Categories / Trend Reports
Design Trend Report: Hollywood Regency
Marc Schenker October 15, 2021 · 14 min read
The History of Hollywood RegencySimply put, were it not for the birth of the movie industry, this style wouldn’t be around today. However, because of the world’s fascination with American movie-based pop culture, it started to flourish almost as soon as the first silent movies began production and were released to the public. Of course, the actual movie business had little to do with the growth of this style; it was more the sheer wealth that the movie industry (and the American moviegoing public!) created for its early actors and actresses that allowed them to show off their material riches in their homes and estates. Therefore, it can be said that Hollywood Regency’s roots actually lie in interior and architectural design and specifically with a few designers. If the name Dorothy Draper sounds familiar at all, that’s because she had a profound impact on early 20th century interior design, and, as you’ll soon find out, Hollywood Regency. Born into a wealthy family in New York in 1889, Draper was educated at a private school, took annual trips to Europe with her folks, and was generally exposed to the sort of culture and historical styles that would come in handy in her adult life as an interior designer. After years of decorating her and her husband’s various homes, by 1925, she opened Architectural Clearing House, an interior-design business. Arguably the very first interior-design business in the U.S., it got a name change in 1929, after numerous apartment lobby redesigns that were well-received, when Draper renamed it Dorothy Draper & Company. It was in this decade that she likely coined the phrase “Hollywood Regency.”
Image Source: Dorothy Draper & CompanyIn the early 1930s, Draper started her foray into hotel interior design. This was a notable turning point in her career since it marked a step up into the big leagues of interior design and confirmed that more important clients were willing to trust her with their properties. It was also a watershed moment for Hollywood Regency because her work in this scope began to demonstrate more and more the telltale signs of what would become this unique style. Her various projects included designing interiors for:
- Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel
- San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel
- Chicago’s Drake Hotel
- New York’s Sherry-Netherland Hotel
- Rio de Janeiro’s Palacio Quitandinha Hotel
- New York’s Hampshire House Hotel
- West Virginia’s The Greenbrier Hotel
- Neo-Baroque plaster décor
- Art Deco-inspired mantelpiece surround (thick glass)
- Black-and-white checkerboard floors in the lobby
- Victorian-inspired wing chairs
Image Source: Dorothy Draper & CompanyShe remained the head designer of the Greenbrier until the 1960s. For an in-depth look at this design trend, have a peek at some of our digital assets that epitomize this lavish style: While this “Draperization” was happening in the interior-design landscape in America in the first half of the 20th century, which would set the tone for the lavish interiors of the homes and estates decorated in Hollywood Regency, something architectural was happening simultaneously. Hollywood needed visionary architects to build them their million-dollar homes in the first place, and a couple of notable names pioneered this style as far as the exteriors of homes. First among them was John Elgin Woolf, a Southerner who moved to California in 1936 with the hopes of making it big as an actor. When that didn’t pan out for him, he instead smoothly transitioned to building homes for Hollywood’s rich and famous of the industry’s Golden Age, his degree in architecture proving quite handy. Eventually recognized as the architect to the stars, Woolf’s early connections through George Cukor, Gone With the Wind’s director, were vital to him landing opportunities to design homes for movie stars. Woolf’s approach to design was revolutionary for its time, combining:
- Greek revival architecture
- 19th century French architecture
Image Source: James Colin CampbellOperating mainly in the Beverly Hills and Bel-Air neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Woolf designed residences for a who’s who of actors and actresses:
- Errol Flynn
- Spencer Tracy
- Cary Grant
- Barbara Stanwyck
- Katharine Hepburn
- Ricardo Montalban
- Frank Sinatra
- Tyrone Power
- Lucille Ball
- Lon Chaney Sr.
- The Shrine Auditorium
- The Los Angeles County Courthouse
- The Beverly Hills Hotel
Image Source: Paul R. Williams ProjectIn summary, the combined style sensibilities of interior designers like Draper and the architectural wizardry of creatives like Woolf and Williams made for a powerful one-two punch that established the Hollywood Regency movement in wealthy people’s homes and buildings throughout the first half of the 20th century.
