria, moms pushing strollers, and employees from nearby businesses simply enjoying the open-air courtyards.
Designers can be spotted in the design showrooms too, as they stop to eye the furnishings on display in the more than 20 stores specializing in home design.
Sure, South Coast Plaza is just down the street, as are Ikea, Room & Board and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. But what makes the South Coast Collection, or SoCo, so compelling is its thoughtful layout, diverse offerings and easy accessibility, with ample free parking.
Though Scalamandre, Rolling Greens, Pal + Smith and Inside 365 have left in the two years since we last profiled SoCo, at 3303 Hyland Ave., about 10 new stores have opened, and several more are coming soon.
The new stores include the mid-priced and the high end, and offer a varied aesthetic. You'll find luxury outdoor furnishings by Brown Jordan and midcentury reproductions and hip accessories — mounted antlers and African baskets — at Brooklyn-based Organic Modernism.
Several national retailers have moved in, complementing older tenants like Pirch Living, Deco Home and Stark Home. Design Within Reach, which sells iconic midcentury furnishings alongside the latest designs, has its largest U.S. showroom here.
And Brown Jordan, which manufactures such products as fire pits, elegant chaise longues and umbrellas, opened its first direct-to-consumer showroom here a year ago.
Curious about solar shades and what to do with that NanaWall? Look no further than the Shade Store, open just a few weeks, which offers a wealth of options for American-made custom shades and drapes.
As a testament to SoCo's growing appeal as a design mecca, several stores have jumped from nearby shopping centers. Sustainable furnishings showroom Environment moved from South Coast Plaza in February, and Mod Shop by Room Service, which sells colorful, affordably priced contemporary designs, transferred from Fashion Island in September.
SoCo wraps around the OC Mix, an indoor marketplace of independent stalls with an emphasis on artisanal goods. Recent additions include hand-made chocolates by Michelle Pontius and Kimi Nash for Michelle haute Chocolat and mixologist Gabrielle Dion's the Mixing Glass (vintage barware, cocktail supplies and rare bitters), which opened in February.
For decorators and do-it-yourselfers, Peinture stocks chalk paint by English decorative paint expert Annie Sloan. The paint can be used on any surface — wood, vinyl, metal, plastic — and requires no sanding or priming. Peinture, which opened last year, also sells Shabby Chic-style antiques and is one of the many stores to host regular workshops (see listing).
DYLN Inspired yoga and active wear plans to open here this month, along with Newport Beach-based Famosa Tile and master sommelier Peter Neptune's School of Wine. This summer, look for Los Angeles-based sustainable furnishings manufacturer Cisco Home as well as a rebranded Stark Home and Susie Cakes bakery.
And for those who want to make a day of it and need sustenance: The latest culinary options include chef Noah Blom's Arc Food and Libations, Shuck Oyster Bar, Surfas Restaurant Supply and Gourmet Food and Cafe, Greenleaf Gourmet Chop Shop and Michelin-starred chef Carlos Salgado's gourmet food truck-turned-restaurant Taco Maria. Add some burrata from the Cellar Cheese Shop, a pretty succulent from Uni Home, some gorgeous fabric from Deco Home, and you'll forget the traffic you fought to get here.
South Coast Collection events and classes in April
South Coast Collection hosts regular design events and classes, as well as food and fashion happenings. Here is a sample of what is happening this month in design. For a full list, consult www.southcoastcollection.com.
Furniture painting 101
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bring a small piece of furniture and transform it with chalk paint. $95. Registration required: (714) 427-0668. Also April 19 and 26.
Land of Nod
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The children's decor store parks at the Mix and hosts family activities. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uni Home Store
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Learn how to build a terrarium with glass, soil and plants. $30, plus the cost of plants. (949) 251-1771.
Earth Day meet and greet
4 to 7 p.m.
Learn about sustainable furnishings and how to create a living wall. Champagne and appetizers. RSVP to email@example.com.
Uni Home Store
Living wall workshop
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Learn how to create a living wall with moss, air plants and succulents. $80, plus the cost of plants. (949) 251-1771.
SoCo Farmers Market
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Every Saturday in the parking lot.