Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The British designer Tara Bernerd spent her childhood mesmerized by the connections of art, design, and architecture. An early interest that developed into a passion, design led her from working with other designers like Phillippe Stark to founding her own design firm in 2003.
Today, her practice Tara Bernerd & Partners executes an array of global projects, from hotels and restaurants to private residents, in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Osaka, Vienna, Munich, and Hong Kong. Each space hosts unique design choices reminiscent of its local surroundings while providing a warm, authentic ambiance for connection. With an industrial edge, and an emphasis on varying materials, rich colors, and juxtaposing masculine and feminine pieces, all projects evoke a sense of ease.
Most recently, Tara Bernerd & Partners put its touch on the Thompson Hollywood hotel in Los Angeles. The West Coast Modernism design movement, Hollywood glamour, and a desire for contemporary ease influenced several key choices, leading Bernerd to creating a home-away-from-home hotel for visitors and locals alike. The 11-story hotel, with a rooftop pool and terrace, first welcomes guests to an elegant, laid-back lobby and a sophisticated split-level lobby. Upstairs, each of its 190 guest rooms and suites are dotted with modern touches, as well as approachable art and design pieces to remember.
And at the top is the hotel's swanky rooftop bar and lounge, Bar Lis, which shines with Côte d'Azur flair and design inspired by Hollywood icons from the 1960s. Sebastian Puga, the Vice President of Brand Development at Ten Five Hospitality, helped guide its concept to fruition with vintage and retro imagery, prints, plants, a grand piano, a DJ booth, and more dotted throughout the space. Here, guests can enjoy both indoor and outdoor spaces, bask in live Jazz on Tuesday nights, dance to DJs on the weekends, and enjoy sumptuous bites by Chef Lincoln Carson in alcove booth seating with friends.
Whitewall spoke with Bernerd and Puga about approaching the Thompson Hollywood with consideration for people and place, how its design cues stretch from the 1920s to today, and how they're personally enjoying the property.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about your background in design?
TARA BERNERD: Growing up design was always around me. My earliest memories was a fascination with not only art and design but also architecture. From there, this developed into a passion: where interiors met architecture. Looking back, a pivotal moment for me was a 4000-square-foot loft that I had built and designed. It went on to win awards and was certainly a catalyst to going on to work and spent time with Phillippe Stark at YOO, and ultimately setting up Tara Bernerd & Partners.
WW: How did you approach designing Thompson Hollywood?
TB: As with all Tara Bernerd & Partners projects, geographical location plays an integral part in all our designs. We take inspiration from the landscape or cityscape of the location for our palettes. By drawing upon the local culture, the history, the climate, and the atmosphere of a place, we seek to embrace the character and identity of the place it is set. For Thompson Hollywood in particular, we were inspired by the local vernacular of the West Coast Modern design movement, which totally spoke to the architecture of the building.
We wanted Thompson Hollywood to be a home-away-from-home for guests, not only for those design-conscious travelers but also the place to be for the local community as well.
WW: What design details were necessary for you to include to evoke a sense of Hollywood glamour, contemporary ease, and West Coast Modernism?
TB: With our love of industrial finishes, Terrazzo is something of a design theme that has been used in various forms throughout the hotel. It has long been associated with modernist design, but we have sought to give it a contemporary twist.
On the first floor, the entrance lobby and reception have been designed to give an immediate sense of arrival. The terrazzo floor is inlaid with a large graphic pattern in antique brass, not dissimilar to a Bauhaus design, which contrasts beautifully with the more refined walnut toned walls, pared with the rich tobacco-toned leather, fresh linens, woven textiles, and petrol-blue velvets to give the space a true sense of laid-back luxury.
Planting has been used extensively throughout the property, to enhance a sense of calm and promote well-being, creating an oasis in the heart of Hollywood. The lobby lounge bar has a split-level mezzanine floor, which has been finished in a contrasting travertine. Playing to the symmetry of the room, the bar sits centrally and is flanked by L-shaped sofas, set into this mezzanine level.
WW: Where are some of your favorite places, movements, or eras or to tap into for design inspiration?
TB: Pierre Chareau and his work in the ‘20s of Maison de Vere was then, and remains still, a timeless achievement. Today my influences come from architecture, film and indeed sometimes fashion, the early palettes of Yves St Laurent, the Bauhaus movement and mid-century furniture design, are all constant sources of inspiration, as well as an intrigue for design out of Scandinavia and Brazil.
WW: Do you have a favorite space?
TB: The lounge lobby has to be my favourite spot. It is the heart of the hotel and brings all the design themes together, which influenced the look and feel of the entire hotel.
WW: How did the pandemic, and isolating in London, impact your idea of the importance of design?
TB: Good design enriches our lives in so many ways. With so many of us isolated in one place, this really did emphasize how much this can influence our sense of well-being. The pandemic also highlighted people’s resilience and I cannot thank my team enough for how they rose to, and met, the challenges of the past eighteen months.
WW: How would you describe what a Tara Bernerd & Partners-designed space feels like?
TB: The principles of design that we apply to each of our projects give them their own unique sense of style and appropriateness to the location they are set. This is the common thread that runs throughout our work and leads them to feel like a Tara Bernerd & Partners-designed space.
WW: Where do you feel the future of design is?
TB: Not only will design be more typical of the vernacular of the place in which it is set, there will be an even stronger movement to ensuring that the products used are locally sourced and appropriate to their environment. Whatever the design trends of the future, a welcoming team and excellent service will never go out of style.
WW: Sebastian, let's talk about Bar Lis. What was your initial idea for the space?
SEBASTIAN PUGA: In creating Bar Lis, we were inspired by the effortless glamour of Côte d'Azur in the 1960s, where Hollywood icons vacationed and socialized over summer spritzes in the sun. We birthed the idea of Bar Lis to create a timeless and unique experience in Los Angeles for our guests to be transported from Hollywood to the South of France and to experience the ultimate escape, with eclectic DJ sounds and a world-class jazz night every Tuesday. We wanted to create a place that feels sophisticated, where young Hollywood would mingle with a couple in their 70s staying in the hotel, all in one living room.
I have always been inspired by the glory days that Slim Aarons captured in the '50s and '60s in the French Riviera. He captured the epitome of elegance and laissez-faire, and his photos evoked the feel of a bygone era. When we were designing the space, we licensed his images and started to create the theme for Bar Lis to create a venue that reflects the same effortless joy de vivre.
WW: What do you feel is the importance of cultural programming in a hotel?
SP: Hotels have always had a gravitational pull as the cultural center in major cities ever since the Ritz in Paris in 1900. Whether in fashion, art, music, theater, design, media, or nightlife the hotel bar has always been the intersection where all cultures meet. To me, the way in which a hotel is culturally programmed is a reflection of the guests it wishes to attract.
WW: What key design details do you feel evoke the South of France?
SP: Upon arrival to Bar Lis’ rooftop, guests are greeted by a ten-foot antique water fountain overflowing with flowers, inspired by the South of France’s abundance of private residences and hillside chateaus. Blush striped settees and blue striped walls are reminiscent of the coast’s quintessential beach parasols, whilst the spinning disco ball adds a touch of Cannes glamour. Gallery-style retro photography captures the chic boheme of the Rivera & playground for so many stars which St. Tropez was during this era, where the likes of Bridget Bardot, Jane Birkin, and Grace Kelly can be spotted.
WW: How do you enjoy your time at Bar Lis?
SP: With good friends, sipping on a Summer Spritz, and enjoying snacks by Chef Lincoln Carson.