If you’re one of those people that continues to associate Berkeley, CA with dreadlocks, hacky sacks and patchouli, you’re actually missing out. Not only is Berkeley one of the warmer micro-climates in the Bay Area, it’s also a design lover’s dream. Aside from the tried and true block of 4th Street filled with some of my go-to design stores (such as CB2, The Gardener and the Crate and Barrel Outlet), there’s lots of excitement happening a few blocks up on San Pablo Ave. Case in point: Social Studies.

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The boutique Social Studies was opened towards the end of 2014 by Lauren Woodward and has since expanded with the recent debut, a men’s store (also located nearby on San Pablo). In addition to the two shops, Lauren and her husband Shawn Weiland recently launched Form + Matter—an all-natural skincare line being carried in their stores as well as online! 

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As a former gallery curator, Lauren has an innate eye for good design. Social Studies carries an array of gorgeous goods, including some of my favorites like Riudavets sandals, Wary Meyers candles, Hasami Porcelain and goods from Yield Design Co.

Insider Tip: If you’re a former Southern Californian like myself and sometimes find yourself nostalgic for lazy beach days, this candle basically transports you to the beach. I’m serious. It’s the perfect antidote to “Fogust”. 

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On top of the incredible product mix, the retail presentation is truly one of a kind at Social Studies. Putting their architectural and design backgrounds to work, Lauren and Shawn handcrafted all of the display structures from scratch. Suspended tables are hung from the rafters while custom wood fixtures create eye-catching product displays—making the ambiance of the shops as equally alluring as the products inside!

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And as if there’s not already enough reason to pay Social Studies a visit, Lauren, Shawn and the rest of the staff could not be nicer. They cheerfully engage with anyone that walks into the shop and won’t hesitate to recommend other local businesses to check out in the neighborhood (ahem, Flowerland). True to Berkeley form, the folks at Social Studies are some of the most humble and down to earth people you’ll encounter in the Bay Area.

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In the end, what I love most about this shop is that it gives off a totally Modern California vibe while still paying tribute to its Berkeley roots and the surrounding neighborhood. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, be sure to pay a visit to Social Studies (and then follow it with a drink and a bite at Bartavelle).

Copy and photography by Ali Hartwell for Apartment 34

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