Some hotels must be fixed up in order to maintain relevancy. Others stay relevant in spite of the fix-up. Beverly Hills Hotel, which first opened in 1912, two years before Beverly Hills the city was incorporated, falls into the latter category. Entering the homestretch of superstar designer Adam D. Tihany’s three-year-long restoration—powers that be eschew the term renovation—the main order of business is subtle enhancement. I think about this as I come across the BHH’s sweet Fountain Coffee Room, a cozy grill perfectly time-capsuled from the 1940s, back when it first opened and Gregory Peck might have munched cheeseburgers at the curvy, shiny dining counter. Ordering a burger of my own, I decide that the tidy spot could only be hurt by modern contrivances. Same for the legendary Polo Lounge. My first time there was for an interview with skin-and-bones Lara Flynn Boyle. She gobbled a plate of steak tartare and I felt smitten.
On a more recent visit, the power-breakfast Mecca retains its presence—despite a chattered-about spruce up. The green-and-white striped ceiling remains very much there, as does a collection of Golden Age black-and-white photos and tables occupied by serious men perusing that morning’s Variety. Traditions die hard in a room where it took no less a light than Marlene Dietrich to convince management to relax the dress-code for ladies and the Cobb-esque Neil McCarthy salad, named for a once legendary polo-playing millionaire, still rides the lunch menu.
Though the 204 rooms and suites will soon be streamlined, redesigned and improved upon, much of the hotel, with its signature banana-leaf-patterned wallpaper and stretches of peachy pink stucco, will remain intact but repolished. The goal is to modernize and improve while retaining historical resonance. The pool’s cabanas may be gussied up, but it’s still the place where the Beatles dove in for midnight swims. Beverly Hills Hotel will always be where Elizabeth Taylor had six of her eight honeymoons and reclusive Howard Hughes rented multiple bungalows to keep stalkers guessing. Good news for the rest of us: We need just one of the butler-attended abodes to feel like a billion dollars worth of Hollywood royalty—while smoking a cigar by its private pool.
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