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History of the Sunset Towers in Hollywood

Originally called The Sunset Tower Apartments, this Art Deco Landmark has also been known as the St. James Club, The Argyle and now, once again, The Sunset Tower Hotel.

The ‘Sunset Towers Apartments’ were designed in 1929 by architect Leland A Bryant. Leland Bryant specialized in luxury apartment buildings, the Sunset Towers was his crowning achievement.

His architectural work is predominantly Period Revival styles, but with this structure he proved that he was equally adept with modern design.
Construction was completed over a 2 year period and the doors opened to Hollywood in 1931.

Name dropping at the Sunset

It was the height of glamour and the golden age of movies in Hollywood.
The Sunset Towers played host to a who’s who in tinsel town.

Numerous Hollywood luminaries called the Sunset Towers home: Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Billie Burke, Joseph Schenck, Paulette Goddard, Zasu Pitts, the Gabor sisters, Frank Sinatra, directors George Stevens, Preston Sturges and even gangster Bugsy Siegel.



It was a favorite of Howard Hughes, who kept a number of suites here for his various girlfriends.
John Wayne called the penthouse home at one time, rumor has it that he kept his cow on the balcony, ‘so fresh milk was readily available‘.

Oh, If these walls could talk….

An Art Deco Masterpiece
The Sunset Tower’s introduction to Hollywood represents the moment when high Art Deco and Hollywood came together, their combined qualities produced elegance, sophistication, and future prospects.

This Art Deco gem is considered to be one of the most important Art Deco structures in the U.S. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sunset’s first literary mention was in Raymond Chandler's novel, 'Farewell My Lovely'. In the first film version, “Murder, My Sweet” (1944), the line from the book is used as dialogue, making it the first screen reference to the Sunset Tower.

Sunset Towers has the distinction of being the first high-rise apartment house on the Sunset Strip. The Sunset was also the first high rise to be built with earthquakes in mind: It was built on rockers to sway under the region's frequent earthquakes, making it the city's first quake-protected apartment building.

Its dramatic setting on the Sunset Strip and elegant Art Deco styling, combined with its proximity to the famous restaurants and nightclubs of the 30's and 40's, contributed to its appeal.

Located at the peak of Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Towers offered resident movie royalty sweeping panoramas of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills. The Sunset Tower embodied all that Hollywood aspired to.

Built in the Zigzag Moderne style, the Sunset Towers became an instant hit. The building’s stepped high-rise exterior was softened by using faceted windows to accent the rounded corners.
Most of the exterior surface is smooth concrete, the windows forming a pattern of vertical bands which draw the eye upward and emphasize the height of the structure.
Faceted windows accent the corners of the building and offer spectacular views.
High above the street entrance and along the building's set-backs, plaster friezes incorporate a creative combination of plants, animals and other creatures. Flora and Fauna, mythological creatures, zeppelins, and even Adam and Eve share the Sunset Tower. Atop the tower are engaged pylons and a pineapple finial. In reference to its use, sculptured panels depict the radiator grille of a 20's automobile over the entrance to the garage at the rear, a popular machine age symbol of the time.

To attract a demanding and exclusive clientele, the building’s interior features boasted the latest in both 1930’s technology and design. There were modern conveniences, such as outlets in every bathroom for an electric shaver. Windows were important, in order to take full advantage
of the uncompromising city and hillside views. The suites were touted as the first “all-electric” apartments, and the Sunset Towers became an elite residence of the entertainment and business world.


The Sunset's glamour faded with the golden years of movie making, reaching its lowest point in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the apartment building sat abandoned, a sad reminder of its former glitz and grandeur. The property went through various ownerships during the seventies
and although a historical landmark, was on the verge of abandonment by the early Eighties.

The St. James Club saves the Towers



But Sunset Tower's fate was saved. After several attempts at demolishing the Art Deco landmark failed, it was rescued by a group of British investors, headed by Peter de Savery of the St. James Club, Ltd., who undertook a $43 million dollar renovation of the historic building.
Art Deco Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief and a new, updated era of hope and glamour prevailed.

The apartments were reconfigured to create hotel suites. New public spaces were added-including a respectful addition which provided space for a pool area and a full service restaurant.

In 1987, the “Zig Zag Moderne” cool white beauty of the Sunset Strip reopened her doors as The St. James Club/L.A. There were 74 bedrooms, suites, and penthouses with panoramic views of the city below; two fine restaurants; private dining rooms; a health club and swimming pool.
Art deco enthusiasts and preservationists cheered the respectful renovation.

