How Hollywood inspired the new look of LA's Mayfair

Downtown Los Angeles is in the middle of a hospitality boom, with numerous branded hotels opening this year and next. But one historic property in the neighborhood is remaining decidedly independent, and after 91 years of hosting Hollywood notables, the Mayfair Hotel is nearing the completion of a massive renovation. 

The first phase of three was completed earlier this year, with newly remodeled guestrooms and original art-filled corridors by artist-in-residence Kelley “Risk” Graval.

Historic Inspiration

Los Angeles-based designer Gulla Jónsdóttir helmed the latest upgrade, which combined the golden age of Hollywood with modern details throughout the property. 

The main challenge in recreating a historic hotel, Jónsdóttir said, was simply to respect the property's history and make sure that it was incorporated into the new design. "There are not many historic properties in Los Angeles, so I think it's very important to try to respect them," she said. 

As such, she looked back to the building's original plans for inspiration. "I got the original architectural set of drawings from the clients," Jónsdóttir said, "and I was inspired by some of the old detailed drawings to transform [the hotel] in a more modern way." A detail from the building's exterior was reflected in a perforated bronze guardrail covering the whole mezzanine looking down to the lobby. She also recreated the image of the hotel's original ceiling by creating a chandelier that would cast shadows upward, evoking the historic design. "It's exactly the same pattern as they used  in the architectural set in the 1920s," she said.

In the lobby, Jónsdóttir kept the original two-story ceilings and the skylight. "And we have the original fluted columns that we refinished in a charcoal gray," she said. "We refinished all the historic details within that lobby and left some of it--I don't want to call it unfinished, but we left the historic parts."  

For the lobby's mezzanine, Jónsdóttir installed a vertical garden element in the back and a 15-foot-tall olive tree. "And we're getting this beautiful marble slab counter console which I think is going to be a lovely area for either [meeting breaks] or just for coffee and espresso or afternoon tea and cocktails." 

The lobby's historic stone floor has been maintained, but sections will be covered with eight area rugs, ranging in style from antique to modern, that Jónsdóttir sewed together. "One of my favorite elements is what I call the Mayfair Flower, a sculpture above the bar which is a focal point. As soon as you walk into the lobby, straight ahead of you is this white flower that's kind of backlit and sets the ambiance and tone for the whole space." Most of the lobby's furniture is custom made, Jónsdóttir said—a mix between antique and new."

The reception desk will have a street art-inspired painting, as well as an original work from artist Patricia Torkan. 

Social Spaces

For events, the property will have private event spaces, including the three-story, brick-clad ballroom that measures 2,117 square feet and will have an ornate chandelier. Two boardrooms and the 750-square-foot mezzanine will serve as alternative meeting venues.

The lobby's M Bar is a double-sided, oval-shaped bar surrounded by 1920s-inspired stools. This space offers a more relaxed California vibe beneath the skylight. Right behind the M Bar is the semi-hidden Library with a dedicated Cigar Patio. This low-ceilinged, dimly-lit lounge has a large fireplace, bookshelf-lined wall, pool table, and piano for live musical performances, with nooks with gray, curved-back chairs. 

Right next to the bar is a custom-built Podcast Studio for guests to rent and record segments. Around the corner, a dedicated Writing Room  "has this walnut table which is about 18-feet-long, and this is where I imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald would have written his novels and invited his friends to come over for a glass of cognac," Jónsdóttir said.

At the top levels of the building, the two 800-square-foot Penthouse Suites have full dining rooms and kitchens, making them ideal for smaller gatherings. The suites, Jónsdóttir said, were meant to evoke Coco Chanel and Charlie Chaplin. "That will be a beautiful room to have either a private dinner party or just to rent out and sleep and really experience the old Hollywood. [The rooms have] a sense of history and drama."