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Rae's, an old-school Googie-style diner known for its unbeatable burger prices, normally stands on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, but you can find a different version of Rae's Diner sitting on Kieran Wright's kitchen table. Only that version is much smaller, about the size of a Christmas ham.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the country went into lockdown, a lot of people passed the time at home by baking their own bread. But Wright immediately got to work on a hidden passion: creating small scale models of iconic Los Angeles landmarks.
"I figured I'd need a new interesting hobby to fill my time at home," he says. "Sometimes, it takes a pandemic to discover something about yourself."
Stepping into Wright's Miracle Mile apartment, you can see his new obsession on the verge of taking over. In his bedroom, bottles of glue, pieces of insulation foam, an X-Acto knife and a self-healing cutting mat clutter a small desk — tools and materials he didn't even own until earlier this year.
The models are for sale, and some are made on commission. His latest work in progress, a model of the former Sunset Grill, sits on his desk half-made. Many of the finished products, including models of notable L.A. landmarks like Tiki-Ti, Tail o' the Pup and Morgan Camera Shop, take up the limited shelf space in the living room.
Wright, a New Zealand native, moved to Los Angeles only three years ago, but in that time, he's shown a zealous love and appreciation for the city and its old, quirky buildings. He researched hidden architectural gems and aspired to visit all the local landmarks, which included taking a drive to Santa Clarita just to experience the food at Saugus Cafe, L.A. County's oldest restaurant.