Paul R. Williams, the quintessential Los Angeles Architect, designed some of the cities most iconic buildings including The Beverly Hills Hotel, Chasens and Perinos Restaurants, The Beverly Hills Sax Fifth Avenue Building, The Los Angeles County Court House, and The Shrine Auditorium, where for many years, was the home to both The Grammy’s and The Academy Awards. Incredibly enough, these designs however, were not what put Paul Williams on the international stage: It was his celebrity clientele and the gracious homes he designed for entertaining.
Paul Williams developed a luminary roster of clients from Hollywood’s elite including Frank Sinatra, Lucile Ball, Desi Arnaz, Tyrone Power, Barbara Stanwyck, Julie London and Danny Thomas to name just few. Along with designing Thomas’ home, Williams went on to design St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Williams designed the hospital for free as a way to give back and help his friend Danny, who famously founded St. Jude’s.
Hearing the story of her grandfather’s volunteered services for the hospital sparked an interest in Williams’ granddaughter, Karen E. Hudson, to find more about her talented grandfather, which resulted in her first book on the famous architect “The Will And The Way”. Hudson went on to write a second book “Paul R. Williams, Architect, A Legacy Of Style” which used only archival photographs from Mr. Williams’ personal collection.
Now the official authority on all things Paul R. Williams, Hudson has done it again with her latest book: Paul R. Williams Classic Hollywood Style. The book, published by Rizzoli, with a forward by noted interior designer, Kelly Wearstler, is bound to be an instant classic on Williams’ architecture and that of Los Angeles.
The swoon-worthy coffee table book is filled with full page colored photographs of twenty-one of Williams’ homes; this is a challenging task considering Williams designed over 3,000 properties! Hudson wanted the reader to feel like they had spent an afternoon or gone to dinner in the homes so the photography and photographer were paramount to the project. The harmonious collaboration between Hudson and photographer, Benny Chan, is evident in the pictures.
On deciding how to present each house, Hudson asked all of the homeowners what their favorite room in the house was to entertain. The reason is that Paul R. Williams designs were all about gracious living and the entertaining that went along with that.
Although Paul Williams’ hey-day was the 1930’s and 40’s, he designed from the 1920’s to the early ‘70’s bringing with him something new for each time period. Hudson wanted Classic Hollywood Style to be representative of all the decades Williams worked. And while Williams is most often associated with Traditional homes, his prolific talents allowed him to span over many styles such as Spanish Mediterranean, Georgian, Tudor, Colonial, Hollywood Regency and postwar modernism. Tell-tale signs of a Williams’ design are elegantly curved staircases, wall panels with hidden compartments and grand open spaces, all with impeccable attention to detail.
Williams left an extraordinary legacy of work especially considering he was designing homes in neighborhoods he was not, at the time, allowed to even spend the night in because he was African-American. Williams would go on to perfect the art of drawing up-side-down sitting across the table from his clients so he wouldn’t have to lean over them while sketching their dream home. The always impeccably dressed legend would continually work in his community to fight racism.
When setting out to do another book on her grandfather, Hudson knew she didn’t want it to be like any other book on the market. When asked about her reasoning behind the approach she responded “He was like no other person so the book about him couldn’t be either!” Fame and the players who grease the machinery of transient Hollywood are ever fleeting. But in a town that is always looking for the next big thing, Paul Williams secures us to our past, as always, elegantly.