Barbers, ballrooms and social galas once held sway between the Corinthian arches aligning the interior of the historic Hotel Stowell lobby. Built in 1913, the Stowell’s century’s-old lobby is now receiving a makeover courtesy of Beth Holden of the design firm NEW THEME and David Rolland of the Cannes-based restaurant Petit Paris. Through their collaboration, they are remaking the interior, adapting it into a multi-purposed bar, restaurant, and market that introduces a handcrafted French touch into Downtown’s Old Bank District
The Hotel Stowell, now known as the El Dorado lofts, was once frequented by silent film stars Charlie Chaplin, Miriam Cooper as well as countless financiers who did their business in the cluster of nearby banks and financial institutions of the era. The hotel and lobby were built of all local materials, a particular feat of the time, with terra cotta from Glendale, cement from Riverside and tiles from Pasadena that contributed to its Art Nouveau and Gothic Revival influences.
Following the area’s decline that began during the Great Depression, the building entered a period of neglect culminating in its abandonment in the 1980’s. Yet it was refashioned as condominiums in 2008 and soon the abandoned lobby was ripe for renewal. The historic space was rediscovered by French restauranteur David Rolland in 2013. Beth Holden of NEW THEME Inc. was brought on to design the interior as well as work as general contractor for the project. The adaptive reuse of the space has brought both promise and a number of challenges, as is typical with structures built of this era. In order to properly ventilate the kitchen, a hood system is currently being installed that must scale the 13 stories of the building’s rear facade. The electrical system also requires extensive renovation to serve the power needs of the new space. Yet the potential of the Petit Paris project is considerable.
The bars and interior elements, completed by NEW THEME, reflect the attention to hand craft and detail that stand at the core of Mr. Rolland’s business ethos. As an embassy for French cooking, everything in the completed Petit Paris will be made on-site, from baguettes, charcuterie to their selection of patisserie. As well, the open circulation of the former lobby also allows the two-story interior to easily transition between restaurant and social space. NEW THEME’s understanding of adaptive reuse and fluency with materials complements the dedication to hand craft at the core of the Petit Paris concept. From the hardwood bar to the series of interior furnishings under construction, the Petit Paris will stand as the marriage of Mr. Rolland’s gourmand passion and NEW THEME’s dedication to craft, material and context.