Sanctuary is a privilege.
Sanctuary is wherever I can regard my own feelings as holy; any space filled with safety and peace, tranquility and intentional beauty. I used to find a reverence like that in church, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to take peace anywhere it calls out to me, a park or a mall, a bedroom or a boutique. Uprooting my life and moving to Los Angeles in the fall of 2016 meant that I was searching for peace, a respite, at almost every turn. I didn’t know many people in the city, yet, and even the places I was paying money to live — sublets and spare rooms and a stay in a traveling artist’s cottage — didn’t feel very much like sanctuary.
Though I was flat broke, at the time (and, well, now), from moving across the country, and couldn’t afford most of the luxurious, carefully considered goods inside Midland’s shop in Silver Lake, it was one of the first places where I found sanctuary in Los Angeles. Some things are really just happenstance, so I’ll note that a glowing recommendation for The Hive as a place to get my hair cut and colored is really how I ended up a frequent patron of this sunlit, airy shop on the corner of Micheltorena and Sunset.
Even among the sunny, well-curated blocks of Silver Lake populated with more golden-chic boutiques than anyone can count, Midland always stood out to me because of the ivy. There’s something otherworldly about ivy. Perhaps unfairly associated with the stiff, elite colleges of the east coast, ivy itself, out in the world, is far more wild than you’d think. So the first time I went in, it was the ivy — the green taking over the sign at the top — that drew me to go into Midland instead of any of the other boutiques tucked away on the corner of what is ultimately a sleepy neighborhood street.
Though I’d later learn the shop was relatively new to the area, opened earlier in 2016, and the second location of Paige Appel & Kelly Harris’ already thriving business that originated in Culver City, the ivy gave the place a sense of gravity. Plants have languages, too, and these tendrils spoke of owners interested in honoring what came before, and what would come after; time speaks differently in green.
Before bang trims, after drastic color shifts, or simply shaking out fresh, loose curls, I’d wander in and out of Midland like it was my own Narnia, eager to see what local, unattainable goods were laid out in perfect display that month or week; at home enough to daydream about a life where Canyon coffee and dusty rose cotton smocks were my daily life. Clothing, house goods, spiritually-adjacent ephemera, bags and accessories, candles and body creams — it was all there.
And though most of the goods might have a higher price point, and it’s easy to write some of these items off as nonessential, there was a rhythm to the selection, too. A connectivity I didn’t feel elsewhere. “We buy what we like!” the owners told Jenni Kayne in 2016, in an interview the year the SIlver Lake location opened. “Everything in the shop is a reflection of our personal style and values. Ethically made, small artists, slow fashion, simple designs, quality goods.” Further than that, a sense of their relationship lingers in the curation too — like two people with different perspectives, but a shared goal, each had a say in the inner workings of things.
Elsewhere, the pair confirmed that the shop only sells good “from makers that Paige and Kelly either know directly or have at the least met in person.” Focusing back on personal and local connections, instead of whatever seems the biggest or most popular ia another important way to create a sense of place. Midland feels like California, and it feels like Los Angeles, even if not all the items sold are directly from here, they still embody the wild, high-desert spirit of the area.
As a former shop girl myself — Nordstrom’s BP at the T.O. mall forever — I took solace in the fact that the guardians of the store never felt compelled to force themselves upon me or pressured any action or decision. I rarely, if ever, bought the totems I was making peace with. I almost never came into the store as someone looking to buy things, but more as someone needing to feel something. Being given the space to wander and leave after I’d been fulfilled is a gift, and one the store is more than willing to give the community. I used the beauty of the place as respite from own tiny, cluttered home, still in shambles after uprooting my life, or from the chaos of the internet, an extremely negative digital space that my job dictated I spend most of my time immersed in.
Before Midland, Appel and Harris founded the event company, Bash Please, and sold it after a decade in order to open their shops. This marked career three for each of them, who came from and film and advertising respectively before hosting events together, and settling into life as shopkeepers afterward. And though I can’t speak for them, I get the sense that Midland serves as a sanctuary for the owners, too. Which is the clearest, most unmistakable sign that a business is thriving.