The Belle of the Bel-Air
An iconic L.A. hotel debuts its highly anticipated makeover - and has never looked better.
By Andrew Myers
Facelifts and augmentations are perilous propositions - never more than when a visage and corpus are as beloved as the Hotel Bel-Air, which reopens Oct. 14 following two years of major work. How do its famous gardens now grow? And what of its signature Spanish Colonial architecture, grounded in the lobby building (once the real estate sales offices of Alphonzo Bell, who developed the 600-plus acres he dubbed "Bel-Air" in 1922)?
Most important, the hotel's soul - that unquantifiable something setting it apart from the city's other five-star hotels - remains intact. A bastion of the beau monde since Texas entrepreneur Joseph Drown opened its doors in 1946, the Bel-Air is best likened to its longtime symbol, the swan: elegant, serene and completely removed from the quotidian.
With the no-expenses-spared redesign and refurbishment paid for by the Sultan of Brunei (owner of the Dorchester Collection, which purchased the hotel in 2008) and sensitively overseen by N.Y.-based lead designer Alexandra Champalimaud, what new dreams might come?