As a newcomer to Los Angeles’ Dwell on Design show in June, I was quick to learn that downtown LA does have some charm after all. The official lodging for our group of ASID professionals was the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, which I found extremely fascinating and romantic. In 1921 city boosters sought to design this new hotel as a symbol of Los Angeles’ success and ambition. This glamorous hotel became a synonym for the stardom and romance of the Oscars.
Fountains and flowers, full sized murals and elegant chandeliers of the period enhanced the glamorous lobby. It was educational and inspiring to step out of my day-to-day world of residential interior design and to be time warped back to the heyday of southern California movie making and studio stars. The Millenium Biltmore hotel opened in 1923 as record breaking design not only for the amount of rooms, or how quickly it was completed, but also for it’s striking use of Beaux Arts Architecture. The hotel was completed in just eighteen months and had close to 1,000 guestrooms.
The use of formal Beaux Arts design is contrasted by the layering of design influence from Spanish and Moorish to Italian and Pompeian. The elaborately carved and painted ceiling of the main lobby incorporates Moorish design. This beautiful ceiling is accented by gorgeous Italian chandeliers with hand painted and tassel details.
The subdued lighting of the bar lounge gives drama to an amazing space. Large lantern lights illuminate a groin vaulted ceiling. The rounded arch wall at the back of the space features an amazing hand painted Art Deco mural. Sitting in this space surrounded by rich and luscious materials I felt like a Hollywood star of the 1920’s.
The bar is a continuation of beauty in design with the wood carved coffer ceiling and twisted columns. Upon closer look I saw that these columns are ornately detailed with heraldic imagery and ancient motifs.
This dramatic carving of a female angel beautifully represents how designers of the 1920’s incorporated historic influences to give their designs formality and glamour. At some points in my self guided tour of the hotel I felt as if I was transported into an Italian plaza or a Spanish palace.
These interesting iron work portraits which are incorporated into the railing of the balcony overlooking the main lobby piqued my interest. The wonderful staff had no details as to who these people in iron are, but the way they overlook guests as they enter the hotel definitely gives them a place of importance.
As I explored my way through the passages of the hotel I stumbled upon a smaller lobby space that was adorned with a hand painted Pompeian ceiling. My love for Pompeian design made this one of my favorite spaces of the hotel. I felt so lucky that my ASID group was able to come to Dwell on Design and I was able to experience such a wonderfully diverse hotel. I found myself leaving Los Angeles with a greater understanding and love of Beaux Arts architecture and design.