A Legacy of Style
"Gracious to a fault" is how Karen Hudson describes her grandfather, celebrated architect Paul Williams. From the 1920s through the 1970s, he left his mark on Los Angeles with refined interpretations of historic styles: Georgian, East Coast colonial-revival, Spanish colonial-revival, English Tudor. In Williams' hands these homes were classic with a modernist bent, and geared toward California's outdoor lifestyle.
His sense of elegance went beyond blueprints and buildings. In a way, grace, manners and style were Williams' weapons against adversity and indignities -- along with his brains of course. As an African-American orphan raised in foster care in the early 20th century, his desire to become an architect was met with resistance. He persevered though, ultimately landing clients such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and E.L. Cord.
Williams was the first African-American member and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Images one through three, from the top, show the Jay Paley residence. Pictures five through seven show the iconic E.L. Cord house -- Williams stands at the entry.
In the 1940s Williams was hired to revamp and expand The Beverly Hills Hotel. Shown above is the hotel's Fountain Coffee Shop with the architect's signature curves and decorator Don Loper's banana leaf wallpaper.
During the 1930s Saks Fifth Avenue wanted a residential or women's club feel for its Beverly Hills store, so Williams was brought in. Note again his signature use of curves and classical nods.
Numerous other prestigious and interesting projects, along with his life story, are highlighted in Hudson's Paul R. Williams, Architect: A Legacy of Style. And all of the images shown here are from her book.