The Martinque wallpaper adorns the corridors and lounging areas of the hotel, designed for vanity and visibility. This is Hollywood
The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills
Pioneering in the development of Californian architecture: a focus on Spanish mission style, but with pink stuccos instead of white. Architect Elmer Grey designed the main building of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The professional achieved harmony with nature by eliminating features not belonging to the local climate and conditions. Balconies, courtyards, bougainvillea-covered patios and arched breezeways harness the beauty of California’s climate.
Colors have the same purpose too. Peachy-pink and forest-green are the hotel’s signatures. Architect Paul Williams introduced the combination in 1948. He, in fact, added the Crescent Wing featuring the Beverly Hills signature. Only at the entry of the Hotel do they clash with the Hollywood red carpet and matching barriers. Elsewhere, they work harmoniously.
Pink and Green chair-cushions and green-and-white striped booths make up most of the decor at the pool-side Cabana Cafe. They’re off-set by pillars and golden art-nouveau lights scattered across the ceiling. At the lobby, they are on a hand-painted mural representing the curving streets of Beverly Hills. The hand-tufted wool carpets are neutral. «The outside of the hotel is California Mission, and the inside is late Art Deco. There’s no common theme, but this is Hollywood», said Howard Hirsch, Senior Partner at interior firm Hirsch Bedner Associates.
The city of Beverly Hills
Before the city, there was a hotel. In 1900, American businessman and oil tycoon, Burton Green, bought a lima bean farm on the foothills of Santa Monica in hopes of striking oil. Instead, he found water wells. Green re-strategized, hired landscape architect, Wilbur D. Cook, and turned the land into a residential development, building mansions and streets such as Rodeo, Canon, Crescent, Carmelita, Elevados and Lomitas.
Margaret Anderson and her son Stanley – formerly in charge of the Hollywood Hotel – developed a luxury structure in the area to attract wealthy buyers. An article published in the LA Times in 1911 reads «her guests are entitled of everything regardless of the costs». Within two years it turned into prime real-estate. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were one of the first to settle down, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson followed. Then, in 1914, the city of Beverly Hills was officially incorporated.
The symbol of Hollywood glamour in the seventies
The Martinque – one of the most copied wallpapers in the world – adorns the corridors and lounging areas. It features large-scale banana leaves in overlapping shades of green, designed to give the sense of plants sprouting from the ground up. Botanical illustrator, Albert Stockdale, designed it for the CW Stockwell company in 1941. The same year as tropicalia swept across the nation and Carmen Miranda captivated audiences with a tutti-frutti hat.
Costume designer-turned-interior decorator, Don Loper, brought it into the hotel the following year. The wallpaper became a symbol of Hollywood glamour in the seventies, when Margaux Hemingway posed in front of it for Vogue. It also made a cameo on Golden Girls in 1985 inside Blanche Deveraux’s bedroom. Further, in 2004, on the silver screen, Howard Hughes – played by Leonardo DiCaprio – experienced a germaphobe attack in a Martinique-printed bathroom in The Aviator.
As for The Polo Lounge, Hernando Courtright – a vice president of Bank America who purchased the hotel in 1941 – established it. A celebrity band of polo players who toasted victories at the restaurant after matches in the bean fields was the inspiration for the name. In the main dining room, large glass windows overlook a patio surrounded by greenery and bougainvillea draping over the exterior alcoves. To see or be seen was the purpose behind seating arrangements. Booths are located in front of the entrance, in fact, offering views of arriving guests.
The Polo Lounge
Secluded options exist as well. The Polo Lounge features stories of power-lunches and celebrities turned sartorial rule-breakers. It was here that Marlene Dietrich forced the establishment to abolish its no slacks for women dress code, refusing to wear skirts. Further, hats have been allowed indoors since an unknown gentleman was asked to remove his baseball cap in respect of decorum. It turned out to be Steven Spielberg.
Dutch apple pancakes and tortilla soup have also been on the menu for decades. Grilled chicken, queso fresco, green onion, avocado as well as tortilla chips characterize the latter. The polo lounge does not resort to Californian food trends. If kale is on the menu, it will be accompanied by strips of bacon or house-made mayonnaise. White sand once bordered the pool, it was flown-in from Arizona.
Striped white-and-green sun-beds and custom parasols – solid on the outside, printed on the inside – characterize it nowadays. Private cabanas exist as lounging options too, they follow the strict pink-and-green color palette as the rest of the establishment. Amenities include sunglasses cleaning, suntan lotion and free mojito lollies. But, it is the promise of visibility that counts the most. People, in fact, come here in hopes of being discovered. Actors, actresses, producers have been known for writing permanent guest passes into their contracts. At times, people would page themselves at the pool even if they weren’t there, so that the guests who were would hear their name being called.
Lampoon review: The Beverly Hills Hotel accommodation
Guests can choose between nine room categories. From guest-rooms and suites in the main building to twenty-three stand-alone bungalows featuring private pools and grand pianos in the twelve-acre garden. The bungalows were first introduced in 1915 for families in search of privacy. The purpose remains the same. But, the clients changed when real-estate magnate Ben Silberstein acquired ownership in the 1950s.
To this day, the hotel thrives on stories of romantic affairs and hedonism from days past. Elizabeth Taylor, for example, frequented the bungalows with six of her eight husbands. In 1964, she even brought Richard Burton on a honeymoon at the hotel. Their standing room-service order included two bottles of vodka for breakfast and another two with lunch.
Howard Hughes lived in bungalow no. four for thirty years. He requested roast beef sandwiches to be hung from a tree outside his door. Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand began their love affair in bungalow twenty and twenty-one while filming Let’s Make Love. Further, in the seventies, John Lennon and Yoko Ono hid out in a bungalow for a week.
The Dorchester Collection, belonging to the Sultan of Brunei, has been running the hotel since 1996. Bungalows are currently undergoing renovations. The hotel’s iconic visitors will provide the source of inspiration for five of them, offering themed services and facilities.
The Monroe bungalow, for example, references the actress’ favorite furniture designer Jean-Michel Frank. Rounded seatings in beige and pastel pink, gold-leafed ceilings and a geometric carpet that takes up the whole living area. On-site services include a champagne bubble bath experience and a Chanel no.5 fragrance bar. «Every aspect of our restoration pays homage to our past», said Edward Mady, the hotel’s General Manager and West Coast Regional Director for The Dorchester Collection, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
In 2019, clients, including Elton John, Ellen Degeneres and George Clooney boycotted the hotel after its owner implemented Shariah law in his kingdom – passing LGBT rights. It is a different Hollywood today, but we live in a generation of throwbacks. Nowadays, The Beverly Hills Hotel remains what it has always been: an escapist fantasy fit for the white screen, or Instagram.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA
The Beverly Hills Hotel, also called the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows, is located on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California. One of the world’s best-known hotels, it is closely associated with Hollywood film stars, rock stars, and celebrities. The hotel has two-hundred-and-ten guest rooms and suites, and twenty-three bungalows.