The public spaces, hallways and rooms were furnished with beautiful made-to-order furniture
and lighting reproductions of original French Art Deco and Beaux Arts pieces from France.
Designs by Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, Eileen Gray, Pierre Chareau and other noted French Art Deco designers were reproduced with great care and attention to detail.
These are the actual furnishings  we are fortunate to be able to offer for sale
to our loyal customers! Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to see what items are still available for purchase!
      
Custom made art deco bordered carpets were woven in Europe.
Even the cornice in the main public rooms was re-cast to original specification, 
using a mold made from one of the original fragments.
       

   Technology upgrades with contemporary conveniences such as fax machines, modem lines and CD players.

  

The magnificent restoration uncovered a forgotten treasure:
A rare palm tree with multiple trunks growing from a single root. This tree occupies a place of honor to the left of the hotel’s front entrance.

During the early Nineties, the St. James Club flourished with hotel guests and club members alike. The hotel served as an eye-catching backdrop for such movies as 'Pretty Woman' with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, while actor Tim Robbins was pitched a story idea at the hotel’s poolside in 'The Player'. Scenes from 'The Italian Job' were filmed on the penthouse rooftop and in the hallways and guest rooms.

As the St. James, it housed a private club, hotel and restaurant, with members that included ; Joan Collins, Sharon Stone, Quincy Jones, David Bowie, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine, Liza Minnelli, David Bowie and Aaron Spelling.

The Argyle is born



In 1994 The St. James Club, Ltd. sold the SUNSET property to the Lancaster Group. Towering over the famed Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, it was re-named The Argyle Hotel. Further renovations and improvements were made.

Billed as a 16 story luxury landmark, the Argyle once again catered to a sophisticated and demanding clientele. The hotel continued to serve Hollywood as the favored hotel for out of town celebrities and rock bands.

The highly regarded restaurant, The Fenix, shown above,  is located within.
The Fenix lounge is shown below...

Movies and television events have continued to film there, with the art deco setting used as a identifiable backdrop. The building has appeared in a number of films, including Wayne's World Part II, Get Shorty, and Strange Days. E! entertainment channel has filmed many of their interviews at the Argyle. Recently, it was the setting for interviews with Ringo Starr
for the Beatles Reunion TV special.

Continuing the Hollywood tradition

Once again, the Sunset Tower is receiving attention. New owners have taken over, promising a trend-setting interior renovation. Respectful of the historical significance, the exterior will remain an Art Deco landmark.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to offer our customers this wonderful collection of custom art deco style  furnishings,
that also have a romantic and exciting Hollywood provenance.



To learn more about the Sunset Towers,
see the books noted below for more photos and information:

'Twentieth Century American Architecture: A Traveler's Guide to 220 Key Buildings'
 by
Sydney LeBlanc

‘Deco & Streamline Architecture in L.A.’
by Elizabeth Mcmillian

'L.A. Deco' by Carla Breeze

'Rediscovering Art Deco USA'
by famed preservationist Barbara Capitman, Michael D. Kinerk and Dennis W. Wilhelm

Please note: click on any of the thumbnail images on this page, to see an enlarged image.

All official hotel photos shown on decodame.com are with exclusive permission
from the current owner of the Sunset Towers

Current Inventory available from the Hotel:
 

French Art Deco Style Illuminated Glass Rod Cocktail Table
Provenance: The Sunset Towers (Hotel) Nightclub, Hollywood, CA
Custom Made in Italy, Circa 1980's
In the Manner of Jean Perzel

 

Dramatic All glass and polished nickel, round, lighted cocktail table.
Round metal base and frame with a highly polished nickel finish.
Almost 1" thick tabletop, with a rounded edge and sandblasted sunburst design.
Center column is constructed of clear Glass Rods and illuminates from the center.
Floor switch on cord, can also be hardwired if so desired.

   

This cocktail table was custom made in the 1980's, in Italy, for the iconic Sunset Towers hotel nightclub. Many of the pieces made for this hotel were re-created after period French Art Deco furnishings. These tables were created in the spirit of tables made by Jean Perzel in the 1930's.

Item # FADOT351

View Details...

 

French Art Deco Style Illuminated Glass Rod Demi-Lune Console Table (s)
6 Available
Provenance :  The Sunset Towers Hotel, Hollywood, CA
Custom Made in Italy, Circa 1980's
In the Manner of Jean Perzel

 

Dramatic All glass and polished nickel, demi-lune, lighted console tables.
Almost 1" thick tabletop, with a polished edge and demi lune frosted glass panel on top.
Center column is constructed of clear Glass Rods and illuminates from the center.
Metal frame with a highly polished nickel finish. Base has a clear glass surface with a sandblasted 1" border. Floor switch on cord, can also be hardwired if so desired.

