Designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard Brings Hollywood Regency to The Prospect Hotel

Lucia Tonelli
Photo credit: Jaime Kowal

From ELLE Decor

In Hollywood, everyone wants their moment in the spotlight. Remaining au courant tends to guide this success. Chasing trends, however? Not so much. Celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard looks to the past in his search for the future. So, when PRG Hospitality Group announced plans to open a boutique hotel in Los Angeles’ Whitley Heights, Bullard was a natural choice. With a client list that includes Cher, Tommy Hilfiger, and Elton John, Bullard knows his way around a show-stopper. The Prospect, which is set to open on February 7th, is a 1939 Regency-style property at the southernmost point of the city's famed neighborhood. While the building once endured a wave of star-studded inhabitants in the 30s and 40s, it fell victim to L.A. party behavior, eventually rendering it uninhabitable.

Photo credit: Jaime Kowal

“The space was run down, it was wrecked,” Bullard says. So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work—rags to riches à la old Hollywood. Using what was left of the building's architectural detail (“basically just some moldings,” Bullard says) and the neighborhood’s history as reference, he brought the 24-room hotel to life with a blend of old and new. Drive by 1850 North Cherokee Avenue today, and the property looks like any other tucked-away residence, with its black and white palette, striped awnings, and cherry red front door. Unlike L.A.’s slew of modern, steel-and-glass luxury hotels, The Prospect is geographically appropriate and aesthetically distinctive. The three-story building is framed by gardens—which extend into the hotel’s back courtyard—immersing guests in the area's character from the moment they enter. While the exterior is charming yet tame, the interiors are anything but.

Geometric marble floors, emerald green walls, and gilded palm trees give The Prospect's lobby a transportive quality, highlighting Bullard’s effort to bring the Golden Age back to life. “It's wildly charming, it’s wildly romantic, and it has all of this fantastic old world stuff going on.” Velvet-swathed banquettes and mis-matched artwork play up the funk of traditional regency-style, tempered by modern brass, pattern-punched pillows, historic memorabilia, and contemporary objets d'art.

“We’re in the heart of Hollywood, yet are surrounded by all of these big hotel chains,” Bullard says. “While some of them are ‘cool,’ they don’t have the feeling of real Hollywood—they lack a sense of place.” Bullard is no stranger to boutique hotels, having designed The Sands Hotel & Spa, Casa Laguna, and Colony Palms, though this project was especially on the nose. Bullard went many places to get inspired: browsing through the work of Billy Haines and Tony Duquette, visiting a slew of authentic Hollywood Regency homes, even sorting through his own personal archive. “The style is very much inside of me already,” Bullard says. “I’ve studied the history, done many historic renovations, and even lived in Whitley Heights years back.”

Photo credit: Jaime Kowal

The hotel’s 24 suites are categorized into guest rooms and king rooms. There are four different guest room designs, and each king room is different from the next. Gold-leafed ceilings and custom wallpaper, leopard-print carpeting, vintage furniture, and an array of artwork are some of the guest room highlights. Some suites have kitchens, others have claw-foot tubs in the middle of the bedroom. There are no rules, and surprises can be found around every corner. In the king rooms, each suite is inspired by a specific Hollywood icon. The Mata Hari suite—one of Bullard’s favorites—features chinoiserie-sheathed walls topped with photographs of Greta Garbo and old movie posters. Mirrored finishes, metallic trim, and vintage crystal stemware tie the space together. “For all of these rooms, there’s one central piece—usually an old photograph of the star—in which everything else is designed around,” Bullard says. Odd bits of memorabilia, vintage postcards, and even old movie tickets can be found throughout the suite as well. “Nobody is going to want to live in Mata Hari’s bedroom for the rest of their life, but they do want to spend three or four days feeling like they’re living on their own movie set.”

Photo credit: Jaime Kowal

Throughout the hotel, artwork was sourced from an array of places: Texas’s Round Top Antiques Fair, eBay, flea markets, and voila! Creative Studio in Los Angeles. “When I was at Round Top, I stumbled upon a guy selling a whole collection of old 1940’s French oil paintings, so I bought all of them,” Bullard says. “I wanted it to look like some crazy old artist came here in the 30s and swapped his bill for artwork.” Like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, “A story of all of these fabulous characters—actors and artists and archetypes—living in an old apartment building,” Bullard wanted to not only celebrate the building's past, but to create a space that will leave a legacy in the future. “When you create a truly quirky space, it becomes characterful, as opposed to trendy.”

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