Indulge Your Inner Star With These Luxurious Styles

If you watched the Academy Awards broadcast this weekend, you may have been struck by the way in which the room and set, designed by David Rockwell, strongly evoked Hollywood’s Golden Age. In that gently sumptuous room, it would have not seemed unnatural to see Jimmy Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, or Harold Lloyd seated in the dinner-club-inspired booths with Brad Pitt, Zendaya, and Chloé Zhao. 

The stage and audience of the 93rd Academy Awards, designed by David Rockwell and built in Union Station in Los Angeles due to covid safety protocols. By relying primarily on blue, bronze, and black, Rockwell evoked the Modern Glam design style.

Designed by David Rockwell, the main room at the 93rd Academy Awards was inspired by the
dinner clubs at which Golden Age Hollywood stars and starlets gathered after-hours.

However, the design style Rockwell used in constructing the mainstage and audience in LA’s Union Station was not Hollywood Regency, which was the style that arose and came to prominence during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Like so many cinematic depictions of history, the room had to be designed to align with the public’s idea of what the past looked like, rather than what it truly did. The design style that better defines the aesthetic choices made by Rockwell is, really, a contemporary evolution of Hollywood Regency called Modern Glam.

Contardi Arcipelago pendant lights in a range of colours hang over an equally-multicolour selection of Arcipelago table lamps on a sixties-inspired set.
Revolve from Bert Frank in white illuminates a credenza.

Left: Contardi’s Arcipelago family of lights is a lavish example of Hollywood Regency style, with its boldly-coloured fringe and polished brass accents. Right: Revolve table lamp from Bert Frank makes a divine addition to Modern Glam design schemes.

Inspired by this restrained yet luxurious Oscar broadcast, we’ve decided to take a look at the Modern Glam and Hollywood Regency design styles, what they are, how they’re different, and how you can use lighting inspired by these styles to give your home the star power you deserve.

Glitz, Glamour, and Hollywood Regency

Arthur Suspension Oval chandelier illuminates an office that combines metallic accents and Victorian furniture painted uniform black to create a Modern Glam effect.

Hollywood Regency style and design was marked by bold and unreserved opulence,
such as that found in the Arthur collection from Brand van Egmond

Hollywood was founded by small-time entrepreneurs, mostly from New York and Chicago, who sought to escape the legal and literal sabotage of Thomas Edison as he attempted to establish a monopoly in filmmaking. Almost every one of those entrepreneurs came from a background of poverty–much like most American entrepreneurs of the time. As a result, the films they made tended to valorize poverty, whether as a sign of virtue itself or as a source of moral grounding when hero characters became wealthy. Without thinking about it, or even realizing it, Hollywood used the most effective propaganda tool in history (to that point, anway) to change discourse around wealth, what it signified, and the value of how one gained it.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance in a Hollywood version of a Venetian terrace in their 1935 film, Top Hat.

Fred Astaire’s characters often served as aspirational fantasies for the Depression-era public. Despite poor
backgrounds, they often found themselves among high society and rich contemporary decor, such as this set’s
blend of Art Deco and Venetian styles, through which he dances with Ginger Rogers in 1935’s
Top Hat.

Movie millionaires, especially as protagonists, were fun, vibrant, and modern. They were dynamic captains of industry instead of uptight inheritors of wealth (although these figures made fine objects of ridicule for the Marx Brothers, among others). Moreover, thanks to frugality in early set departments, they tended to decorate eclectically. Set pieces and decor from historical epics about Rome, Egypt, and the Far East might find their way into a modern living room–mirroring the taste among wealthy Americans for such reproductions–but used alongside new and contemporary styles such as Art Deco.

A cabinet is illuminated by Bert Frank's Glaive table light.
Bert Frank's Rote wall sconce illuminates a textured wall.

Thanks to their Art Deco influences, the Glaive (left) and Rote (right), both from
Bert Frank, can suit both Hollywood Regency and Modern Glam applications.

In time, the idealized and stylish depictions of wealth featured in Hollywood films led to the creation of actual wealth for the studio heads and stars. Meanwhile, idealized depictions of the wealthy as being modern and stylish began to appeal to their real-world counterparts. These two trends are what gave us Hollywood Regency.  

If You’ve Got It, FLAUNT IT

A cluster of Palm A wall sconces interlocked and illuminated on a living room wall.

Art Deco meets a Polynesian influence in a striking cluster of Masiero’s Palm A wall sconce. Note the striped
table, pillows, and metallic
objets d’art, which combine to create a tasteful sense of extravagance. 

