The Crown Jewel of Venice Shines Again
Nestled against the Pacific Ocean in greater Los Angeles, the spirit of California is alive and well in vibrant Venice Beach. Sunny skies and sandy beaches are a welcome respite from the glitz and glam of LA. But above and beyond the warm air and pleasant views, there’s no shortage of sophistication.
Venice Beach—or just “Venice” if you’re a local—sports a historic network of narrow canals, charming homes, bustling plazas, and even a lagoon like its Italian counterpart. Venice marches to the beat of its own drum, and its ever-steady percussion is reflected in spades at the Venice V Hotel.
From Hollywood stars and Hell’s Angels to the pioneers of skateboarding and bodybuilding, the Venice V Hotel has seen it all. Learn more about this beachside retreat’s blockbuster-worthy story and the crew of contractors that are giving it a second act.
A Star Is Born and Reborn
In 1905, developer Abbott Kinney wanted to create a whole-new neighborhood unlike anything else on the West Coast. The final product was the “Venice of America,”—now known as the Venice Canal Historic District—which featured the now-famous canals, plazas, and homes that became the American iteration of Venice, Italy.
A decade later, on May 8, 1915, the Waldorf hotel—now the Venice V Hotel—officially opened. Guests were greeted by the doorman and later entertained by the La Monica Ballroom band on the rooftop garden. The fanfare and celebration were only topped by the five-story, 52-room hotel itself, dubbed by the Venice Evening Vanguard as “one of the handsomest on Santa Monica Bay.”
The building was built using brick, stone, and concrete and was packed with modern features for the time. Gas lighting, fancy chandeliers, steam heat, electricity, day and nighttime elevator service (one of the oldest in the country), and a telephone in every room. Every room had an ocean view, and to this day, you’re only a few steps from the sand, the surf, and the Ocean Front Walk.
The Venice V Hotel was an undisputed star during the early 20th Century. But by 1964, the magic had run out, and the once proud Venice V Hotel was condemned. It may have stayed that way if it wasn’t for George Lenny.
Instead of tearing the hotel down and starting new, Lenny decided to remodel it. His goal was, in many ways, like Kinney’s: turn the Venice V Hotel into “the jewel of Ocean Front Walk.” After two decades of work, the hotel was finally completed and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
As the hotel rounded the corner into the second decade of the 21st century, it was time again for another refresh. And not just any refresh, but one that would bring more than 100 years of history (both the hotel and Venice Beach) into a single cohesive design.
Tin Tile, Exposed Beams, and a New Vintage Feel
Partnering with Tima Bell of Los Angeles architectural studio, Relativity Architects, developer Carl Lambert of Venice’s Lambert Investments, Inc. embarked on a vision to “reclaim the vintage feel” of the Venice V Hotel. New amenities and décor were installed around the hotel, blending 21st-century necessities with the staples of the last century.
A large part of the project was centered around the lobby area, which meant working around riveted, steel I beams—rivets stopped being used over 100 years ago. Lambert’s solution was to expose the beams and bring in a secret ingredient: tin tiles by American Tin Ceilings.
“I specifically chose the American Tin Ceilings design and palette to take the building back to its original glory and celebrate its colorful history,” Lambert explained.
Opting for Pattern 2 in an Artisan Silver Washed White, the tin ceiling tiles were used to balance the vintage hex tile flooring and the nine-foot-tall mahogany wainscotting near the entrance. The finished product is the perfect juxtaposition, impressing both Lambert and the guests of the hotel.
“The tin pattern and distressed finish marvelously capture the spirit,” he said. “Many guests think that the tin ceiling is original.”
In addition to the tin tile on the lobby ceiling, Lambert added a few extra décor pieces that harnessed the spirit of Venice. Marine brass was used for a “V” pattern embedded in the flooring and the check-in desk. Immediately behind the check-in desk is a 12x12 mural of Abbot Kinney made from 3,400 multicolored skateboard wheels, paying homage to both the mastermind behind Venice and the creators of skateboard culture.
The same American Tin Ceilings tiles were used by Lambert while refurbishing the hotel’s hallways. Compared to the lobby, practicality, safety, and adherence to building codes played a larger role in this area of the hotel. Air conditioning, internet cabling, plumbing, and electrical wiring were unique obstacles that Lambert had to overcome.
For the AC, wiring, and plumbing, Lambert hid them away with 2x2 tin tiles in pairs of two, leaving a six-inch space on either side. Flanking the sides, he chose LED rope lights to illuminate the edges of the tile, creating a floating effect.
Another obstacle was hiding a special radio transmitter—used by emergency personnel in the event of an emergency—in the ceiling without interrupting the design. To conquer this challenge, Lambert cast 20 of the tin tiles in a non-ferrous material and sprayed them with paint. It blended perfectly.
Over 100 years after it originally opened, the Venice V Hotel has reclaimed its title. The Crown Jewel of Venice shines again, ready for another century in the epicenter of culture.
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