The Characteristics of Hollywood RegencyAs you gathered from the storied history of this movement, it emphasized style touches that were ritzy, but stopped short of going into full-blown excess by virtue of its strong, underlying design principles that made the most of contrast and color best practices. Here are some of the telltale characteristics of this design movement:
- Glass accents
- Metallic accents
- Bold colors (like pinks, yellows, turquoises)
- Neutral colors (blacks and whites)
- Contrast (both in colors and patterns)
- The promotion of opulence and glamour, yet in a tasteful, not gaudy, way
- Mirrored, chrome and lacquered finishes
- Occasional asymmetry and imbalance
- Textures and patterns (such as checkerboard patterns)
- Floral designs
- Animal prints
- Zigzag and criss-cross designs
- Sunbursts, especially for mirrors (also popular in Art Deco designs)
- French mansard roofs (architecture)
- Oval windows (architecture)
- Doric columns (architecture)
Hollywood Regency in Graphic DesignWhile this style isn’t traditionally associated with graphic design, creatives from all over the world have taken its characteristics and applied them to visual communication, whether in advertising or digital assets. Here are just some examples:
Gold White Mod GeometryCapturing the essence of this movement, this digital asset is a collection of 10 patterns that epitomize the glitz and glamour of design in Hollywood. Not only are its golden colors reminiscent of Oscar gold and the opulence of movie-star estates, but the intricate and interesting textures evoke what you might’ve seen as accent pieces in the homes of Spencer Tracy or Cary Grant. Great for all sorts of design projects, this set features editable files that you can customize to your liking, with creativity being the only deciding factor. Use this set of pattern for projects like:
- Scrapbook paper
- Web design
- Blog layouts
- Gift wrap
Hollywood Walk of Fame StarThe most iconic symbol of the entire movie industry, a star on the Walk of Fame pretty much means immortalization in pop culture. What it means in design is a feast for the eyes. This digital asset mimics the captivating patterning of real-life Walk of Fame stars, which are inlaid into a terrazzo background and made of terrazzo themselves. The speckled texture in the black, charcoal background lend a timeless feel to this graphic, while the pink color of the star and its yellow outline perfectly align with some of the more popular color schemes of this Hollywood Regency. This vector illustration is ideal for a whole host of projects, from web design to print materials.
Hollywood Glam Bridal Shower InviteThere’s nothing like a touch of gold to communicate the luxury of an invitation. In the case of this InDesign CC file, its elegant typography, lines and textures hit on many of the ritzy design sensibilities of Regency Moderne. Featuring both script fonts and sans serifs for effortless readability, this bridal shower invitation uses the contrast so famous in this style to present an invitation that no guest can refuse. This editable asset allows designers to personalize it to their specifications.
Hollywood Regency in Web DesignDue to the longevity of this style, it’s made its way into web design, with various, stellar examples all over the web.
Image Source: InstagramFrom eye-catching turquoises and metallic- and glass-infused pieces to ornate sofas and the warmest hues of pink you’ve ever seen, this design movement has won a sizable fan base on Instagram.
Image Source: Kathy Kuo HomeYou’ve got your classic sunburst mirrors, metal- and glass-trimmed furniture, plush sofas, and unforgettable chandeliers.
Hollywood Regency in Interior Design and ArchitectureThis is really THE category for this movement, as it originally sprung out of the silver screen’s influences and its actors’ and actresses’ mansions in the early days of the burgeoning movie industry. Here are some memorable examples.
The Greenbrier HotelDorothy Draper’s signature project, the Greenbrier just oozes luxury, both inside and out. A study in the trappings of power and opulence, it sits in West Virginia and used to be the destination of many U.S. presidents.
Image Source: USA TodayThe hotel immediately takes visitors’ collective breath away with its majestic façade: a historical-looking building adorned with regal ornamentation, held together by immaculate columns, and finally complemented by pink-and-green landscaping that evokes the classic colors of this design trend.
Image Source: Home JournalOn the inside, the hotel boasts more luxurious design touches, such as chandeliers, winding staircases, murals, bold and explosive colors, and checkerboard floor patterns.
Paul Lynde ResidenceFormerly owned by Errol Flynn, Paul Lynde, and musician Moby, this home was designed by John Elgin Woolf. Its oval windows, light-and-dark color scheme, intricate gate patterns, and historical and ornate touches symbolize everything about Hollywood Glam that makes this such an enduring style.
Image Source: John Elgin WoolfLocated in the hills just above Sunset Boulevard, this home comes with a trapezoid-shaped pool as well as a cabana.
Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly HillsDesigned in party by Paul Revere Williams, Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills was the company’s first foray into Southern California. On the outside, it features heavy Art Deco influences and a broad, expansive feel that mimics a sprawling mansion.
Image Source: Los Angeles ConservancyOn the inside, Williams designed it to be more intimate for customers of the brand, with each area having a nearly enclosed look and feel to prevent the chance of distraction as much as possible for store visitors.
Image Source: Time OutEach room enjoyed a luxurious atmosphere via being bathed in soft lighting, with a mix of hidden floor lights and indirect lamps illuminating the high-fashion products.
A Timeless ClassicPop culture is always going to be fascinated with the movie-star lifestyle, which is why Hollywood Regency endures to this day, whether that’s in graphic design, interiors or how buildings are designed. While this style is glamorous and on the high-end of things, it is nonetheless accessible based on its strong use of simple design principles. Its combination of loud, vibrant colors and eye-catching textures mean that its distinct design philosophy can be captured by anyone.
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