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Monday, April 4, 2011

Hollywood Regency Style

I recently received a call from my daughter who said, “Mom I have found my style!” She then directed me to Google to view some images and I said “Oh, nice, your style is Hollywood Regency.”  I began to talk about how the Hollywood Regency interior design style had been around for many years and was enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Her reply was, “Mom, please write a blog post and explain it all. In beautiful detail.”
You’ve be warned. :)
The past posts that I’ve written on Spanish Colonial, British Colonial, and Federal style continue to receive daily hits even two years later. Truly, I love nothing more than to immerse myself for weeks in the research of specific styles of architecture and design. Yes, I said weeks. Which is probably why I don’t write more of these posts. But today is my daughter’s birthday and so for her I bring you the Hollywood Regency interior design mode of living.

The Hollywood Regency style originated in the golden age of Hollywood. Think Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard and the lavish Art Deco inspired film sets created for movies during the 1930’s era. The sets were created with highly theatrical accents that often featured  tall white plaster floor lamps, mirrored dressing tables and fainting couches upholstered in visually rich satin or velvet. While it is not apparent in classic black and white films, set interiors were often brightly colored. All of the design elements filmed beautifully and provided a brief respite to an audience facing the bleak depression that gripped most of the nation.
“Dinner At Eight”

“Nothing Sacred”
Carole Lombard and Frederic March in NOTHING SACRED
During this same time period a man by the name of William Haines was showing great promise as a new actor. Haines was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars by the late 1920’s and was the top money maker in 1930.
Haines and Joan Crawford in 1928’s “West Point”

Haines, nicknamed “Wisecraker”, was Hollywood’s first openly gay leading man and steadfastly refused Louis B. Mayer’s demands that he end his relationship with longtime companion James “Jimmie” Shields and enter into a studio arranged “lavender” (sham) marriage. His film career ended in 1936 with Mayer ripping up his contract with MGM. Luckily, he and Shields had opened an antique shop in 1930 and he turned his entire focus to design. Early clients included longtime friends such as Joan Crawford and Carole Lombard  who were well familiar with Haines exquisite taste and hired him to decorate their homes.

The self taught decorator provided an glamorous alternative to the dark and somber Spanish and Tudor styles so prevalent in early Hollywood by combining English, French Regency and Greek Revival design styles also known as Neo Classicism.

By the late 40’s Haines design aesthetic had stylistically shifted into a plush modernism which would later develop into the Hollywood Regency style. 

Haines created his own furniture for the rooms and the iconic pieces were designed low to the floor with the idea that the people living in the homes would seem grander if they were not overshadowed by their furniture. His “Bel Air” sofa remains a design classic.

In the 1960’s Haines combined his early love of Neo Classical elements with modernism, while adding in a dash of Chinoiserie, to create the true Hollywood Regency look we now associate with the name.

Another designer of the day ~Dorothy Draper ~ had a flair for the dramatic and also influenced the design style which would become known as Hollywood Regency. While William Haines worked on a small scale, Dorothy Draper became well known for her over scaled and brightly colored versions of classic traditional rooms which were referred to as the “Modern Baroque” style.

Draper is often considered to be the first design professional. In 1923 she established the first interior design company in the United States and specialized in large, commercial spaces. Her groundbreaking color combinations, broad stripes, wide use of chintz and plaster moldings contributed to a look which became synonymous with the Dorothy Draper name.

Draper’s love of dull white and glossy black, highly polished checkered floors, intricate mirrors, and lacquered doors would all become elements later featured in the Hollywood Regency style.
While Draper may be known as the first interior design professional, it is Billy Baldwin who receives the title of dean of indigenous decorators. Baldwin brought us the tailored and polished look. He strongly believed that comfortable furniture was the ultimate luxury and should consist of “a mixture of all nationalities, old and new”.

His design staples were white plaster lamps, solid draperies, corner banquettes, the armless slipper chair and Parsons tables.
It is amazing to me that this blue salon he created in the 1970’s is still so fresh and timeless.

He often used cotton fabric, geometrics , dark walls and and pattern on pattern in his designs.  These elements would later be added into the design soup mix which would become Hollywood Regency.

But the man that most comes to mind for the style so prevalent in today’s version of Hollywood Regency would be none other than David Hicks, the notable English designer who rose to immense fame in the 60’s and 70’s.

The fabulous designer combined bold antiques, modern furniture and abstract paintings.  His true signature was the use of trellis patterned fabric and carpeting so often seen in the work of today’s designers.

