surf air approved
Hotel Bel Air
Originally opening in 1946, Hotel Bel Air occupies 12 acres of land high up in the Bel Air hills. It was (and is) known for its prestigious guests—celebrities, dignitaries, heads of state—as well as its private grounds and glamorous amenities. Fast forward to 2008, after changing ownership a handful of times, when the hotel was acquired by the Dorchester Collection. (Their portfolio includes gems like the Plaza Athénée in Paris and 45 Park Lane in London.) The group decided Hotel Bel Air needed a dusting off, and employed designer Alexandra Champalimaud and architect David Rockwell to spend two years bringing the famed space up-to-date—without stripping its Old Hollywood charm.
Champalimaud did just that, paying homage to the space’s storied past while giving the rooms, lobby, and spa a modern upgrade. A mix of elegance (upholstered sofas, handcrafted Soane chairs) and playfulness (lamps and sconces by Jean de Merry) grace the interior. The grounds’ lush gardens served as her inspiration for a color palette.
Rockwell updated the main dining room and outdoor terrace—guests dine in private cabanas surrounded by the glow of a backlit onyx wall. He eliminated the columns in the Oak Bar (now simply called The Bar) giving it an open, airier feel. However, the hotel’s signature pink stucco exterior remains. Don’t mess with a good thing.
These days, guests enjoy alfresco dining on the terrace of Wolfgang Puck’s on-sight restaurant. The Market Fresh Tasting Menu and wine pairing is a notable favorite. Whether staying the night or visiting for the day, The Lounge Bar is also a must-see. The walls are decked with Norman Seeff photos of celebrated personalities like Ray Charles, Cher, and Tina Turner. Leather sofas face a grand piano, and the bar serves up delicious drinks and food, as well as live entertainment, nightly.