You’ve noticed it for years now: that style that mixes leopard print with glitzy chandeliers, mirrored finishes with curved velvet couches. It’s simultaneously Old World Hollywood and yet still of-the-moment, but you just haven’t been able to put your finger on what it is, exactly. Well, we’re here to tell you that you’ve been drooling over Hollywood Regency, a style most commonly associated with interior design, furniture, and landscape architecture that comes out of the 1930s Golden Age of Hollywood.
Indeed, the origins of the style can be traced to the silver screens themselves, as actors and actresses grew accustomed to the shiny materials and traditionally-inspired furniture they found on set that created the lavish scenes of their wealthy characters. Set designs emphasized pieces that showed well on camera because of their dramatic surfaces, attention to detail, contrasting of patterns and textiles, and creation of light and dark that could be captured in black and white. Soon, designers of the stars found themselves recreating the opulence of the screen in real life for their clients.
Among those at the forefront of Hollywood Regency were interior designers like Dorothy Draper, who rose to prominence in the 1920s and 1930s after decorating some of the major hotels and apartment buildings in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. Her signature style focused on dramatic color schemes – often with shiny black ceilings or black-and-white patterned flooring – along with a profusion of mirrors, floral textiles, and green woodwork.
Other designers who had a serious impact on the style were William “Billy” Haines, a former actor-turned-decorator to the stars, and Paul R. Williams, a noted African American architect whose client roster included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Barbara Stanwyck, and more. While Haines, working with his life partner James “Jimmie” Haines, consistently created designs that fit the high-profile lives of their clients like Joan Crawford, Williams worked in a range of styles and project types. But for his high-end clientele, Williams often produced grand homes that combined the traditional elements of Classical design but slimmed them down, simplifying the ornament to give them a sleek, modern edge.
And this combination of traditional and modern continued, borrowing elements and characteristics from several different periods (including the English Regency, which lent part of its name to the new style), but incorporating unexpected color combinations, new materials, geometric patterns, and lots of eye-catching, glamorous textiles and finishes. Think of the glamour of Art Deco materials and simplified lines, but with the eclecticism of an antiques dealer and the maximalism of a movie star.
Like any trend, though, as time went on, the style evolved, too. As historically-inspired styles waned in the 1950s and 1960s and gave way to the International Style and midcentury modernism, Hollywood Regency stayed strong, but took on more modern forms, incorporating more contemporary color palettes and patterns including jewel tones and geometric motifs. It also embraced newer materials like lucite in combination with old classics like shiny brass or glossy lacquer, all while keeping true to its origins rooted in old school glamour and glitz.
Thinking about incorporating Hollywood Regency into your own home? Take a look at some celebrity homes that continue to seek out this now-classic California style for their own spaces, and see if you can find any inspiration for yourself.
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