The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica To Relaunch After Renovation – The Hollywood Reporter

What the Chateau Marmont has been to the Sunset Strip — a hotel-slash-playground of the famous and frisky — the Georgian hotel once was to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Known for its handsome turquoise blue Art Deco exterior, it’s been a local landmark since it opened in 1933 and was a favorite haunt of Hollywood stars including Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Clark Gable, who, while married, is said to have met up with Carole Lombard there. Mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone also frequented The Georgian, which was home to a speakeasy during Prohibition. 

Now, The Georgian, located at 1415 Ocean Avenue, is set to relaunch after a chic renovation that promises to restore much of its Art Deco grandeur. Purchased in 2020 by BLVD Hospitality (the developer behind downtown Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel) in partnership with ESI Ventures, the 84-room, eight-story hotel is scheduled to debut its redo in January 2023. 

To inform the renovation, BLVD co-founders Jon Blanchard and Nicolo Rusconi undertook research, including working with the Santa Monica Conservancy, to consult archival photos and documents of the history of The Georgian. “We definitely look at this more as a restoration than anything else. We say that history is our muse for the Georgian,” says Rusconi. Adds Blanchard, “There weren’t a ton of historic elements that were intact from the ’30s to the ’50s. There were some crowns and different things that we are restoring on the walls and on the ceilings. But the original floor was removed decades ago.”

The Georgian Hotel - Santa Monica - Exterior

Exterior of The Georgian hotel in Santa Monica.

BLVD Hospitality

BLVD, whose development projects have also included Soho Warehouse, citizen and the Hoxton in DTLA, brought on London and L.A.-based interior architecture and design firm Fettle for the redesign. Blanchard says that the original bathrooms in the 56 guest rooms were preserved — “We really loved the antique tile work that is in those bathrooms,” he says — but that the bathrooms in the hotel’s 28 suites — which he calls “bad versions” of the ’80s and ’90s — weren’t worth salvaging. “We basically redid everything, but still paying respect to the era that the hotel was built,” says Blanchard.

For the hotel’s public areas including its lobby, Ocean Avenue-facing terrace and two restaurants, BLVD looked south for inspiration. “This building looks like it was plucked out of Miami with the blue exterior finish, we really wanted to celebrate that inside. And so we looked at the Art Deco movement in South America and in Cuba, where they used a lot of color with their Art Deco interiors and exteriors,” he says. Details will include custom-made Art Deco-style furniture and new flooring throughout the ground floor. 

Rendering of a living room inside one of The Georgian’s 28 suites, 14 of which overlooked the Pacific.

Blanchard and Rusconi worked off vintage photographs to also restore the property’s lower-level restaurant, which was originally called the Red Griffin and was later renamed The Georgian Room. “The Red Griffin was one of the pre-eminent destinations for Old Hollywood,” says Rusconi. In recent decades, though, “it was used as an event space and kind of lost its charm of what it was once was,” says Blanchard. The pair say that, based on the old photos, they are restoring the original L-shaped layout of booths, while installing new flooring and wood paneling in the restaurant, which it will also call The Georgian Room. “We’re paying a lot of respect to what the Red Griffin looked like,” says Blanchard. 

The Georgian - Hotel - Santa Monica - Vintage Matchbooks

A collection of vintage matchbooks from The Georgian.

Courtesy of BLVD Hospitality

Rusconi, who has led the research into the hotel’s history, notes that the hotel, which also includes Romanesque Revival exterior details, was originally developed by hotelier Rosamond “Rose” Borde along with her son, a local judge and attorney named Harry J. Borde. “She had previously opened the Windermere Hotel and they purchased an adjacent parcel and engaged a pretty celebrated architect, M. Eugene Durfee to design the Georgian,” says Rusconi. “It was one of the first kind of skyscrapers to open on Ocean Avenue and got the nickname the First Lady.” He adds that Rose Kennedy spent summers at the hotel during the 50s and 60s and that her son, Bobby Kennedy, would visit her there.

Additional areas will include a new gym; The Library, a shared space for hotel guests; and two meeting and private dining room spaces, The Writer’s Room and The Gallery. Of the latter room, says Blanchard, “We are working with local artists to curate this room.” Adds Rusconi, “We’ve developed a very extensive art program throughout the hotel, in guest rooms, the corridors and all the public spaces.  For us, that’s one of the primary windows [to do] storytelling. It’s about more than just these Hollywood stars, the Clark Gables, the Carole Lombards, who were guests. We’re really looking to tell stories about these historical icons in Santa Monica and Southern California as well. A great example would be a gentleman named Nick Gabaldon. He was born in L.A. in 1927 and he was one of the first documented African-American surfers in the world. He frequented a beach just south of the pier called Inkwell Beach. He unfortunately passed away at a very young age while surfing in Malibu.” The hotel was also a frequent gathering spot decades ago for workers at the nearby Douglas Aircraft Factory. “The factory was one of the main drivers for a lot of guests, a lot of visitors,” says Rusconi, adding that, “They were well known for having a very large amount of female engineers and factory workers. We have some amazing pictures of them that will be throughout the hotel. There’s this deep history that made The Georgian what it was.”

Sunset Terrace - The Georgian Hotel - Santa Monica

Rendering of The Georgian’s Sunset Terrace adjacent to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

BLVD Hospitality

The Georgian has also made appearances over the years on screen, showing up as a private club that Jason Priestley belongs to in BH90210 as well as in the films Get Shorty and The Opposite of Sex.

Blanchard says that he had long dreamed of owning The Georgian. “I used to live in Santa Monica and I had always seen this beautiful blue Art Deco building. [One day] I decided to wander in and scope it out and see what it was all about. And I’ll never forget, I was walking down the steps, leaving the terrace, and I said, ‘One day, we’re gonna own this hotel,” recalls Blanchard, who had approached the previous owners a number of times about selling the property. “The previous owners had it for about 30 years and the answer was always, ‘We’re not selling.  We’re not selling.’ And then with the pandemic, we called them in late April of 2020 and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re ready to get out. We’re ready to sell the dream to somebody else.”

The Georgian — which will be the first hotel where BLVD will oversee operations — will be competing against a number of other upscale properties in the area including the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, Hotel Oceana, Casa del Mar, Fairmont Miramar, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Viceroy, Huntley and Shutters on the Beach.