Historical Downtown Los Angeles

When people think of Los Angeles, they think of glitz and glamour, expensive cars, palatial McMansions, beaches and sunshine. But rarely do they think “historical.” In fact, there’s a surprising amount of history here in LA. The city was being built up quite rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the result is a city of hidden Beaux Arts, Modern, and Art Deco treasures.

This past weekend the hubby joined me on an LA Conservancy tour I have been meaning to take for quite some time, and I’m so glad we finally went. It was a walking tour, close to two and a half hours, that took us through some of LA’s greatest architectural achievements, ending in a finale of sorts at the Bradbury building, considered LA’s single most important work of architecture.

Here are my favorite highlights of the tour. If you are in the LA area, I highly recommend you take one of the conservancy’s tours on your own. They have a bunch to choose from. I personally plan to hit as many as I can over the coming year.

The Biltmore Hotel

The Biltmore Hotel (not actually associated with the national Biltmore you may have heard of, but using the same name nonetheless) is a pretty perfect example of Beaux Arts architecture. With it’s columns and ornamentation at the base floors of the building and ornamentation at the very top, the architects left the majority of the center of the structure relatively simple, as is typical for Beaux Arts design. To me, this looks just like buildings you might see in a city like New York or Chicago. The Biltmore is a gorgeous hotel, and they even offer a traditional afternoon tea for a truly Victorian experience.

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exterior Biltmore Hotel

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ornamentation at the top level of the building, typical of Beaux Arts architecture

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original front entrance
(today, you would likely enter from the other side, an addition to the building from the 1980’s with a covered drive-up area and parking garage)

Pacmutual Center

This building was originally built when Pacmutual was still the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company. Also in the Beaux Arts style, the ornamentation pattern is similar to the Biltmore. The building still holds most of it’s original charm and decorative detailing, making you feel like you have stepped into another time altogether while you wander through the lobby.

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front entrance to the Pacmutual Building

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this was the original Pacific Life Mutual Insurance Company crest, which still sits atop the entrance

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ceiling ornamentation in the main lobby area

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the building still has it’s original marble staircases

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this is also the original mailbox put into the lobby when it was built in 1908

Los Angeles Central Library

The library is one of those places I have always loved and appreciated. Sadly, we’re no longer technically City of Los Angeles residents, so no more checking out books from this magical place! But it’s still a public building, so anyone can visit. Although the architect refused to admit to building in any particular style, the library was built during the beginnings of the popularity of Art Deco, and it shows. He had also just returned from a trip to Turkey, and the tile work and murals throughout clearly reflect that influence.

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the library sits amongst the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles

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tile detail on the library’s pyramid-shaped top

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the US Bank Tower behind the library was once called “Library Tower” because it was built by purchasing air rights from the library; the library would have been torn down were it not for the money generated by this transaction
(Library Tower’s sunburst-shaped top mimics the sunburst on the library’s tile top)

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on the other side of the building, philosophers welcome the library’s patrons as they enter

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this mural has been cleaned, but never restored , so it remains in it’s original (albeit a little faded) form

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the mural on the ceiling of the rotunda is a near perfect replica of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

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more details mimicking the Blue Mosque in Turkey

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this globe hangs from the center of the rotunda

The Edison Building (now called One Bunker Hill)

This is another Art Deco treasure that makes you feel as though you have entered another era when you walk inside. The lobby boasts an incredible amount of beautiful marble work and lots of original details including carved wood elevator interiors and inset ornamentations on the ceiling. Plus, there is a mural painted by Hugo Ballin, the same artists who painted the amazing murals in the rotunda at the Griffith Observatory.

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the Edison Building has had a few additions and updates, but mostly remains in it’s original form

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gorgeous marble work and decorative details in the lobby

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mural by artist Hugo Ballin

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the original wood detail still remains in the elevator interiors

Angel’s Flight and Grand Central Market

Angel’s Flight was recently re-opened to the public, and is a treasured piece of Los Angeles history. It was originally intended as transportation for the residents of the exclusive Bunker Hill (now populated by skyscrapers and performance theaters, and no longer residential) so that they could easily go from the top of the hill to the bottom. At the base of Angel’s Flight is Grand Central Market, which was bustling with activity just like I imagine it has since it opened in 1917!

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Angel’s Flight

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Angel’s Flight in action

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the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Market

Bradbury Building

This was the building we all had been anxiously awaiting our arrival to. You may recognize this one from movies such as Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer, among many others. The Bradbury Building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but is an incredible feat of architecture on the inside! No one actually knows exactly who the architect was, but Lewis L Bradbury commissioned it at the end of his life so that he may leave a legacy to Los Angeles. He never saw it in it’s finished form, but it certainly is a legacy. The glass ceiling allows light to travel into nearly every corner of the building, and incredible iron work and wood panelling details cover the space unlike any other place I’ve ever seen.

