Travel | January 6, 2023 6:15 am

Old Hollywood Gets a Modernist Makeover at the Beverly Wilshire

The "Pretty Woman" hotel reveals polished new specialty suites

Exterior of The Beverly Wilshire
The Beverly Wilshire hotel is a Los Angeles landmark
Beverly Wilshire

There are luxury hotels in Los Angeles, and then there’s the Beverly Wilshire. In 1928, real estate developer Walter McCarty decided the then-undiscovered city of Beverly Hills was the perfect place for a hotel, and his second renaissance revival-style building became a landmark on Wilshire. Film stars attended a New Year’s Eve opening gala —and have continued to check in ever since. Royalty, socialites, scions of business, presidents, politicos and industry players, too — oh, and the Dalai Lama. But even grand dames like the Beverly need an occasional refresh, and with the last notable remodel in the mid-aughts, she was ready for some subtle enhancements. 

“There are only a handful of iconic hotels in the world that everybody knows, and this is one of them,” says Peter Humig, the regional vice president and general manager of the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel. “The renovation has drama and Old Hollywood glamour with a contemporary twist that captures the evolution of the hotel’s 94-year history,”  Humig shares. While London-based David Collins Studio updated the guest rooms and suites, KES Studio in West Hollywood and its principal, Kara Smith, recreated the hotel’s specialty suites. Coveted by cool tech types, models and actresses for her residential work, the designer du jour also has two decades working on hospitality projects, including the nearby L’Ermitage Beverly Hills.

The Beverly’s Speciality Suites are the most sought-after in LA

“We specifically worked with KES Studio because they are known for their exceptional interior design and lifestyle services but respected our rich history and prominence in the heart of Beverly Hills, too,” Humig says. “They also ensured design-forward yet approachable furniture was used throughout because that’s what people want when they travel: to feel at home.” The hotel’s six most exclusive accommodations are located across both buildings (the 14-story Beverly Wing was added in 1971 and connects to the original structure via a courtyard) and range from the Wilshire Presidential Suite with its original Roman column-lined entry hallway to the Governor Suite, with its wraparound terrace and Rodeo Drive and Hollywood Hills views.

“The hotel is so iconic I wanted to give each of these suites their own story, but reimagined. It’s a new traditional style of luxury, very affluent residential,” says Smith. While travel inspires many of her projects, a European trip had the most impact. “I knew the Beverly clientele and what they’re used to experiencing, but Europe and London were big influences,” she says. “I loved how smart and sophisticated interiors were in London — clean, but not cold — and how they highlighted the history of a property.” Under Smith’s direction, the dark woods and moss green accents have been replaced by “a neutral palette with strong moments and some whimsy,” ranging from layers of cream, camel and leopard-print fabric to mid-century lighting and leather-wrapped consoles.

Smith also worked with Blank Space Art, “a cool young company that lets you build a story,” to source pieces from Australia, Paris and beyond to complement the décor. As a consultant and private collector, she also looked to the art world for inspiration. “I like to visit galleries and museums and will color palette from that, but we saw a Rothko exhibit during the project, and the colors he used were so tonal, but then there’d be a pop of something bold,” she says. For the Beverly Presidential Suite, this translated into black and white with silver accents and hits of blue. “I loved the way that one came out, but I also loved being able to create a cocktail den in the Wilshire Presidential Suite, because the Wilshire Wing is the most historical of the buildings,” Smith adds. 

Presidential Suite at The Beverly Wilshire
Presidential Suite at The Beverly Wilshire
The Beverly Wilshire

Beverly Wilshire: a Los Angeles landmark since 1928

Humig shares that all the signature suites are equally in demand and beloved among guests, but the Penthouse is a personal favorite. “You feel like royalty when you step inside. It’s the largest penthouse in Beverly Hills with three bedrooms and unrivaled views of Los Angeles from the wraparound terrace — it’s the ultimate in luxury,” he says. Perhaps the most legendary room at the Beverly, though, is the rooftop Veranda Suite. When it was home to Hollywood playboy Warren Beatty for 15 years from the 1960s into the ’70s, so many women tried sneaking up there that a staircase was closed off and later discovered and reopened by the Beverly Hills Fire Department in 2007. Today, a new hidden staircase leads to a studio space topped by an au courant glamping tent.

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Additional famous residents who lived at the hotel for a period include “The King of Cool,” Steve McQueen — who would bring his motorcycle up in the elevators and took over an entire parking garage floor with his cars — and Elvis. It’s said the King of Rock’ n’ Roll first stayed at the hotel with his parents when making King Creole in 1958. But, of course, this being Tinseltown, any mention of Beverly Wilshire would be remiss without a nod to the ’90s classic Pretty Woman

Contrary to popular myth, there is no “Pretty Woman Suite,” although affluent fans of the film can be Vivian for a day with The Pretty Woman package. In connection with the refurbishment, a series of destination experiences were newly created and include “The Adventurer” (there’s a helicopter tour, surfing and super yacht cruise). “The Actor” will launch during Awards Season. For any off-the-cuff and non-curated experiences, Humig says new “secret sauce” Director of Guest Experiences Serge Sturbois, a native of Paris, is on hand to create memorable moments for guests “whether it’s the smallest of touches or larger-than-life surprises.”

Shifting from one of the team’s newer members to one of its longest-running, however, those keen to experience Beverly Hills like a local should speak with senior concierge Rick Castaneda. A “BW Legend,” he’s been a fixture at the hotel for 25 years and, as an elite concierge association Les Clefs d’Or member, is as adept at advising out-of-town visitors what they should see or do around Rodeo Drive as he is sharing stories about the hotel and the stars they might discreetly spot there.

With generations of guests returning to sun themselves beside the Mediterranean-style swimming pool (modeled after the one at Sophia Loren’s Italian villa), relax at the five-star rated Forbes Travel Guide spa, and dine at CUT steakhouse by Wolfgang Puck, at 94 years young the Beverly Wilshire’s appeal shows no signs of diminishing. But if the $1000 starting nightly rate isn’t attainable, drinks at THEBlvd Lounge are always an option. Yes, there’s a Pretty Woman-inspired cocktail (it’s made with Moët and called Feeling Pretty), but with its custom Swarovski crystal chandelier and original elevator doors, even the most seasoned of Angelenos will find that stepping inside the historic Wilshire Wing lobby feels like a moment. With awards season coming up and myriad events planned, Humig tells people to keep their eyes open at the hotel. “You never know who you’re going to see while here,” he says.