Refurbished Art Deco gem The Georgian hotel is putting Santa Monica, California, back on the map for chic lodging, dining and debauchery.
Now open on Ocean Avenue, with views of the historic Santa Monica Pier, the landmark 1933 hotel beckons with its turquoise facade, leafy ocean view patio, horseshoe lobby bar, sunset-hued all-day restaurant, and dark and moody basement speakeasy, The Georgian Room, which in its heyday hosted Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Bugsy Siegel, Judy Garland, Rose Kennedy and many more.
The developers behind the project are Jon Blanchard and Nicolo Rusconi of BLVD, who in 2014 transformed United Artists Theatre into the stylish Ace Hotel, a linchpin in transforming the image of downtown L.A. To restore the 84-room Santa Monica hotel, they tapped Tom Parker, cofounder of London-L.A. design firm Fettle.
“What it was for me initially was the historic architecture, the exterior, and all the stories,” says Blanchard. “The building was built by a woman named Rosamond Borde, at the time was the tallest building in Santa Monica, and was nicknamed the First Lady.”
Pioneering ’30s female hotelier Borde is memorialized in the luxe top-floor First Lady suite featuring postcard views, lush pink seating, a golden arched wood headboard, crystal globe lighting, a custom floor-to-ceiling bar amply stocked to mix martinis (and pretty much anything else), and press-button concierge service for requesting Champagne, dessert and more.
The hotel is full of such whimsical details, which bring to mind the old-world hospitality and service of Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Guests walk into the historic lobby with Havana Deco floors, custom chandeliers and original wall reliefs. There’s Champagne served upon check-in in the discreet library, where shelves of style and culture books are curated by Culver City’s beloved Arcana Books on the Arts.
Through the end of the month at the gallery and events space Gallery33, “Star Struck” transports guests to Hollywood’s Golden Era with a series of 18 photographs of James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and others, exhibited for the first time in decades.
Vintage photography dots walls throughout the hotel and guest rooms, including some from the Santa Monica History Museum, and retro Polaroid cameras are at the ready in rooms for guests who are snap happy (though off-limits in The Georgian Room which, like L.A.’s San Vicente Bungalows, has a no-photos policy).
The Georgian Room was a who’s who from 1933 to 1960, says Blanchard, pointing to the black-and-white photos and vintage menus on the walls. “We had a very special moment the other day when Dick Van Dyke came for dinner, and shared some amazing stories of performing with his band the Merry Mutes here in 1948,” he says of the supper club, open Thursday to Sunday with live music nightly. It already has hosted vintage fashion dealer/author Cameron Silver, photographer Tierney Gearon and model and Mr. Feelgood cofounder John Pearson on recent nights.
Over time, the site went through several ownership changes, and a stint as an apartment building, before BLVD bought it three years ago.
“The idea was not to do an architectural restoration of the building but more to recreate the spirit of the spaces and bring in a lot of the history of the days when people would party in the basement and then walk down to the end of the pier and get on the shuttle boat to the off-shore gambling ships,” says Fettle’s Parker of creating the debaucherous space with dark red walls, mohair fabric ceiling, rose marble-topped bar that wraps a 1918 Steinway & Sons piano, and racing green leather booths setting the stage for chef David Almany’s classic steakhouse fare. A custom carpet showcases a mermaid sipping a martini, which is the hangout’s mascot.
“It’s designed to make you lose sense of time in this separate world from the rest of the hotel,” Parker adds of The Georgian Room, which contrasts with the more feminine pink-and-green color scheme nodding to Borde.
A pool deck will be completed in eight to 10 months, and the beach is just a short walk across the bridge over Pacific Coast Highway. The hotel can arrange an umbrella, blanket, chairs and picnic baskets and take guests to the sand.
Blanchard says, “We’re trying to bring something special to Santa Monica which hasn’t happened in decades.”