"S" Marks the Spot
Zeff Design's Social Hollywood restaurant and private club is it
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 7/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
It's not a back-lot film set or a late-night rerun of Casablanca. The current incarnation of Moorish exotica in Los Angeles is Social Hollywood, a restaurant and private club cooked up by impresario Jeffrey Chodorow, local partner Melissa Richardson, and Zeff Design principal Mark Zeff. It's also Chodorow's second collaboration with the designer—the pair launched their branding enterprise with Social Miami and are now working on Stay Social, a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Their L.A. project involved converting the former Hollywood Athletic Club, built in the 1920's. Already social way back then—with Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, and Rudolph Valentino as members—it's now positively scene-stealing. Charlize Theron, Russell Simmons, Nicole Richie, and Taylor Hicks all attended the opening, a benefit for Theron's Africa Outreach Program.
Zeff was in luck when, on his first tour of the two-story, 25,000-square-foot landmark, he discovered photographs of the original interiors. The black-and-white prints revealed a Moroccan-style dining room with a frescoed vaulted ceiling. Why it had been plastered over in the intervening years is anybody's guess.
Enamored of Morocco since his first trip, in 1994, Zeff was due for another. A month after an initial walk-through with Chodorow, designer and client were airborne. "We went for a 10-day insiders' tour of Marrakech, Tangier, and Fez," Zeff recalls. Along the way, he collected. And commissioned. And commissioned some more. Zeff knew he'd have to set Social's tone with furnishings and objects: The building's historic status precluded any structural alterations.
Evidence of Zeff's travels appears nearly everywhere on the first floor, which is open to the public. He starts off with the gleaming black entry—glass mosaic tiles on the floor, matte lacquer on the walls and ceiling. Then he goes for art appreciation, spanning the centuries. From Marrakech, an intricately carved marble chair is 200 years old, an alabaster lioness 350. Continuing the chiaroscuro dialogue, an intensely black Marine Hugonnier photograph faces off against a reception console wrapped in internally lit frosted glass.
Turn left for the restaurant, the HAC's original dining room. In Zeff's updated version—with frescoes restored—guests can opt for partial seclusion, behind woven cedar screens, or choose center stage at two long tables, one made from a century-old Moroccan wooden door. Scattered throughout are silk-tasseled chandeliers and cedar chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The latter once inhabited Tangier's Hotel Continental, a mecca for Europe's smart set in the 1940's and '50's and later a location for Bernardo Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky. (Extra credit for movie buffs: Why does Social's 10,000-square-foot ballroom with mezzanine look familiar? Hint: Think back to the fight scenes in Million Dollar Baby.)
Moroccan pottery old and new fills the vitrines at the entry to the dusky lounge, vaguely Spanish with its original painted ceiling beams and antique mahogany bar. Projected on the etched-glass panels above it, a commissioned film, reminiscent of the silent era, loops through a 90-minute sequence—a digital trip through an enchanted forest. Zeff calls the effect "moving wallpaper." Patrons take it in from bar stools covered in lipstick-red leather.
Two lounges, each a different scenario, lure a members-only crowd of A-listers up the skylit stairwell. A "femme hangout" is Zeff's description of the Velvet Room, named for the chocolate draperies on its walls. Furniture ' is mostly American mid-century. Feeling zanier? Sip a digestivo in the Green Room, with its acid and lime upholstery and wallpaper.
Behind the Green Room's mirrored pocket doors lies a private dining space with spectacular blown-glass grapes as chandeliers. "Are we in one room or two? It's all a little Hitchcockian," Zeff says.
He turned the club's billiards salon into a gaming room. Signature seating by Le Corbusier meets Moroccan vintage rugs, mahogany poker and chess tables, and woven panels of ebonized cedar. The pool table, topped in canary-yellow felt, is an HAC original.
Even the upstairs corridor got the "S" treatment: Read social and special. Zeff manipulated the logo's initial into a graphic pattern and had it rendered in black-and-red wool carpet. It's accompanied by a 1940's image of a woman diving that's been printed on vellum, sandwiched between 8-foot-high glass panels, and installed on each sidewall. So there's plenty to see while being seen.
Project Managers: Mark Zeff, Jorge Porta
Project Team: Christine Walder, Meredith Bacheller
CUSTOM SIGNAGE (EXTERIOR): SIGNAGE SOLUTIONS. TABLETOP, SCREENS (RESTAURANT): THROUGH BOUTIQUE MAJID. CUSTOM CHAIRS: HAANS. DRAPERY FABRIC: CALITEX INTERNATIONAL. TRIM: SAMUEL SONS. CUSTOM TABLETOP (RESTAURANT), CUSTOM DESK (ENTRY), CUSTOM PANELING, COCKTAIL TABLE (GAMING ROOM): MANHATTAN MILLWORK. CUSTOM DRAPERY (RESTAURANT, BALLROOM), CUSTOM OTTOMANS (HALL, VELVET ROOM), CUSTOM DRAPERY, HARDWARE (VELVET ROOM): TOCCO FINALE INTERIOR DESIGN. CUSTOM PENDANT FIXTURES (RESTAURANT, VELVET ROOM, HALL, BALLROOM): ZIA-PRIVEN DESIGN. DESK LAMPS (ENTRY): MSK ILLUMINATIONS. FLOOR, WALL TILE: BISAZZA. CARPET: SDE CARPET TECHNOLOGY. BAR (LOUNGE): THROUGH DEMOLITION DEPOT IRREPLACEABLE ARTIFACTS. POTTERY: ART NAJI. CUSTOM PROJECTION PANELS: GALAXY. STOOLS (LOUNGE), LOVE SEATS (GAMING ROOM): NUOVO MELODROM. CUSTOM CARPET (HALL, VELVET ROOM): ULSTER CARPETS. CUSTOM SOFA (GREEN ROOM): WOOD, SPRING DOWN. WALLPAPER: TIMOROUS BEASTIES. PENDANT FIXTURES (PRIVATE DINING): LIBERTY. CHAIRS: ARTISTIC FRAME CO. SCONCES (VELVET ROOM): URBAN ARCHAEOLOGY. BACK-TO-BACK SOFAS: CRATE AND BARREL. CHAIRS, TABLES: THROUGH HORSEMAN ANTIQUES. GAME TABLE, RUGS (GAMING ROOM): THROUGH LA PORTE DOR. MILLWORK: MUELLER CUSTOM CABINETRY. METALWORK: FARMINGTON DISPLAYS. STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: ERKEL, GREENFIELD AND ASSOCIATES. MEP: JT ENGINEERING. ARCHITECT OF RECORD: ARCHEON GROUP. GENERAL CONTRACTOR: BRACKETT CONSTRUCTION.