As Sunset Boulevard curves left — with West Hollywood's strip malls segueing into the haute cottages and restaurants of Beverly Hills — the road dips and you pass a hill on the right. On top of this hill sits a hotel with a reputation that puts it squarely at odds with the strip joints and liquor stores just steps away. Even more arresting than its legend, though, is its architecture.
The hotel in question is the Chateau Marmont, a place so sheathed in history and gossip that it's hard to think of it as simply a place to get some shut-eye. But in fact, that brick-and-mortar structure isn't just an idea propped up by Hollywood dreams and celluloid glory. All the lore is important, but it's the design of this castle on a hill that has makes it a true landmark.
To cut away all the romance: In 1926, L.A. attorney Fred Horowitz hired architect Arnold Weitzman to build an apartment building on Sunset, and told him to draw inspiration from the Château d'Amboise in France's Loire Valley. Accordingly, turrets, spires, and towers abound. The resulting castle-like structure was constructed in an L shape, with seven stories allowing for 63 rooms. The entire thing is built of steel and concrete, so it can withstand the earthquakes that have toppled so many Los Angeles landmark. The Gallic look was tempered slightly by the addition of nine Spanish-style cottages and four poolside bungalows.
The hotel's architectural design has proven useful beyond its aesthetic beauty. The thick walls can withstand earthquakes, but they also conceal globe-shaking gossip: the rooms are so protected that any amount of debauchery and partying is unable to spread through the halls. The location also helps: Marmont Lane curves just off Sunset and up a hill, and the small cobblestones walkway provides post-tryst celebrities with an ideal getaway.
The interiors manage to evoke the golden age of Hollywood without fetishizing it or turning it into a nostalgia fest. The public spaces were all re-carpeted and repainted when Andre Balazs bought the Chateau in 1990, but the changes were so subtle that they're hard to notice. Each room strikes a perfect balance between Old and Future Hollywood — the fridge and faucets are all vintage, but there's a USB hookup to play your phone off the stereo.
So, for all the fuss over the aura of the Chateau Marmont — the litany of starlets haunting the hallways on any given night, the tales of leading men having drug overdoses during week-long benders, the ghosts of Greta Garbo and Clark Gable that supposedly linger in the lobby — it's the building itself that deserves the spotlight on the red carpet. And hey, earthquakes: do your worst. The Chateau Marmont is not going anywhere.
Image by Michael Erazo-Kase