The Hotel Bel-Air's Second Act
After an extensive two-year renovation, the famed Los Angeles retreat debuts a glamorous new look, courtest of designers Alexandra Champalimaud and David Rockwell
Text by Ted Loos
In 1946 the Hotel Bel-Air was built high up into the Los Angeles canyons so that it would stand apart from the rest of the city, the better to attract a privacy-seeking clientele that included Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, and Marilyn Monroe. Though it remained an evocative symbol of Hollywood's golden age, the Spanish Colonial-style hotel had lost a bit of its glimmer over the years. So when the Dorchester Collection - whose portfolio of high-end hotels includes the Plaza Athenee in Paris and 45 Park Lane in London - acquired the storied property in 2008, it made the decision to undertake a top-to-bottom makeover. After two years of renovations and new construction (at an unconfirmed cost of $100 million), the Hotel Bel-Air reopened last fall with a streamlined, contemporary look, as well as 15 additional guest rooms, a La Prairie spa, and a restaurant overseen by Wolfgang Puck. These days the hotel is distinguished as much by its design as by its tucked-away location and illustrious history.
The hotel's lobby, spa, and guest rooms were reimagined by designer Alexandra Champalimaud, who sought to respect the property's past while introducing sleek, modern furniture and an airier feel. She outfitted the lobby with elegant upholstered sofas, handcrafted Soane leather chairs, and playful lamps and sconces by Jean de Merry, using a palette of solf olive-greens, violets, and silver tones that blend perfectly with the hotel's famed gardens. The spa, meanwhile, is in a new two-story building and features Fromenthal silk wall coverings, wide-plank oak floors, and ceramic bougainvillea wall accents by Moss & Lam. With the addition of three Loft guest rooms above the spa and 11 freestanding hillside villas (which enjoy sweeping canyon views), the hotel now features 108 rooms, the most impressive being the expansive 7,000-square-foot Presidential Suite. Formerly two suites that have been combined, it features a living room with a grand piano and a luxurious dining area with a custom-made lacquer-top table by Costantini Design that seats ten. Outside, a private pool and terrace serve as a palm-doted oasis in the area that was once the hotel's main fountain and courtyard.