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It has been just short of a century since The Georgian Hotel first opened, spilling light, music and laughter into the balmy air of 1933. In its heyday it was the brightest star in Southern California, frequented by a who’s who list of high-roller regulars that included Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin. As Hollywood’s Golden Age slipped into the rearview mirror of history, Santa Monica receded as a playground favoured by the very rich and very famous and with it went The Georgian. 

Standing eight storeys high, over the years the Art Deco building fell to this owner and that punting this scheme and that, including an episode when it was an old people’s home - how’s that for horrible casting - but none took the box office by storm. When Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality saw the place in 2013, decades of stale cigarette smoke and disappointment had long dulled its windows. Even so, Blanchard recalls he knew “Like a lightning bolt” that he wanted to one day own and restore it. 

In 2020, BLVD Hospitality, founded by Blanchard and Nicolo Rusconi in partnership with ESI Ventures, swooped in and scooped up the tatty old girl. Like an agent who still believes in the talent of a former great actor who has let themselves run to seed, they saw past the self-pity and morning drinking. After a bout in rehab this old Southern California gal has made one helluva comeback and is now showing off her curves in a glam new wardrobe.

Working with design firm Fettle, the job involved a lot of peeling back followed by a lot of modernisation to revive the original spirit and playfulness of the hotel while adding a contemporary appeal for today’s visitors. The result was unveiled in April. After two years of loving labour, the building’s unmistakable bright turquoise façade once again occupies pride of place on Ocean Avenue. The big reveal presents 84 guest rooms of which 28 are one-bedroom suites with ocean views. There’s an art gallery where Sharon Stone recently held her debut exhibition Shedding, a library stocked with works by Californian authors, the lobby bar, two public restaurants and dining terraces with hundreds of plants. As many original architectural details as possible were restored, which is seen in the ornate mouldings, ceiling medallions and the signature proportions of this Art Deco masterpiece. 

The interior style, described as 'Havana Deco' by Fettle's designer Tom Parker, is all about maintaining the building's architectural integrity alongside the refreshed palette, lush details and custom-made features. Peach hibiscus plantings greet arriving guests before they enter the wonderful vaulted reception area; there are voluminous cerise feather lamp shades, palm leaf ceiling fans, sunset blush wall tones, elegant deco sofas, luxurious blue accent fabrics and velvet banquettes with Rita Hayworth hips.

Adding to the whimsy are fun touches like the Wes Anderson-esque spy hole covers on the doors, an old-style dial phone pre-loaded with vintage voice messages, and Champagne buzzers that conjure up a bellhop in a powder blue uniform and propelling a bar cart. This is the sort of visual quirk factor-plus-Champagne that makes a person's toes curl with delight. The Georgian Hotel circa 2023 in all its modernised charm performs a sweeping bow to its architectural heritage and simultaneously throws an affectionate wink to its cultural story. 

Images Douglas Friedman

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