Dayna Lee of Powerstrip brings cinematic savoir faire to the W Westwood in Los Angeles.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
THE W WESTWOOD looks like a paragon of today's hip boutique hotels. The basic elements are all there: the open floor plan, the lounge as adult playground, the full-view bar, the assortment of unique furniture pieces. Yet this interpretation, the fifth in W's current chain of 13, is delightfully fresh, both in design approach and attitude. A palpable sense of warmth, rather than aloofness or arrogance, sets the tone. Credit the attitude adjustment at the Westwood W to Starwood, which manages the property and co-owns it with Raleigh Studios, and to its designer Dayna Lee. "Everyone's invited to the party," she says. "I don't like elite environments."
Lee comes to design from the television and film industry, which has had an undeniable effect on her novel approach to interiors. A production designer and set decorator for movies and television commercials, Lee had her own ideas about how people look, move, feel, and interact within a space. She employed cinematic magic to enthrall the guests. "Experience with camera angles and how to move an actor translates into how to move a guest through a hotel," she explains.
Starwood, Lee, and Jon Brouse, the architect of record, inherited the 16-floor Westwood Marquis, a '60s-era hotel rife with time-warp elements. The lobby level had been carved into a labyrinth of rooms and the original décor was heavy on elaborate lattices, expanses of pink marble in brass framework, and faux French antiques.
The property did have redeeming features. Its all-suite status, in keeping with Starwood's Los Angles vision, meant minimal renovation to achieve the 258-room key count. The building's architecture was also quite appealing. With cast-concrete members reminiscent of the Arizona Biltmore, the hotel had strong imagery with which to work. There were also serendipitous finds during demolition: having stripped the marble cladding, Lee was thrilled to discover the same cast concrete interior walls on the entry level.
The hotel's public spaces have a quality of seamless continuity. "I see the lobby as a living room where one could have coffee, meals, or just read," Lee remarks. Transitions between the lounge, the nuevo latino restaurant Mojo, and the bar are marked only by flooring changes (from ebonized oak to concrete) and the strategic placement of furnishings. "I wanted to work against the hermetically sealed nature of most hotels."
The décor incorporates both custom and production pieces. Sleek banquettes and benches, glamorously upholstered in chartreuse embossed-ostrich covers, are seductively low-slung. They create an atmosphere conducive to prolonged lounging and informality. Lee's background in film remains key to the overall effect: she designed seating that would not only be comfortable, but which also promotes the most flattering posture for the guest. "Look at Faye Dunaway," Lee exclaims. "Whenever she's photographed she has to sit a certain way to show off her bone structure." Lee's case pieces and game tables display both an appreciation for luxury and an affinity for clean, modern lines. Her cast-concrete bar and reception desk, on the other hand, remain sensitive to the existing architecture. Lee worked with W's design team, led by Theresa Fatino, to develop guest room standards, which in turn could become part of the hotel group's branding initiative.
"Before coming to L.A., I had read journals showing wonderful glass-and-concrete houses with big indoor/outdoor living spaces," relates Lee. "But when I got here, where were they? Unless you're personally invited, you don't get to see these places." The W was partly inspired by images of this nostalgic southern California lifestyle. "It fulfills a fantasy," Lee adds. "And here I got to be the director."