These console tables were custom made in the 1980's, in Italy, for the iconic Sunset Towers hotel nightclub. Many of the pieces made for this hotel were re-created after period French Art Deco furnishings. 

Item # FADOT352

View Details...

 

French Art Deco Style Oval Vanity Pouf
Circa 1980’s, Custom made in Europe for the historic Art Deco landmark, 
The St. James Club Hotel in Hollywood, CA

This vanity pouf was one of a handful that were custom made to seat the female guests of this famous hotel while they got ready at one of their fabulous dressing tables. Oval shape, with channeled sides and brown contrast piping. The original velour upholstery is a tan and brown almost zebra like pattern. Of course you can re-upholster this to match your decor, or have us re-upholster it for you in one of our fabulous Art Deco fabric patterns.

Item # ADFB88

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French Art Deco Style Desk, two available
In the manner of Pierre Chareau

Circa 1980’s, Custom made in Europe
for the historic Art Deco landmark,
The St. James Club Hotel (aka The Sunset Towers & The Argyle) in Hollywood, CA

This desk was one of a handful that were custom made in exotic macassar ebony
with leather inset desktop. Angular Modernist design with 7 drawers
and a sliding upper compartment.

 Item # ADFOF53

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French Art Deco Style Macassar Ebony Wall Panel
The Famous Chariot and Nymph (woman) inlay, designed by Ruhlmann
Circa 1980’s, Custom made in Europe for the historic Art Deco landmark, 
The Sunset Towers Hotel in Hollywood, CA

This wall panel was one of a handful that were custom made in exotic macassar ebony to face an
 electronic lift cabinet that housed the TV and bar refrigerators in the suites.
When the hotel was remodeled, the cabinets were dismantled and only the fronts were kept.
Use these today as a simple wall hanging, or come up with your own use-such as a
cover for a flat screen tv or a custom cabinet similar to the old design.
You could also make a base and turn it into a coffee table top.

The chariot and nymph design has been carefully designed to replicate the well known inlay design
created by the master of Art Deco, Emile Jacques Ruhlmann.

Item # AGAA53

View Details...

 

French Art Deco Style Console Table
In the manner of Ruhlmann
Circa 1980’s, Custom made in Europe for the historic Art Deco landmark, 
The Sunset Towers Hotel in Hollywood, CA

This console table was one of a handful that were custom made in exotic macassar ebony 
with burled walnut top. These tables graced the penthouse suite dining rooms and
some of the hotel's hallways.

Carefully designed to replicate the console table design of the master of Art Deco, 
Emile Jacques Ruhlmann.

Item # FADCT70

View Details...

 

French Art Deco Style Burled Walnut Wall Panel
The Famous Chariot and Nymph (woman) inlay, designed by Ruhlmann
Circa 1980’s, Custom made in Europe for the historic Art Deco landmark, 
The Sunset Towers Hotel in Hollywood, CA

This wall panel was one of a handful that were custom made in burled walnut to face an
 electronic lift cabinet that housed the TV and bar refrigerators in the suites.
When the hotel was remodeled, the cabinets were dis-manteled and only the fronts were kept.
Use these today as a simple wall hanging, or come up with your own use-such as a cover for a
flat screen tv or a custom cabinet similar to the old design.
You could also make a base and turn it into a coffee table top.

The chariot and nymph design has been carefully designed to replicate the well known inlay design
created by the master of Art Deco, Emile Jacques Ruhlmann.

Item # AGAA54

View Details...


 

 

 

 

 

 

Modernist Floor Lamp
Circa 1980’s, Italy

Modernist floor lamp, custom made for the Sunset Towers hotel in LA.
3 ¼” wide round tubular center post, chrome plated,
resting on a 1” thick polished edge square glass base.
Sold without a lampshade,
we suggest a drum shade to match your décor.

Item # LADFL69

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Art Deco Style Lighted Plaster Palm Trees, Pair
From the Sunset Towers poolside and interior banquet room
formerly the St. James Club and Argyle Hotel
Circa 1980’s, custom made in a limited number for the hotel.

 

Bold sculptural Palm Trees with underlit palm fronds.

Removed from the Hotel a few years ago when the new owner took over
and remodeled the entire hotel.

Item # AGAA46

View details...

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