Jay Gatsby, at the start of the novel which bears his name, makes a habit of holding lavish parties. These parties are so elaborately opulent that they strain the abilities of the word to fully define them. In this way, they are a perfect metaphor for Hollywood Regency as a style. More, the fairly-recent cinematic version of The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio offers a wonderfully overblown (and thus entirely thematically-appropriate) depiction of these parties, which, naturally, also makes extensive use of Hollywood Regency style and design. 

A hallway in the Greenbrier Hotel, viewed through an archway from the sitting room. Bright red and green colours contrast with wood accents. The hall floor is a checkered black and white. A bust of a helmeted Athenian warrior (possibly Athena herself) sits on a pedestal between two windows with Baroque curtains on the left of frame.

Dorothy Draper, the woman who coined the name “Hollywood Regency,” was also one of two people whose design primarily contributed to the style. The Greenbrier Hotel (pictured) is a prime example of Hollywood Regency’s use of striking patterns, bold contrasting colours, classical sculpture, sumptuous fabrics, and Rococo casings. The Greenbrier Hotel was but one of her much-lauded interior design projects for hotels and hotel chains all over the world.

Bold colours and shapes, metallic finishes, mirrors, and striking patterns all mark Hollywood Regency, particularly when they are used with blends of classic styles used to denote wealth in films. Drawing on their use by the American upper classes and as a symbol of wealth, the interior designers whose work defined Hollywood Regency would combine Baroque, Rococo, Egyptian, Greek Revival, and even the ultra-contemporary Art Deco in a bombastic melange that defied the restraint and dignity prized by old-money wealth. 

A pair of Lee Broom's Eclipse suspension lights hang over an Eclipse table light in an Art Deco set.

Lee Broom’s Eclipse family of lights uses shape, light, and
mirrored surfaces to create a marvellously retro Art Deco feel.

Anything and everything that signified wealth was integrated into Hollywood Regency as a style. Lush fabrics and carpeting, neo-classical statuary, rich marbles and metals, stark patterns, and floral prints all marked the various sub-genres that combined to form Hollywood Regency. 

Vibrant colours, luxe metals, and cascading fringe make wall sconce from Studio d’Armes (left) and
Stream chandelier from Terzani (right) perfect for Hollywood Regency influenced spaces.

Hollywood Regency did not seek to be gaudy, but also did not show much concern when it became so. Hollywood Regency, as a style served very much the same purpose as the Academy Awards when they were first created in 1929: to allow the studio heads to pat themselves on the back, and to celebrate success–even if they had to do it themselves. 

Just Because it Can Go to 11 Doesn’t Mean it Has to

One of the key elements of Hollywood Regency–which you may have been able to guess by now–was that it rejected modernist minimalism. It was loud, it was ornamental, and a rather extensive amount of the decorative elements it used served no practical function. 

A luxurious home project by Billy Haines, blending Greco-Roman and Renaissance aesthetic touches alongside Bauhaus angles.

Billy Haines was the other primary contribution to Hollywood Regency, adapting styles rather than challenging them
in pursuit of excess. He favoured subtle yet lush colour schemes combined with luxe metals and floral patterns. 

Then, as the discourse around wealth in America continued to evolve, the novelty of wealth for those in control of Hollywood began to wear off. The growing popularity of mid-century modern and Scandinavian architecture and design in America led to an increased interest in these styles amongst the wealthy. Some, like Ingrid Bergman and Jim Backus, embraced these new styles wholeheartedly, resulting in a hybrid called California Modern. Others chose to combine them by turning down the volume on Hollywood Regency and making the overall effect one of subtle, yet still luxurious, wealth. This particular branch is what would become Modern Glam. 

A California Modern home designed by Billy Haines and featuring many of his furniture designs. Open concept, the dining room and living room are divided by a short wall. The colour scheme is reds, pinks, whites, and greys.

Billy Haines’ affection for mid-century modern design, especially when he later designed furniture, contributed to the evolution of Hollywood Regency into Modern Glam. This mid-1950s California Modern-influenced project features many of Haines’ own furniture designs, while still indulging in the bold colours of the evolving Hollywood Regency style of the time.

If, to the surprise and pleasure of English teachers everywhere, we may once again return to The Great Gatsby for a moment: you will no doubt remember that, once the lavish and almost-offensively ostentatious parties have served their purpose and drawn the attention of Gatsby’s long-lost love, Daisy, he abandons them entirely and withdraws from public life. To extend the metaphor we’ve already established with those parties, this seclusion is minimalism. The balance between the two–the restrained comfort and pleasant luxury in which he entertains Daisy in the latter part of the book–is where we find a metaphor for Modern Glam.

The multi-headed Array Cotton Suspension chandelier illuminates a staid and dignified dining table with a fireplace at one end.

