Posted in Projects on 12 February, 2018

The talented designers at HBA has told the story of heroine and famed American actress, Anna May Wong, and taken inspiration from her life and neighbourhood for the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown. Tonje Odegard from SPACE explores the interiors…

One of the largest Indigo properties in the world, the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown is a celebration of its locale and its history. As with any Hotel Indigo, the central design is focused around a neighbourhood story, so the hotel group decided to work with legendary design studio Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) to translate this into beautiful design. And what a job they have done – the design is sophisticated, bold and playful – just like LA.

HBA took inspiration from LA’s turn-of-the-century entertainment era for the 350 guestrooms, public spaces and two F&B venues. Part of the larger Metropolis development in Downtown Los Angeles’ Historic Core, the area’s legacy was an obvious choice for the direction of the design.

The hotel stories revolve around a five-block radius of the building and involve more obscure facts than guests, and even locals, might be aware of. HBA researched historic events and iconic locations within the neighbourhood that were well known at the time, but that might no longer be of common knowledge. As the hotel is such a large property, HBA decided to go with more than one story to keep the spaces fresh and interesting.

The stories they discovered are gathered largely from the late 1800’s through to the 1920’s and are: 1) the pre-Hollywood days of the 1920’s and 30’s, before modern-day Hollywood existed; 2) the glamorous events and galas that occurred during the pre-Hollywood era in the jewellery district, and all of the lovely jewels that adorned celebrity attendees; 3) the 11-miles of secret underground tunnels beneath downtown Los Angeles, which allowed access to the speakeasies and moonshine during the Prohibition era; and 4) Fiesta de las Flores, now known as the Rose Parade, which was a day of celebration and revelry where people decorated bicycles, horse carriages, floats and their hats with elaborate flower creations. The hotel infuses the moments of each narrative with industrial undertones that also speak to the direction that downtown LA is headed.

With these four different story pillars, HBA wanted a unifying figure to tie everything together. That’s when they discovered that the legendary American actress Anna May Wong grew up just blocks away from the hotel’s site. Recognised as the first Chinese-American film star, HBA wanted to honour the story of a heroine thriving in a notoriously tough industry.

HBA approached the design from lobby level to the sky bar as phases of Anna May’s life and have therefore created narratives as to how she might have enjoyed the spaces. On the lobby level, the story draws from Fiesta de las Flores and the underground tunnels. Anna May Wong was a young child during the parades and loved to watch the floats pass by, and as a teenager she would sneak into the speakeasies and partake in the revelry. Thus, the lobby bar represents her youth and early adulthood.

Moving up to the meeting levels and the ballrooms, this is when she began her career and was meeting with movie executives. As she started working, she began attending the galas and dressed up in fine jewellery. Anna May is still an up-and-coming actress in the typical guestrooms, looking out the window of her downtown LA flat at the film premiers and hustle and bustle of the city, as seen in the headboard murals.

By the time guests arrive at the executive suites, the star is excelling in her career, as especially portrayed in a mural of film marquis lights that highlights her own films.

Finally, three premium suites represent the ultimate fame and success: each suite takes on a unique personality. One is Anna May as a tough business woman in a male-dominated industry, another is her in feminine dresses and jewellery, and the presidential suite is the height of her career in utter opulence and luxury.

Said HBA Associate, Richard Tennill: “We were able to reinterpret Indigo’s brand story by infusing whispers of Downtown Los Angeles’ famed history. We were able to create a look that is unique to LA’s past, where visitors can discover and explore portions of the area’s history they have never seen before.”

Public spaces

Upon arriving in the lobby you are enticed by LA’s history through the boldness and grandeur of the design, scattered with playful touches. The space is an experimental progression through each of the four aforementioned stories. The entrance to the Hotel Indigo tells the tale of carriages, bikes, buggies and other moving machinery decorated with multiple flowers and displayed for the crowds at the Fiestas de las Flores, which has now evolved into the Rose Parade.

Large murals with ghosted flowers over imagery of the decorated carriages and crowds cover the walls of the lobby lounge and HBA’s in-house lighting design consultancy studio, Illuminate, designed a custom chandelier that hangs above the reception desk. Composed of 30 large spokes that hangs horizontally with light bulbs shinning down their centre, it illuminates the freestanding, floral-decorated ‘penny-farthing’ bike set on display.

Illuminate also designed vintage-style luminaires with industrial materials, which stresses how architectural lighting is integrated into the building’s forms and interior details to emphasise the materials used and the character of each space.


The lobby-level Metropolis Bar + Kitchen restaurant maintaines the neighbourhood’s story of the 1920’s secret tunnels and underground parties of the Prohibition era. The design splits its space into two by inserting seating and a passageway through concrete tunnels. The bar on one side of the tunnel is embellished with brass and copper metals reflecting on the 20-feet wall and the ceiling, which are clad in pressed tin tiles.

On the other side of the tunnel, a more intimate space with softer tones and a mural of jazz bands welcomes guests to a private event – an underground party reminiscent of a speakeasy bash.

Influenced by the theatres in Downtown Los Angeles and envisioned to be a place where Angelenos would decompress while enjoying 1920’s signature drinks and the extensive view, 18 Social is a lounge and bar space located on the 18th floor. The bar is designed with the comfort of luscious blue velvets and a modern interpretation of the era’s design. Patterns were modernised and eclectically mixed.

The space, all in dark blue tones, is accented by neon lighting and multiple metal finishes. The mixed seating arrangements with different chair designs throughout add to the uniqueness of the space and provides for private seating areas for both individuals and groups.

In addition to being welcomed by framed old photographs of the theatres lining Broadway, a giant worm’s eye view of an iconic theatre was placed on the ceiling of the lounge to give the perspective of an extended ceiling height.


In addition to depicting Anna May Wong’s legacy, the guestrooms and suites pay homage to other film starlets and famous directors of the Art Deco period. Both guestroom types are composed of mostly loose pieces of furniture to give rooms a residential feel. They include a mural over the bed that imagines what the guest would have seen out their window during that time. The murals open up the space and introduce a view into the past.

The first style of guestrooms took inspiration from Anna May, using colours from the bougainvillea flower, which still grows in gardens throughout the city. For the executive guestrooms, the feel needed to be more masculine and therefore display tones of brown and maroon from leather and woods.

Meeting & Events

The meetings and convention spaces take inspiration from the formalwear patterns and textiles of the early 1900’s pre-Hollywood galas. Those fabrics have been used to upholster seating and to carpet the floor. Down the long corridor facing a glass façade, giant images of precious stones are displayed, which shine in contrast to the dark, blue painted walls behind them. Upholstered walls and wood veneers also line the corridors to the meeting spaces.

Following Indigo’s signature style, a substantial mural on the fourth floor showcases two large murals portraying the energy of dancers at the galas in an oversized manner, and leads to the outdoors.

Valeria Lasalle, Senior Project Designer at HBA and responsible for the design at the Indigo, said: “Being a public space, hotels always need a bit of a theatrical approach to their design, yet they must achieve an ‘at home’ comfort for the guest.” This quote sums up the entire interior spectre of the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown – the design is grand, it’s dramatic and it’s luxurious, but it’s also a nod to the hotel’s location and neighbourhood, and the fascinating history that is contained in it. Most importantly, it’s warm and welcoming, creating a second home for guest – what more can you ask for? Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown is a true success.

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