Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


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.


Pigtown*Design said...

I've never heard of him... thanks for the introduction. I learn so much from you and my fellow bloggers.

Style Court said...

He's a fascinating man. Could be an inspiration to some of the youth at Woodbourne too.

Red River Interiors,LLC said...

I absolutely love a Paul Williams home....Love the grandness of his work and how it has stood with time.
Great post, we should hear more about him and his accomplishments...Thanks n Fay

Style Court said...


I so agree about his timeless style and would love to live in one of the smaller Williams homes! Thanks for visiting.


pve design said...

Personally, I have a penchant for "Paul" since my father is a "Paul" - gracious, kind, giving and always a source of inspiration. One of my favorites!
Work that stands the test of time!

Style Court said...

sounds like everyone agrees his work holds up over time.

Anonymous said...

Twenty years ago, I went to an estate sale in Peoria, Illinois & stumbled across a pile of 50-year-old publicity photographs & family snapshots of the interiors of an incredible Regency/ Art Deco house. I had no clue where the house was or who the architect was, I just knew the place was a knockout, so I bought them all.

A few years later, I was looking at one of Architectural Digest's Old Hollywood issues, and I recognized the same striped wallpaper & console tables as those in one of my estate sale photos. It turned out it was the circular foyer of the house Paul Williams had designed for the radio actor Charles Correll, and the photos were in Peoria because that's where Correll was born & where his brother had lived till the time of his death. After the brother died, the remaining family sold everything sight unseen, and I ended up with the photos. At the time I thought it was sad that none of the family bothered to show up, but everything happens for a reason.

A few years after that, I saw an article in the New Yorker that said Paul Williams' granddaughter was writing a book about him & his work, so I sent her the photos. It was too late for them to make it into her book, but at least they ended up in the right place, especially since many of her own photos of her grandfather's work had been lost during the Los Angeles riots fifteen years ago.

Style Court said...


what a great story. fascinating. thanks so much for sharing!


Anonymous said...

And the photographer of the amazing swimming pool and the Beverly Hills hotel is Tim Street-Porter

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of him either. Thanks for this entry.

Alkemie said...

What a gorgeous Gorgeous pool, the tiling is WOW! I also enjoyed seeing all of the black and white photos of the interiors.

bleutatoo said...

This man's work is amazing. My sister and her husband meticulously finished restoring their Paul Williams home, pool, cabanas and pool house. The even honored his plans for landscaping.

Details in the architecture are amazing.