Exceptional materials sourced from all over the world give the staid forms of the Array family of lights
from CTO Lighting a Modern Glam-appropriate quiet lavishness.

Modern Glam isn’t as worried about what others think as Hollywood Regency is. Where Hollywood Regency breathes of new money’s desire to erase any trace of past poverty through over-demonstration of wealth, Modern Glam shares old money’s comfort with wealth, and feels no need to be showy about it. 

Bringing Hollywood Home: Modern Glam

Carapace wall sconce from CTO Lighting illuminating a sideboard with objets d'art on it.
Solaris single ring chandelier from CTO Lighting in the 110cm diameter size.
Regent table light from CTO Lighting with satin brass shade on a column of polished white Carrara marble.

Subdued yet luxurious, CTO Lighting’s Carapace wall sconce (left), Solaris chandelier (top right), and Regent table lamp (bottom right) can help you build the Modern Glam design scheme of your dreams.

Modern Glam, in practice, is not only more restrained than Hollywood Regency, but also more defined. While style is hardly an appropriate area for hard and fast rules, the guidelines for Modern Glam are that, in any given space, you should choose three base colours:

  • A metallic (gold, silver, brass, etc.)
  • A neutral (white, black, grey)
  • An accent colour

For example, the classic colour scheme used to signify royalty is gold, white, and purple. Turn the intensity down a touch and these three together become an example of cool and confident modern glam. 

A cluster of Artés linear suspension lights hangs above a rich velvet divan and brass side-table.

Matte bronze, polished brass, and white combine to add a touch of Modern Glam to
this spartan installation of Artés linear suspension lights from CTO Lighting

The important thing about Modern Glam is the contradiction it represents. Modern glam is minimalist opulence. It is a detente between Gatsby-like obnoxious excess and Gatsby-like invisible understatement (what? Dude was complex. That was part of the point. Moving on). It is responding to “that’s some dress” with “what? This old thing?” 

When using a luxurious material, such as crushed velvet or marble, it is done simply or elegantly. Regard how the clean lines and simple shape of CTO Lighting’s Lucid wall sconce seem to say “why yes, I am alabaster; how kind of you to notice.” Similarly, when a design is opulent, its presence is unprepossessing. 

CTO Lighting's Lucid wall/ceiling light installed as a wall sconce. Veined alabaster diffuser with bronze accents.
Nimbus chandelier from CTO Lighting over a marbled black and white table at the base of a curving staircase.

Left: Veined alabaster and brushed bronze fittings help Lucid wall sconce excite and soothe at once. Right: The Nimbus family of lights are extravagantly appropriate for Hollywood Regency in their presence, but can be Modern Glam if used with restraint.

Picture Nimbus chandelier, also from CTO Lighting, with its cascades of handcrafted textured glass discs and satin-finished brass accents, hanging above the table in an otherwise sparingly decorated dining room. Modern Glam is enjoying the good things in life, but with taste and sophistication.

Don’t Dream it; Be it

A London design project by Staffan Tollgard featuring Carousel and Carousel XL pendants by Lee Broom.

Lee Broom’s Carousel and Carousel XL pendants add a touch of Modern Glam to this London project by Staffan Tollgard.

Despite the impression one might gain from the above, it must be said that cool confidence isn’t quite as much fun as gaudy showiness, which is why you’ll find more posters, T-shirts, and memorabilia featuring Marilyn Monroe than Dame Judi Dench. Style and design, especially in 2021, should not be about what style is better, but about which suits your taste and needs. The entire point of designer lighting collections like Harlow, Kelly, and Welles from Gabriel Scott–which all share their names with iconic stars of the silver screen–is to add the richness and glamour of Hollywood to your home. 

Bert Frank's Atlantis chandelier in the three-tier variant, an extravagant design appropriate for Hollywood Regency

Atlantis 3 Tier chandelier from Terzani offers a rich and opulent presence.

If a grand chandelier such as Atlantis 3 Tier from Terzani in your powder room is what offers your guests the effect you wish them to experience, go for it, baby. Life’s too short. Make your space what you want it to be–whether that means the drama and flash of Hollywood Regency or the restrained sumptuousness of Modern Glam (or even the minimalist genius of Greta M. Grossman in California Modern designs such as Gräshoppa). With Lee Broom, CTO Lighting, Terzani, Bert Frank, Masiero, Baccarat, and more, you’ll find the luminaires to complement your taste and style at, or in our showrooms in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton.

Masina floor and table lamp variants illuminate a modern sitting room.

Dignified yet fun Masina floor and table lamps (bottom left) and
sleekly luxe Stasis table lamp (bottom right), both from Bert Frank.