The Georgian, a ’30s Art Deco Gem, Gets the Makeover It Deserves

If you’re not staying at the renovated Santa Monica landmark, at least go for the late-night piano bar and discreet power dining

October 10, 2023 6:13 am
The Georgian hotel in Santa Monica, California
Wes Anderson, eat your heart out.
The Georgian/Douglas Friedman

When pioneering hotelier Rosamond Borde dreamed of building a lavish resort for Los Angeles high society, she commissioned architect Eugene Durfee to construct her vision: an eight-story hotel with a head-turning turquoise Art Deco exterior.

The Georgian opened in 1933 and quickly became a favorite among the Hollywood elite. Movie stars and studio executives would regularly slip away to weekend by the sea at the “First Lady,” so nicknamed for being the tallest building in Santa Monica. After those halcyon years, a series of new owners followed; the original Golden Age charm eventually faded, but BLVD Hospitality founder and CEO Jon Blanchard always saw the potential. He purchased the landmark in 2020 and, alongside business partner Nicolo Rusconi, returned it to its former glory with a modern, “Havana-inspired” Art Deco twist courtesy of London and L.A.-based design firm Fettle that embraced its glamorous past.

The Georgian may be 90 years old, but today, it’s more enticing than ever.

The Georgian's suite living room with Art Deco design details
The Georgian’s suite living room with Art Deco design details
The Georgian/Douglas Friedman

An intimate Old Hollywood hideaway where Art Deco meets Wes Anderson

Post-renovation, the iconic Ocean Avenue address feels nothing short of cinematic. From the whimsical topiaries and handsome navy-striped awnings to visually striking vignettes within (like the horseshoe-shaped Sunset Bar and an intimate reception nook), the hotel’s symmetry, color and composition make comparisons to Wes Anderson unavoidable. Case in point: the powder blue bellhop suits. A who’s-who of legendary guests — Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable were frequent visitors, while Rose Kennedy spent summers here in the 1950s and ’60s — all checked in, and that element of Old Hollywood is still perceptible. Several historical features from the original building remain intact (arched entryways, animal motifs, ornate reliefs), and Blanchard and Rusconi worked closely with the Santa Monica Conservancy on the redesign, consulting archival photos to nail an authentic aesthetic for the era.

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The Georgian room with white and blue accents and an ocean view
The Georgian’s ocean king room
The Georgian/Douglas Friedman

Ocean view suites, and a California Cool collection of art, amenities and music 

Upstairs, guest rooms and suites reveal ocean and city views and reference the Georgian’s 1930s roots with accents including table clocks and Bakelite telephones. The sapphire-dyed knit diamond robes are best paired with the coordinating “G” monogrammed slippers. Top-tier service and thoughtful moments are part and parcel of the experience here, but it’s in the splurge-worthy suites that you’ll find the most intriuging touches. Anchored by pale peach velvet loveseats, separate living rooms display custom-made floor-to-ceiling bars and vintage call boxes that summon the delivery of a chilled glass of Champagne, favorite dessert or rare book at the touch of a button. Polaroid cameras and Victrola record players with vinyl selections handpicked by Ubiquity Records founder and president Michael McFadin are also on offer. BLVD collaborated with other California and L.A.-area creatives on additional touchpoints across the hotel: arrangements by French florist Jean-Pascal; books by Lee Kaplan, the founder of Culver City’s Arcana; and artwork curated by art consultancy firm Kevin Barry

Horseshoe-shaped bar with chandelier and pink accents
The Georgian’s Sunset Bar
The Georgian/Douglas Friedman

Settle in for drinks at the Sunset Bar and late nights in the Georgian Room

If the Sunset Terrace is where movers and shakers come to power lunch and people watch on Ocean Avenue, then the Dining Room and Sunset Bar are for lo-fi dinners and drinks. Beverage Director Jerom Morris created riffs on 1930s classics and modern cocktails based on grappa and amaro, while Wine Director Kristin Olszewski looked to producers across Europe and California for natural and biodynamic bottles to feature on her list. Coastal Italy inspired the menu by globetrotting Executive Chef David Almany, who worked under Nancy Silverton for nearly a decade and sources much of his produce from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market. Start with the Georgian Caviar Service (the hotel partnered with Thomas Keller’s Regiis Ova Caviar, and it’s divine); from the antipasti, you’ll want the calamari and burrata, and mains, the rigatoni al pomodoro. After dinner, options include retiring to the Library (a quiet, guest-only space where you can pour a ;imoncello from the honor bar) or heading downstairs for a nightcap. 

Originally called the Red Griffin but later renamed the Georgian Room, the former Prohibition-era drinking den of Bugsy Siegel and Fatty Arbuckle reopened for the first time in 60 years this summer. The original intimate L-shaped booth-only layout has been faithfully restored with a 1918 ebony Steinway & Sons piano built into the bar. Framed copies of old Red Griffin menus share space on wood-paneled walls with photos of a young man named Nick Gabaldon — born in Los Angeles in 1927, he frequented Inkwell Beach just south of Santa Monica Pier and was one of the first documented African-American surfers. Limited to just 65 seats and with cell phones strictly prohibited, it’s where you might spot modern-day Hollywood bigwigs and power players sitting down to a very private dinner. With a focus on live jazz performers and classic dishes by Almany, it’s also an intimate space where hotel guests and Westsiders can enjoy late nights around the piano long after the sun has set over Santa Monica.


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