Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Most Beautiful Building in Los Angeles

I confess that when I learned there was a Downtown LA Open House on the day I happened to be downtown, my first thought was to see if the Eastern Columbia building was among them.

Built in 1930 for the Eastern and Columbia Outfitting Companies as the headquarters of their retail store empire, it stands on the corner of Broadway and 9th, just across the street from the Orpheum Theatre, and a block north of the United Artists Theatre's gothic tracery.

Clad in turquoise terra cotta, with golden zigzag and sunburst accents, it's considered one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture, and one of the most beautiful buildings in Los Angeles.

It was converted to condos a few years ago, and has been popular with celebrities. Local real estate blogs claim that Frankie Muniz, John Stamos, and This Guy have apartments in the building.

The Open House featured two occupied units that were back on the market. I was buzzed into the lobby by the realtor. The trendy decor was by a designer who must have been quite acclaimed, since the realtors mentioned her name with awe. I found it a little bizarre - what do you call these kind of chairs, anyway?
I was met by two realtors, each representing one property. A slight tension between them revealed they were competitors, yet it was obvious they were cooperating for this boosterish Open House Event.

It always helps to have a cover story when looking at properties. Mine is that my husband and I are looking for a "first apartment" to help our college-graduate son with. After I trotted this out, I could almost palpably feel the realtor representing the high priced unit lose interest in me.

We took the elevator to the second floor. Down a carpeted hallway that reminded me of a tired hotel, we opened the door to a unit priced at $795,000.

It was 1,570 square feet, so I was surprised at how cramped it felt. The concrete-beamed ceilings were low.

One hallmark of these Art Deco towers is a lot of exterior surface for the gorgeous application of terra-cotta decor. I imagine this coincided with the technological advances of air conditioning. Whatever reason, the windows in the Eastern Columbia building are smaller than those in the older buildings I'd toured. That and the canopies of street trees right outside made this apartment feel dark.

The second property was a small studio, square with a galley kitchen on one side. It was higher up, so its windows let in more light. But even at the relatively cheaper $499,000, it was not as attractive as some of the other properties I'd seen.
Honestly? I was disappointed. But the final piece of the tour changed my feelings. The elevator rose up, and we walked out to the roof-top pool terrace. It took my breath away.

High above the city, it's like a jeweled paradise. Lounge chairs, a hot tub, a private gym. From the parapet you can look out over the Staples Center to the south, and the towers of the financial district to the north and west. And those big windows, there, beneath the clock tower? Johnny Depp's penthouse.

Won't you join me on a chaise lounge, with a cool drink and a Vogue magazine to leaf through? Maybe Johnny will come out of the penthouse to take in the view. Or swim. In trunks. Shirtless.
Wouldn't that make it truly The Most Beautiful Building in Los Angeles?


Mrs. G. said...

Did you say penthouse? Must. Have. Apartment. In. This. Building. It really is quite beautiful. I love that deco feel. Thanks for the JD love!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I'm thoroughly impressed with how much you know about LA!

JCK said...

Mrs. G might arm wrestle us for it and Tootsie could mow us over with her experience dealing with maniac moms in minivans. But, I'd love to come over for the pool party!

g said...

I think this would be a great location for the Women's Colony.