All of these amazing designers contributed to what we know recognize as the Hollywood Regency style.
The specific elements are as follows:
Color, color and COLOR: Think pretty pinks, sunburst yellows and oranges, Chinese red, Kelly and apple green, and my favorite~ turquoise. This is tempered by liberal doses of black and white. The sheen of the wall color is generally a shiny lacquer.

Furniture should by all means have a classic shape. This includes mid century modern, with designs such as the slipper chair and Parsons table or Neo Classical design with its love of Chippendale and Greek Klismos chairs. The finish on furniture is often white, black or metallic, but natural wood tones are also occasionally used.

There is always an element of fantasy, such as the use of palm fronds and bamboo or animal prints and fur to suggest travel. Tongue in cheek pop art is also used on a grand scale.

Glimmer and glitz arrive in the form of a crystal chandelier, mirrored chest, and Chinoiserie wallpaper in this subtle yet lovely room.

It truly is a melting pot of design styles. But once you grasp the elements and realize that each object is carefully selected and placed within the space you will able to spot a Hollywood Regency styled room rather quickly.

Today’s leading designers of Hollywood Regency style are Miles Redd

Miles Redd in Elle Decor
…Uber effervescent Jonathan Adler

…and the extraordinarily talented Kelly Wearstler.


The image below makes me think of afternoons spent blowing bubbles~ all to hear the delightful laugh of my dear daughter when she was small.  It seems like only yesterday…

Fashionista, you are charming, intelligent and constantly captivate me with your whimsy and style. I am so very happy that you occupy such a large space in my heart. Happy Birthday my girl!
Forever yours,

I would love to hear your thoughts on Hollywood Regency style.
Inspired Reading
"Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator” By Peter Schifnado and Jean H. Mathison
Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator” by Adam Lewis and Albert Hadley
David Hicks: A Life of Design" by Ashley Hicks


ImagiMeri said...

Hi Fashionista,

Happy Birthday! You are very fortunate to have such a loving and talented mother. She talks about you all the time.

Laura, I'm so looking forward to Saturday.

Have a great day!


April said...

Happy birthday to your sweet "little" girl! :)
Very glamorous, very informative post--I am swooning over that mirrored baby grand. . .my, oh my!

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

I loved learning about this style Laura! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY Fashionista!!!! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

Teresa said...

The all style is quite Hollywood indeed but I think taking the Hollywood from it you still can manage a very elegant and posh home.

I'm biased as I love as in LOVE Capitonnée Sofás... just the look of one and hear me sigh. And with those long, big and comfy I enter the lalaland ;).

Congratulations on finding your style, Pretty Girl! The apple never falls too far from the tree, indeed.

Lovely post, Laura, as usual. I'm saving some of those pics in my computer for future inspiration.

The only minus in this style is too much color in most of the rooms but I cpould live with that 70's blue room :D

Jen said...

You did a wonderful job explaining this beautiful style! I love the classic, elegant lines of the style and the color is so different than the "cottage" style that is so popular today.
Hollywood Recency is probably one of my favorites, but with the chaotic, child-focused lifestyle we keep, it is just not practical. I think in decorating we often forget what works for the family as a whole and so many styles are"destroyed" by the personal tastes of many.

Does that make sense?

Back to Hollywood Recency, while I can't have my entire home done in it, I am adding little touches to our bedroom as we are fixing to re-do it!.

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

What an informative and fun post! Your daughter has very sophisticated taste. Kudos to her! Please thank her for requesting this post :D

dreams on 34th street said...

Good Morning Laura!
I love how the younger generation is bringing elegance back, with their decorating style. My daughter loves chandelieres and touches of damask...Also! I gave you a shout out in my post today!
Thank you for your inspiration. (I enjoyed your post about the party favors with vintage paper lace. Your creative touch inspired a very special invitation.)
Have a lovely day!
{with love}

Kristen said...

Really's not exactly my personal style, but I admire many elements of each of those pictures - especially the use of color! I was super impressed with the timeless blue room - I could totally see that published in a magazine today. Crazy!

Vicki said...

What an interesting post. The photos you chose were terrific. Happy Birthday to your Fashionista! And congrats on having such cool style...

Kit said...

Wow! I have to admit it really isn't my style but your blog kept me reading and reading and loving the history behind the style. And those photos are incredible. I love anything old Hollywood, I am such a groupie! Thanks for the info, and a Happy Birthday to your daughter. :) Kit

Stitchfork said...

Felt like I was watching a movie! That's one glamorous daughter you have there!
xo Cathy

Piorra Maison said...

