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From suave to schlocky -- and back again

June 12, 2003|Adamo DiGregorio

Hollywood Regency style began in the 1930s with filmdom's nouveau riche, then soared to popularity in the '50s -- leaving its imprint on everything from strip malls to apartment building entry halls -- before falling to cliche. The highlights of its golden age and revival:


In a precursor to his days as a "decorator to the stars," movie idol Billy Haines, right, decorates the home of his friend Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on Bristol Avenue in Brentwood. He mixes antiques and modernism.


Two years after losing his MGM contract because of being openly gay, Haines begins a decorating career. He sets up shop on Sunset Boulevard, with clients that included actress Carole Lombard and studio mogul Jack Warner.


James Dolena establishes himself as an architect for the well-heeled when he designs Casa Encantada, a home on Bellagio Road in Bel-Air mixing Georgian, classic Regency and Federal Revival-style interiors. The house is decorated by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, who later designs for Widdicomb Furniture Co. Decorators embrace the line, which runs for two decades, but anyone can buy it.


Haines brings his sense of sophistication to the sets for the film "Craig's Wife," starring Rosalind Russell, but receives no screen credit. It is the first -- and last -- time he designs movie sets.


John Woolf designs his first major commission, the Pendleton House in Beverly Hills, which movie producer Robert Evans would inhabit years later. Woolf's clients would go on to include Mae West and Ira Gershwin.


Woolf designs and builds a new studio on Melrose Place that serves as a testament to his style. It popularizes the Pullman door -- a tall, oversized double door -- that is endlessly copied over the next decades.


Haines designs his own collection of custom modern furniture with Ted Graber. Graber goes on to inherit the Haines business and decorates the Reagan White House in the early '80s.


Paul Williams redesigns Perino's restaurant, incorporating a modern take on the classic mansard roof. The sloping roof line quickly becomes a Hollywood Regency hallmark.


Haines partners with architect A. Quincy Jones to design a home for L.A. arts patrons Sidney and Frances Brody in Holmby Hills, helping to further define the look.


The movies interpret the Hollywood Regency style via director Douglas Sirk's films, including 1955's "All That Heaven Allows." The period represents the pinnacle of the style among the glitterati, as well as the beginning of its spread from L.A., Chicago and New York to the rest of the country. Many decorators copy the look, resulting in anonymous, uncredited furniture in the style.


Woolf designs the Reynolds House in Hancock Park, combining a mansard roof with the Pullman door he made famous.


Robsjohn-Gibbings designs a line of made-to-order, classic Greek-inspired furnishings, still available to the trade.


The style falls out of vogue with the elite. Some point to Jackie Kennedy's leaving the White House as the line of demarcation, or perhaps it's the appearance of mansard roofs on laundromats that signals the end.

Mid-1970s-early 1990s

Haines and Robsjohn-Gibbings die in 1973. The style they pioneered is discredited as something you might find on a trip to "grandma's house."


John Chase's book "Exterior Decoration" identifies the trend and coins the term "Hollywood Regency." His writing focuses on remodeled houses in West Hollywood.


David Geffen buys the Jack Warner estate and auctions off all the Haines furnishings, renewing interest in the style.


Palumbo reissues a selection of '50s-era Tommi Parzinger Originals, including lighting and furniture.


Kelly Wearstler designs her first Regency commission: the hotel Maison 140 in Beverly Hills. It leads to a string of boutique hotels, including the Viceroy in Santa Monica, left, and the remodeled Estrella in Palm Springs.


Jonathan Adler debuts his Hollywood Regency furniture.


"Far From Heaven" cinematically underlines the idea that dramatic elegance is back.

-- Adamo DiGregorio

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