In downtown L.A, the historic Los Angeles Athletic Club recently unveiled its reinvigorated Blue Room, designed by Timothy Oulton. This exclusive members-only speakeasy forms part of the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s multi-million dollar renovations, celebrating over 100 years of heritage with a fresh, modern reinvention.
The Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) was the city’s first private club, founded back in 1880. The original Blue Room opened in 1912 and was where the LAAC’s influential Uplifters Club was formed in 1913, counting Walt Disney and Clark Gable amongst its prestigious members.
Having been run by the same family for six generations, the LAAC remains a cultural institution in the city. When they approached Timothy Oulton to recreate the legendary Blue Room it seemed like the perfect pairing. Tim Oulton explains: “Heritage and authenticity are hugely instrumental in everything we do so this was an exciting collaboration, to put our stamp on such an iconic landmark. The idea of hosting, creating inspiring spaces where people can relax together and connect, that’s what our collections are all about, whether it’s in your own home or in a setting like the Blue Room.“
The four week project to transform the fourth floor conference room into a sophisticated lounge and bar was headed up by Timothy Oulton’s team, led by Global Style Directors, Danielle Monti-Morren and Raoul Morren. Work began by taking down the false ceiling to expose the pipework and spraying the ceiling black. The old carpet was lifted up and the concrete underneath was polished to create an edgy, industrial look.
During the LAAC’s renovations, a long-forgotten hidden staircase was unearthed between the third and fourth floor; a clandestine passage used during Prohibition in the 1920s. It was decided to turn this into the main entrance for the Blue Room, celebrating the club’s heritage and adding a sense of humour and playfulness to the project. A trick bookcase in the third floor bar now opens on to the intriguing secret stairwell, where black walls are covered from floor to ceiling with framed photographs chosen from the LAAC’s archives, each one telling a piece of the club’s history.
Up the staircase and into the Blue Room, black walls provide a dramatic yet neutral backdrop for the furnishings. An accent wall of Oxford Blue creates depth and coordinates with the existing shutters that frame the huge windows.
The layout has been designed with several intimate areas; to create a place to hold a meeting or small private dinner, or to relax with friends over a vintage movie. The whole space can also be taken over and used for a private party. Unlike anything else in the LAAC building, the Blue Room has its own unique vibe, it’s a club within a club.
In one candle-lit corner, Timothy Oulton’s signature flair for juxtaposing the classic with the contemporary is brought to life in the hand-softened leather Scholar armchairs and Westminster Union Jack sofa. Industrial elegance pervades the Axel coffee and side tables, handmade from reclaimed boat wood, and Gyro lamps inspired by ancient navigational instruments. An old projector and movie screen are set up to enjoy some black and white classics, perhaps a Charlie Chaplin favourite – one of the LAAC’s most famous residents.
More of the club’s athletic heritage furnishes the walls with a gallery of photographs alongside Match Point, an art work created from vintage wooden tennis rackets. A refined Crystal chandelier hangs in contrast above the rustic oak Boston dining table topped with distressed aluminium, ready to host conversation next to the cocktail and whisky bar, sponsored by renowned Scotch whisky brand The Macallan. Sharing Timothy Oulton’s passion for authentic craftsmanship, The Macallan uses traditional distillery methods at their 300 year old estate in the Highlands, a perfect pairing with LAAC’s rich heritage.
Vintage curiosities appear everywhere, from the violin medley above the huge Drum bookcase to rows of artfully arranged hockey sticks and shin pads. The team scoured the building for memorabilia, from books and art to the trophies that sit proudly on the American Lockers, which act as liquor lockers for The Macallan’s “by the bottle” list, so members can dip into their favourite single malt at leisure. Timothy Oulton’s signature Pillar of Knowledge – a floor to ceiling tower of books – is planted with a dozen books written by original members of the LAAC’s Uplifters Club.
A quiet nook by the window exudes the air of a classic gentlemen’s lounge. Seated around brass Drum side tables, inspired by 19th century British military drums, oversized leather wingchairs offer decadent comfort under the mellow glow of more Crystal chandeliers. A crate of vintage playing cards suggests a long evening ahead, perhaps a few games of blackjack over whisky.
On the design of the Blue Room, Danielle Monti-Morren explains; “Our aesthetic always begins with authenticity. We wanted to preserve the history of the club but marry it with something daring and modern. The room is a hub, a meeting place, a spot for business to happen, but also a place to celebrate.”
The Blue Room opened in June 2015, available exclusively to members.