LONG BEFORE BEVERLY HILLS became known by that name, the area some 15km to the west of Los Angeles was a magnet for oil speculators and a lush home for Native Americans, who considered it a sacred place. But in 1914, several years after a group of entrepreneurs began landscaping work – and two years after the opening of The Beverly Hills Hotel – the community officially came into being.
This year marks the centennial anniversary of a piece of real estate that's synonymous with an enchanted, unencumbered lifestyle. Indeed, think Beverly Hills, and it's hard not to envision sleek cars, ritzy hotels, sophisticated shopping and some of the priciest properties in the world. It's no surprise then, that when officials were seeking out a fitting way to see in the city's 101st year, they went back to its storied, gilded past.
The result: five of Beverly Hills' most glamorous hotels have each given over a suite to be completely remade in the style of a particular decade, complete with rich details (Marilyn Monroe's favourite perfume; a vintage typewriter) that are intended to transport guests into another era.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills, Montage Beverly Hills, The Beverly Hills Hotel, L'Ermitage Beverly Hills and The Beverly Hilton are part of the programme, between them encapsulating the look and feel of the 1940s through to the present day, and covering aesthetics that range from film noir to the birth of contemporary luxury – with the decade chosen to match the style of the hotel. The suites were launched in early March, and are available for booking until the end of this year.
The initiative, called Suite 100, was conceived by the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau, which enlisted the expertise of interior designer Susan Manrao, known for her deftness in branding and creating “experiences” for hotel clients that include the W Istanbul and The Bentley London. It had to be more than filling a suite with vintage furniture, says Manrao: guests would need to feel as if they were having a completely immersive experience. “It should be like a time machine. Not too thematic, but cool and unique and interesting.”
Visitors with a fascination for film noir might like a night or two at the Montage, whose themed suite is filled with Lalique crystal and works of art from the 1940s, as well as a phonograph, records and a typewriter from that era. Art deco furniture with gold and silver leaf and mirrored finishes lend sparkle. And there are features that should be incorporated into every home, such as a “press for champagne” button and, in the bathroom, a scent bar featuring vintage perfume bottles containing a range of prestigious fragrances.
Those with an affinity for the 1950s might prefer The Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows, where Marilyn Monroe used to stay. Guests in its themed suite are picked up from the airport in a vintage car and given a bottle of Chanel Nº 5; they can also sample Monroe's favourite room-service items while lounging among the shag carpets, tropical prints and furnishings in shades of green and blue.
Tom Ford Design was brought in to revamp a room at The Beverly Hilton to reflect the 1960s, with lashings of Hollywood-Regency style – bold colours, and a mix of antique and modern furnishings - and a collection of period Barbie dolls to add the cheeky fun that the decade is known for. Andy Warhol is the inspiration at L'Ermitage, where walls are lined with foil, couches are covered with Ultrasuede, the “do not disturb” sign is rendered in the artist's style and Interview magazine covers serve as the powder-room wallpaper.
At The Peninsula, a stay in Suite 100 is designed to evoke the hype and glamour of the Hollywood awards season. Guests have the use of a private pool cabana for the day, with lunch, a body scrub and spray tan, and they're driven around the area in style. For an extra special treat, the hotel offers a Red Carpet Glamour experience, in which the guest is primped, preened and outfitted as if heading out to the Oscars, and is then treated to a photo shoot on the hotel's red carpet.
“We wanted to tell a story of how each decade could play off for each room,” says Manrao, “and what could be transformative and create immersive experiences – where just stepping into your room is different from your day to day life.”
For visitors to Beverly Hills, the Suite 100 concept adds another layer of fun to what's shaping up to be a buoyant year for a visit to Los Angeles.
Art enthusiasts can take in the Arts of Palm event that runs throughout the year, in which various spots in Beverly Hills are given over to artistic interpretations of the palm tree – symbolic of the area – rendered in sculptures and paintings, glass, wood and metal.
The historic Beverly Gardens Park reopens after renovations, and is the venue for this month‘s Beverly Hills artSHOW. As well as featuring the works of 240 artists, the event also marks the unveiling of an exhibition of Beverly Hills landmarks by photographer Zale Richard Rubins. Also in May, the chic Greystone Mansion Concours d'Elegance classic car show takes place, followed a month later by a similar event on Rodeo Drive.
And speaking of the iconic shopping street, by the end of 2014, every single storefront will be occupied, meaning that Beverly Hills will be ending its centennial with as much promise as when it all began.