What a great post. You are a gifted writer. I love the Hollywood Regency style. I must say though you brought tears to my eyes in the end. They(our children) never cease to amaze us. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Deanna said...

I like the style!
Happy b day to your sweetie.

God bless,
d from homehaven

Mimi said...

How could someone NOT LOVE those rooms!!!I adore all that color!!!I would live in all of those rooms!!!!
So amazing, todays rooms are so ...Beige!!!

Bettyann said...

Thanks for the info..HB to your dear daughter..

sabeth said...

Dear J,

I. Want. Everything. You can re-decorate my condo anytime you'd like :)

happy birthday to you too!

latis on the menges!

Shirley said...

WOW!!! I dont know what to say!! I do love that awesome style bookcase. It is all so very interesting...have to study the pictures I said..WOW!

Auntie Em said...

Happy Birthday to your baby girl! She obviously has style like her mama!

I think I went into glamour overload looking at all those gorgeous rooms.

Thanks for sharing! :)

TRay said...

A beautiful post for a beautiful young woman!

Happy Birthday to our Fashionista!

love and smooches,


Mona Thompson Providence Ltd. said...

I like the gold, the bold and the glam of this style of decorating. I really admire your research. This is an excellent post, and one I will definitely come back to. Mona

Cindy said...

I love that you covered not only the style with beautiful pictures accompanying, but also the prominent designers through the years...great post!

Leann said...

What oppulance and fun! Wouldn't it be fab to see some of these in person?!


Linda said...

Happy Birthday to the wonderful Fashionista! :)

This was both a joy to read and a feast for the eyes. Lovely.

Elizabeth said...

How lovely to explain the style your daughter loves and to let us "listen in". Like others, I love some elements of Hollywood Regency Style, but don't enjoy other elements as much. I enjoy the neoclassical touches and I have to say, though, the style has made for some fabulous dressing tables!!

Gypsy Heart said...

I think I could easily adjust to living with/in a lot of those rooms. Elegance...and the use of color really makes me happy!

Smart girl ~ and a belated Happy Birthday to her.


Annie said...

Lovely style and I have to say that I enjoyed this post very much. I loved learning about this.
Your daughter had a great idea. Hope her birthday was lovely and happy.

zz said...

Got to tell you that I have been looking for design inspiration for months now, in a quandary about how to renovate my beautiful 1931 castle in the Hollywood Hills that was largely lost in a fire late last year. I have been thinking and thinking, and looking and looking, and this post of yours was BY FAR the most helpful and inspirational material I have found. Cannot thank you enough!

Siren London said...

Thanks so much for sharing, I had the exactly same feeling like your daughter, when I found this style! I've always been obsessed with old movies, so these precious photos are just wonderful reminder of the sets of the forgotten era!

Siren London said...

Thanks so much for sharing these lovely images, the day I realized the style I love is exactly how your daughter feel! It's like finding the one! Happy birthday.

Annie said...

Fantastic Post! Informative, interesting and gorgeous pictures! Thanks for all your hard work and sharing this.

Andrea K said...

Hi Laura! This post is absolutely AMAZING!! I just created a link to it from my blog and credited your hard work. I hope you don’t mind! :) Thank you for the lovely information and images.

Sarah Marchant said...

Hey Laura! This is an excellent, thorough post with a lot of quality information. It's helped me phrase the definition for "Hollywood Regency style" for the furniture terms glossary I am putting together for my company (

Just wanted to let you know that, seeing as this post is a couple years old, there are a few broken image references within it that you might want to update when you get the time.

Again, very nice article!

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I accidently deleted this very nice comment from Lindsey Ford from

I feel like your daughter when she had her discovery! I've always struggled with finding my home "theme". I never matched anything I found under the "normal" themes. All I could describe was a far from Pottery Barn as you can find ;) Finally, my sister saw a Pin that was called "Hollywood Regency" and she told me, this is your style. I love your post!!!! It finally makes me feel at home with my sense of style. Yes, it's ok to have a chandelier in every room, including your laundry room. It's fantastic to want more mirrors, more glitz and glam and more brilliance. I thank you so much for your research and beautiful pictures. I know this IS my style, confirmed by looking at so many pics and not having words to describe how amazing they are!! My friends are often amused at how much shine and glitz I like. A common phrase of mine when I find one of my own, "People like me exist!" Thank you for illustrating that fine, glorious, bold, sophisticated, crystal, gold-loving people like me exist. Cheers to you!