Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hollywood Regency at Home in the Desert

This glamorous style evades definition. It does so by way of incorporating so many elements of design- but most agree that its origin can be traced to Hollywood style of the 1930s and 1940s; particularly the set designs of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The popularity of this style is extending itself into the current rage in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage’s for modern glamour- and so the Hollywood Regency style is gaining popularity once again. Elements and objects found within the Hollywood Regency style are sourced globally: Asian, Moroccan accessories are frequently spotted; English and French Regency furniture which give the rooms their scale and sensibility; Greek Revival elements are certainly always spotted in fabric patterns used; and classic art deco and modern influences are used to bring the look up to date.
Historically, designers such as Billy Haines and Billy Baldwin are credited for the emergency of this style, and their contemporary counterparts are Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler, both of which have completed major hotel projects in Palm Springs for The Viceroy Hotel and The Parker Hotel, respectively.

However, Dorothy Draper defines the Hollywood Regency style and is also credited with being the first successful female interior designer. Her firm was based in New York and she also was a contributing writer to Good Housekeeping magazine. Draper is most famous for her hotels including the Carlyle Hotel in New York, the Arrowhead Spa in San Bernardino, the Greenbrier in West
Virginia. The Museum of the City of New York held a retrospective of her work in 2006- a photo of the entry is featured here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Beautiful Arizona Biltmore

We recently spent time at the Arizona Biltmore, which has been a landmark destination since it opened its doors in 1929. Many have mistakenly credited Frank Lloyd Wright as being the architect on this project, although Albert Chase MacArthur, brother of one of the original investors, is the actual architect of record. He was also a student of Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900’s.

Contributing to most visitor’s confusion are the placements of FLW objects throughout the hotel, such as: the “Sprite” sculptures from
Wright’s 1915 Midway Gardens project in Chicago; a stained glass window “Sahuaros” placed in the lobby; and the naming the hotel lobby bar and downstairs café “Wright’s.” This dispute is not anything new. Frank Lloyd Wright himself has previously claimed credit for the building’s design.

It has been claimed that this is the only existing hotel in the world
with a Frank Lloyd Wright influenced design, one of the FLW hotels is still in existence, albeit currently in use as a museum. The Imperial Hotel, previously in Tokyo, Japan, is now the Meiji Mura Museum outside of Nagoya. The entire façade, lobby, and pool were moved to their current location and are open to the public. I had the good luck to visit there about eight years ago.

One of the most obvious motifs in the interior design of the Biltmore hotel is the geometric pattern based on the scarring that occurs on palm trees as they are pruned. The “Biltmore
Block” is seen throughout the grounds, and the blocks were molded on-site. Other similar patterns were woven into carpets, and the selection of the furniture and fabrics were selected with the integrity of the architecture in mind.

The interior design of this churchlike hotel plays on shadows and rich browns and gold tones. The desert heat seems far removed from the interior as visitors enter the main lobby, although high clerestory windows allow sunlight in, and reflects off the gold-leafed ceilings.

Thanks to owners who are committed to preserving the building’s architectural history, the resort has become more “Wright”
than it was when it was originally built. This hotel is a wonderful example of an architectural vernacular that could be built in the California Desert successfully- it would be a wonderful change from the Spanish Colonials in the Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert construction. The interior design of this project could equally be adaptable for a residence at Bighorn or another California Country Club as well.

UPDATE: A reader informs me that there is one Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in Mason, Iowa- The Park Inn. It is not currently operating, and seems to be in the process of resoration, and will possibly open within the next two years...

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