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Inspiration: The Modern Bel
How to re-envision a beloved but dated historical property, keep all that’s delightful and iconic, yet take it boldly into the 21st century? That was the challenge faced by the spa design experts at Champalimaud, a New York City-based interior design and interior-planning firm that specializes in revitalizing luxurious hotels, restaurants and spas around the globe, when asked to create the Hotel Bel-Air Spa by La Prairie in Los Angeles. Set in a new building erected on a former hotel parking lot, the spa needed to be “respectful of the Bel-Air’s history but not burdened by it,” says principle designer Jon Kastl.
Previously the hotel (which Champalimaud also renovated) had been kitted out like a French Country manor surrounded by lush, legendary gardens and sheathed in a candy-ish Bel-Air pink (a detail to work around). The 7,000-square-foot spa space had to wrestle with that legacy as well as accommodate all the rooms and areas required for a full spa program.
Yet the space had to be adaptable to intimate gatherings, bridal and professional-event based. Flowers, always prominent in the Bel-Air’s motifs, meant that garden blooms had to be a major design theme—but chintz was definitely out. How to make floral feel modern, not fussy? The solution came in unexpected color palettes, cooperation with cutting-edge artisans, layering surprising details and redefining luxury as high-art details, sensual textures, and an appreciation for history and modernity, space and serenity.
While the property’s former spa was big on heavy swag, with draperies on all the windows, “That’s not indicative of what luxury is today,” says the designer, whose six-person team lived for months at the hotel to complete their work. “We wanted luxury to be less fussy, with cleaner details and quality materials, and to help create special moments.”
As with all storied hotels, “This one has a past that you want to be respectful of, but you also want to look forward,” Kastl explains. “We tried to create a spa that worked with the rest of the property but that also offered something different; we wanted a space that was living in a contemporary world. It was a fine line to walk.”
Above: THE ENCLAVE The stunning couples room, which features two treatment beds, an in-room tub, hand-embroidered wall covering, a vaulted ceiling and a private garden, is not only for lovers; it is also perfect for bridal parties. The room is flexible: All furniture can be wheeled out. A bride and her bridesmaids can have their nails done in this room, and sup on catered food and champagne in the private garden. The black stone fountain on the patio contrasts in tone with the Bel-Air Pink garden walls, communicating a graphic, contemporary message.