Once the tallest building in town, the nearly century-old eight-story structure retains its original façade, with updated interiors that embrace its glamorous past.
The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica has reopened with fresh interiors designed by interior and architecture firm Fettle. Here, an Art Deco influence is seen in the shape of the custom headboard in one of the hotel's suites.
By the 1930s, with California laws that prohibited gambling, a lively scene of floating casinos had sprung up three miles offshore of Santa Monica in waters believed to be beyond the state’s jurisdiction. At night, patrons—everyone from well-known actors to business tycoons—filed down the Santa Monica pier, took small boats out to the casino ships, and gambled for hours.
“In the morning, they’d all come back to the Georgian Hotel and party in the basement,” says Tom Parker, a director and co-founder of Fettle, a boutique interior architecture firm with offices in London and Los Angeles. The studio is responsible for the recent renovation of the Georgian, which reopened its doors in April. Purchased by BLVD Hospitality, the property has a long and storied history—one that Fettle drew from as it reimagined the hotel’s interiors.
“The building gave us a lot to work with,” Parker says. “The exterior is so visual. The interiors were in relatively good condition but were very beige and had no character. Given the story behind the hotel, it felt like a sense of history was missing.”
The Georgian Hotel is an iconic presence on the Santa Monica waterfront.
That history goes back to the early 1930s when Rosamond Borde—a pioneering female developer in a landscape dominated by men—hired local architect M. Eugene Durfee to design the Georgian. A mix of Art Deco and Romanesque Revival styles, the hotel opened in 1933 and quickly became a popular escape for the Hollywood elite. Over the years, the building underwent a series of renovations, leaving uninspired interiors dormant with potential.
According to Parker, the team opted to keep the exterior, with its robin’s-egg-blue façade and sunny yellow trim, untouched. “It’s iconic,” he explains. The interiors—which include 84 guest rooms, a lobby, a restaurant and bar, a gallery and private dining room, and a gym—are a fresh update on the space’s original 1930s glamour. Using an Art Deco-meets-Wes Anderson approach, Parker rearranged some spaces in the hotel (for example, separating the reception area from the restaurant and bar), retaining original details such as ceiling medallions and crown moldings.
“Moving the reception allowed us to focus on each area individually,” Parker says, “and removing it from the restaurant provides guests, many of whom travel internationally to get here, a quiet moment as they check in.”
The Sunset Bar at the Georgian. The design of inlaid floor was inspired by shapes seen in old black-and-white photos of the hotel from decades past.
Sitting at one end of the restaurant is the showstopping Sunset bar. With soft pink walls, custom lighting, and custom velvet-upholstered furniture (according to Parker, each sofa is a little different from the rest, making them one-of-a-kind pieces), the bar is perfectly positioned under the room’s original arches, bringing symmetry to the space and providing various seating options for late-night cocktails.
“We weren’t necessarily trying to restore the architecture to its original state,” Parker says, but we wanted to capture what [the hotel] might have felt like in its glamorous heyday.”
The dining room features custom furniture and lighting mixed with vintage pieces.
Many of the reference images Fettle worked with were black-and-white, so instead of drawing from original colors, the team looked at shapes and patterns (curves, scalloped edges, concentric forms) for inspiration. The custom-designed furniture in public areas plays well with carefully curated vintage finds. In the guest rooms, Parker used bold colors for upholstery, wall trim, and bathroom tile, and opted for wood frames and bases to balance out the femininity.
A sitting area in one of the hotel's ocean-facing suites. Fettle used subtle color in the guest rooms to capture the lively decor of the hotel's debut era.
On the first floor, a set of old offices was transformed into Gallery 33, which will display rotating work from local and international artists (the opening featured work by actress Sharon Stone, whose first show Shedding, a Prelude comprised a series of abstract paintings on canvas). A private dining area, The Writer’s Room, offers a more intimate space—with the moody aesthetic of a library—for gathering. Outside, the plant-populated terrace has seating done up in bright yellow and frosted-pink fabrics, its redone flooring retaining the original green-and-white color scheme with a fresh design.
“The building provided so much in terms of history that we didn’t have to make up any of the design narratives,” Parker says. “There was such a richness and abundance to the history that made the whole process that much easier.”
Photos by Douglas Friedman