See How This Storied Hollywood Hotel Regained Its Star Power

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Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger
Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger

No hotel quite captures the glamour and history of Tinseltown quite like the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Since it opened in 1927 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the flamboyant Spanish Colonial Revival building has hosted everyone from silent film star Mary Pickford to a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe. It was the venue for the first-ever Oscars in 1929, and—80 years later—the late-night haunt of mid-aughts besties Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. (Monroe, for her part, still reportedly haunts the joint too.)

The It crowd has invariably changed over the decades, and the hotel’s interiors have evolved—for better or worse—right along with it. Now ELLE DECOR A-List firm, Nickey Kehoe, is helping to write the next chapter of the Los Angeles icon by providing a chic face-lift of its soaring colonnaded lobby. What’s more, the duo recently unveiled the fashionable interiors of the hotel’s new restaurant, the Barish, helmed by James Beard Award–winning chef Nancy Silverton.

“It’s two stars—the Roosevelt and Nancy—coming together,” says Amy Kehoe, who runs the firm with her husband Todd Nickey. “How do we create a backdrop for both to really shine?”

Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger
Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger

The Lobby

Designed in the 1920s, the lobby retained such flourishes of Hollywood’s Golden Age as painted ceilings, tiled floors, and an arched, internal loggia. But deciphering what was true to the original design proved tricky. “There’ve been many, many interactions [over the years],” Nickey explains.

So instead of replicating the lobby as Charlie Chaplin would have experienced it in all its razzle-dazzle glory, the designers focused on capturing the essence of the hotel’s former self, but in a way that felt contemporary and fresh.

“For such a grand space, it was really lacking energy and movement,” Kehoe says. “It felt very staid.” When they first saw it, the lobby was populated with an unfortunate smattering of black leather furniture. “It felt like a train or a bus station,” adds Nickey.

The building’s landmark status prevented any invasive design work (though the designers were allowed to relocate a fountain), so they relied on some spatial finessing to make the lobby feel welcoming. First they separated the lounge areas from the loggia by placing scalloped, woven screens in the surrounding archways—a move that accentuates the architecture and keeps the circulation spaces (and all that rolling luggage) out of sight.

The duo also created distinct groups of seating, depending on whether you want to nab a cocktail or cozy up and read a book. For the furniture, Nickey Kehoe relied on vintage and custom pieces, as well as items available in their own L.A. design shop. But because the lobby lacked daylighting and featured matte beige surfaces, it “absorbs everything,” notes Kehoe. “Like, you could put neon in there and it becomes like burgundy.”

Rather than fight that fact, Kehoe and Nickey leaned into it and brought the palette of the painted jewel-toned flourishes on the ceiling down to the lobby, from teal velvet chairs to burgundy floral-print sofas to saffron tasseled ottomans. Shaded lamps and wall sconces, meanwhile, cast a flattering glow on the plaster walls and guests’ faces.

Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger
Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger

The finishing touches? A very L.A. assortment of potted palms and a new fireplace near the bar area—an unrealized detail that the designers found in a very early hotel rendering.

“Now, even if just two people are sitting in the whole lobby, it feels cozy,” Kehoe says proudly.

Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger
Photo credit: Amy Neunsinger

The Restaurant

For the Barish, Nicky Kehoe conferred with the restaurant’s head chef, Nancy Silverton, to create the perfect backdrop for her Cali-meets-Italy spin on classic steakhouse fare.

The goal was to marry the hotel’s timeless atmosphere with Silverton’s penchant for Italian rustic cuisine. The challenge, as with all dining hot spots, according to Kehoe, was how to create an ambience that “even if it’s great, doesn’t end up looking like a Pinterest page a year from the installation.”

In lieu of mood boards, the pair turned to their memories of traveling across Europe and let the design inspiration flow from there. “It’s like when you’re driving through the Italian countryside and pull over to a rustic restaurant and have the best meal of your life,” Kehoe explains. “That’s the feeling that really kicked it off for Todd and me.” The concept was met with a touch of skepticism from Silverton, but Nickey and Kehoe inevitably won her over.

The space, like the lobby, necessitated a few touch-ups, given that it used to house another restaurant. The ceiling was painted a crisp white; stucco columns were reclad in warm wood and mirrored tiles. Sumptuous details abound, from the custom stone tables with ribbed edges, to the lush floral wallpaper lining a curtained-off dining nook.

One of the designers’ favorite elements are the neo-Gothic–tinged wood light pendants, inspired by an antique one they picked up during one of those European sojourns. “We had it on a shelf and loved it so much,” says Nickey. “Here we scaled it up and went through several prototype iterations.”

In another clever move, the designers placed mirrors behind caned banquette partitions. “You don’t feel bombarded by your reflection, but there is light and movement,” Kehoe explains. “It’s a really magical touch.”

An open kitchen allows diners to watch the cooks grill a porterhouse over a wood fire or dish up a hearty bowl of pasta al forno. A tiled mural depicting hand-painted images of a well-stocked larder—suckling pig and all—forms the backdrop to the real-life culinary tableau.

Did the renovation get a chef’s kiss? Yes, say the designers. The discerning Silverton was very happy with the outcome and is ostensibly hungry for more: “Now,” Nickey notes, “Nancy shops in our store all the time.”

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