Habitat Home & Garden brings new life to historic PCH landmark

Habitat Home & Garden holds its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, July 1. The new location is on Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Vista, the former site of A&B Hardware. Photo by Gabby Bonogiovi.

Third-generation family business brings one-of-a-kind design items and hospitality to city

Habitat Home & Garden, a third-generation family business and high-end heritage brand, introduced itself to the Malibu community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 1.

Habitat Home & Garden’s newest design boutique will be the brand’s third storefront location, building on success from its San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara locations. The boutique houses unique furnishings and hand-selected one-of-a-kind design items from all around the world. 

The brand breathes new life into one of Malibu’s oldest free-standing commercial buildings, formerly the site of A&B Hardware, on Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Vista. The unique building dates back to 1942, having served as a hardware store for over 50 years and prior to that a grocery store originally built by Hollywood couple Phil Harris and Alice Faye. It now turns the page on to a new chapter in 2023.

Kaj Maloney, president of Habitat Home & Garden, said the building’s charm was undeniable and as a boutique that houses unique design items each with their own story and history, it was only right that their location have its own character and significant history in the community.

“When we saw the location was available, we could see through the rafters and the old paint and saw something special,” Maloney said. “It’s an iconic building, the sign, everything about it is a dream come true for us.” 

Maloney emphasized the importance of family values and a sense of community that have been synonymous with service provided by the Habitat Home & Garden brand. He said he was attracted to Malibu because of their tight-knit community.

“What’s really important to us is giving the community the opportunity to shop for their homes at a local store with a family inside, with familiar faces, not off of a catalog or a website,” Maloney said. “We will be a high-end design center that caters to everyone’s needs but still has that old school family service. For us it will always be about community and we look forward to being a staple in the community.”

Habitat Home & Garden has created an identity for its attention to family values and personable, caring service, and this has been the model since Maloney’s uncle, Lars Kieler, founded the business 30 years ago.

Kieler passed away in recent years, and Maloney said the location has opened in his honor.

“It’s an honor to be able to continue his legacy,” he said. “It’s so exciting for me personally, for our whole family and for our team.”

Holly Charles, director of marketing and e-commerce for Habitat Home & Garden, said she had witnessed the process of bringing the business to Malibu over the last eight years and said it was very emotional, happy, and excited to see the location open.

She said despite the excitement from her, the family and the rest of the team, no one would have been more excited than Kieler if he could have been there for opening day.

“I think he’d be overjoyed, he’d be over the moon,” Charles said. “I don’t think he’d be able to believe what this store is today. Knowing him, I know there might have been a little bit of stubbornness of him trying to pick out what needs to be picked out and what not, but he would have been so incredibly happy.” 

Jess Onorato, director of product and design for Habitat Home & Garden, has worked closely with Kieler in curating the design, style, and catalog for the business since joining the team nearly four years ago. She said working with him was an honor.

“Getting to know Lars and working with him was wonderful, and he continues to inspire my work,” Onorato said. “I want to continue his vision for the company, and really he’s the heart of everything I do.”

She said opening a store in Malibu was a dream for Kieler. She said opening day would have meant everything to him.

“He had always wanted to be in Malibu but it was not like a serious consideration, just something we spoke about here and there, but he loved Malibu,” Onorato said. “If he was here, I never saw Lars cry, but I think I would have seen him cry today.”

The executive team hopes that their store will bring life not just to the old PCH building but the community as a whole.

Charles praised the team for being representative of what Habitat Home & Garden stands for and hopes to achieve.

“Our team working here has such a welcoming presence. Anyone who walks through our front door will feel like they’re at home,” Charles said.

Onorato explained that the hand-selected design items are also representative of the identity of Habitat Home & Garden.

“Expect wonderful customer experience and a wholesome environment. We strive to provide one-of-a-kind pieces for our clients that have soul and history and will help them create a unique and meaningful home themselves,” Onorato said. “Habitat, to me, is a one-of-a-kind business and I believe residents will appreciate the care and heart that is at the core of the company that brings our team together.” 

Maloney said Malibu residents will enjoy a unique experience at Habitat Home & Garden.

“We have a transitional style that fits in a lot of homes. You can definitely describe us as organic, earthy, but you’ll come into our store and find something you’ve never seen before,” Maloney said. “We spend a good chunk of the year traveling all over the world finding reclaimed architecture and old, historic pieces with a story to them so if you’re looking for that statement piece or something to bring zen to your place, you’ll find it in our store.”

As for opening day, Maloney said he’s proud to be part of the Malibu community.

“It’s an honor and it’s humbling to bring a store to such a historic and inspiring community,” he said. “It’s an exciting day and I’d say today is a testament to teamwork and having gathered the right team.”