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exterior of the Bradbury Building

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interior Bradbury Building

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incredible detail in the iron work throughout the building

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one angle of the open elevator shafts

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the glass ceiling allows plenty of light to flood into the building

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a front view of one of the elevator hafts

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beautiful wood panelling details covers the walls and ceilings

I’m hoping to jump on LA Conservancy’s Art Deco tour next, but there are so many to choose from!

Do you have a favorite LA architecture gem? Or a favorite from your own city?

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Why I Love… Bold Area Rugs

“Well, sir, it’s this rug I had. It really tied the room together.” – Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski

Between looking for rugs for my own house and helping a friend refresh the look of her living room, I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time scouring the web for great rugs. There are so many awesome rugs out there to chose from! Some are solid, simple colors, others bold patterns. Some boast newly conceived graphic designs, others are inspired by antique, Oriental, or Turkish rugs. All in all, what I have been learning is that you can really make a statement with the rug you choose for a room, and it can be a lot of fun to allow that rug to inform the decisions you make when accessorizing the rest of the room!

Here are some of my favorite rugs I’ve come across recently.

Alyson Fox Chevron Wool Rug – West Elm

I first learned of Alyson Fox while reading Design Sponge a while back, and have been dying for the right place for this rug ever since. I have been experimenting with grays and taupes lately, and what I love about this rug is that it favors gray but still uses a variety of other colors and geometric shapes to break it up a bit. And that pop of red is so striking!

Adelaide Rug – Crate and Barrel

I do love a good floral pattern, but it has to be unique… not like the fabric from your grandmother’s rose covered window curtains! I like this pattern because it’s modern and hints at the flowers and their surrounding leaves, but also takes some liberty in improvising with whimsical curls and the reversing of positive and negative space. And since it is two-toned using only a creamy white and a deep blue, you could pair this with any number of neutral or bright accent colors.

Herringbone Rug – Urban Outfitters

If you’re looking for a bright pop of color in an otherwise fairly monotone room, this could really make a bold statement. I love the contrast of the teal with white, and this herringbone pattern is pretty popular lately (along with chevron, and a few other similar patterns you’ve probably seen around). Compliment this with some teal accessories, and you’ll have yourself a cheerful, bright room for reading, playing, or entertaining.

Luca Rug – Pottery Barn

This one is reminiscent of a traditional oriental rug in it’s colors and shapes, but also in the vine-like configuration surrounding the more central, pointed-tip flowers. (Of course this is a much more modern take on it.) I love the symmetry of the design, but also the variety of the shapes used. And the way the burnt red flowers pop out at you is delightful.

Diamante Flatweave – Restoration Hardware

What’s unusual about this one is the texture, and I love it! While it could be a bit of a tease for your toes, the raised crisscross pattern not only breaks up the otherwise neutral rug with it’s intersecting lines, but the shadows thrown by the raised fibers give it a kind of dimension that most rugs can’t accomplish with a single uniform fiber height.

As for why I chose the rugs I did for our dining room and living room… Well, it was a bit of a progression, since we did one room at a time!

In the dining room, the house came with wonderful rust-colored tin ceiling tiles installed in the dining room, which we loved! However, we also love our  blue clay dishes from Crate and Barrel. So the goal was to find a rug that would bring together the warm orange from the ceiling and the cool blue of the dishes. After choosing gray-toned woods for furniture and then fishing around for quite a while for the right rug, I found this one from Anthropologie.

Festival Rug – Anthropologie

It is the perfect combination of red, orange, blue, and gray for the room. The orange in the rug balances out the orange tones in the ceiling, while the blue and gray tones of the rug gently compliment the blue dishes and grayish wood table. (I also chose gray curtains to maintain the vertical balance in the room, making sure not to overwhelm the room in warm colors.)

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my dining room, with rust-colored tin ceiling

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dining room table combining blues, oranges, and grays

Next was the living room rug. We have a beautiful gray sofa I had been eye-ing for months before we finally got it. Once we finally had it in the house, I set out to find the perfect rug. Since I purposefully chose a sofa that would be neutral enough to go with almost any color, I could be fairly flexible. However, since our dining room is through a wide doorway that is open to the living room, I wanted to be sure that they flowed with each other well. So when I found this rug, again at Anthropologie, I knew it was the one!

Tufted Gingko Rug – Anthropologie

The dark background color for the design is a blue-ish steel gray, maintaining the link with blue and gray tones between the two rooms, and I loved the contrast against the white of the gingko design. Plus, that pop of yellow color was just what we needed to liven up the room (which otherwise consisted of only neutral colors). The other awesome thing about pairing this rug in the living room with our dining room rug is that they both have these wonderful radial shapes in a floral-but-not-too-feminine pattern. (Nothing wrong with feminine patterns, but that guy I married does also have to live here!)

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my living room, gray base with some splashes of yellow to liven it up

Before finding this rug I’m not sure I would have thought to use yellow as an accent color in the living room, but now that it’s here I can see that a warm shade of yellow is the perfect color to brighten up the room. I love walking out into the living room in the morning to such cheery decor. It starts me off with a smile!

Which of these rugs is your favorite? What do you like most about it?