Kelly Wearstler Breathes New Life into Downtown L.A.’s Erstwhile YWCA, and Other News

Our daily look at the world through the lens of design.

The Design Dispatch offers expertly written and essential news from the design world crafted by our dedicated team. Think of it as your cheat sheet for the day in design delivered to your inbox before you’ve had your coffee. Subscribe now

Have a news story our readers need to see? Submit it here

Kelly Wearstler Breathes New Life into Downtown L.A.’s Erstwhile YWCA

Nearly two years after it entered the L.A. market with a breezy, blissed-out property in Santa Monica, Proper Hotels has debuted a second outpost downtown that pays tribute to the area’s multicultural roots and home in a landmark California Renaissance Revival building. Conceived by hometown architects Curlett & Beelman in the 1920s, the hotel sees interior designer Kelly Wearstler return with her signature brew of vintage furniture, bold colors, and dedication to local artisans. The 148 rooms are appointed with custom furniture by Wearstler and local makers and Moroccan–inspired bathrooms with 136 types of tile. Public spaces incorporate Mexican folk art animals by painter Abel Macias and homages to design legends in the form of ceramicist Morgan Peck’s Memphis-style graphite desk installation and stained glass doorways courtesy of Judson Studios, once a favorite of Frank Lloyd Wright. 

James Beard Award–winning chef Suzanne Goin and restauranteur Caroline Styne bring a multicultural focus—Portuguese, Moorish, Spanish, and Mexican—to three culinary and cocktail spaces. But nothing wows more than two specialty suites with astonishing amenities refurbished from the building’s past life as a YWCA: one with a timber-lined half basketball court, the other with a full-sized indoor swimming pool ornamented by artist Ben Medansky’s ceramic mural. 

Diptyque’s New Wallpaper Collection Mines Its Rich Archives 

Though Diptyque is best known for its array of fashion-forward candles and fragrances, they weren’t in the picture when Desmond Knox-Leet, Christian Gautrot, and Yves Coueslant launched the brand in 1961 as a space to showcase their fabric and upholstery patterns. Now, the celebrity-favorite French perfumier is returning to its roots by launching a digitally printed wallpaper collection that draws inspiration from the archives. Among the highlights are Basile, which draws from the monochrome Art Deco fabric that once covered sofas at the French Palais de L’Elysee, a trio of vivid nature-inspired patterns that draw from Knox-Leet’s early travel journals, and a trompe-l’oeil series called Mosaic that takes cues from pointillism.

The female body brand Billie unveils a Soho office designed to look like a bathroom.  

A curved tiled wall reminiscent of a shower pattern, textured glass blocks, a vanity displaying an assortment of products—at Billie’s new 13,000-square-foot office in SoHo, bathroom themes echo the female-centric body brand’s DNA. Designed by interdisciplinary studio Office of Tangible Space, the layout is oriented toward flexibility with conference rooms, private rooms, informal lounge areas, workstations, and breakout spaces offering employees different options to work. “The office is made for transient collaboration, encouraging people to come into work without adding in walls or limitations. We wanted the space to feel cozy, encouraging people to connect either in person or dialed-in. The approach allows continuous safe use without harsh physical barriers,” says the firm. 

A millionaire draws ire by planning to build a cultural center resembling his mansion. 

Approved while he was mayor, Mauricio Fernández Garza’s plan to construct a replica of his house to display his $120 million art collection is drawing criticism for the $9.7 million of public funding that will pay for 60% of the project. When completed, 400 pieces, including works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, will be exhibited for an undisclosed period of time and a town spokesperson says the space will become a cultural center for exhibitions and events afterward. “First, there are some pieces that are the cultural heritage of humanity. The reality is that where I lived it was very difficult, very complicated to do it there above,” Garza says. “It started from scratch, in a public place, where everyone is going to have access and you are going to be able to have events.”

Plans to pedestrianize Park Avenue’s landscaped median strips are gaining traction.

Park Avenue’s landscaped medians haven’t accommodated pedestrians since 1927, when the traffic lanes of Midtown Manhattan’s former Fourth Avenue were widened to make room for more vehicles. That’ll soon change thanks to a new plan launched by New York City Council Member Keith Powers to redesign the medians. The city will launch an RFP seeking a landscape architect to create a master plan that swaps out the existing medians with active open space that will make the bustling East Midtown neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly. 

Amazon is opening a bricks-and-mortar clothing store with high-tech fitting rooms.

The e-commerce giant is deepening its foray into bricks-and-mortar retail by opening a clothing store equipped with high-tech fitting rooms. Located at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, the emporium will rival department stores in size and feature clothing, shoes, and accessories by mostly non-Amazon fashion labels at accessible price points. Shoppers will receive personalized recommendations pushed to their phones while browsing thanks to algorithms pulling from QR codes that offer more information about the products on display. Perhaps most intriguing are its fitting rooms, which will be stocked with items they requested and automatically updated by employees in a “secure closet” attached to the room. Shoppers can then continue browsing via touchscreens. 

Arne Glimcher, founder of Pace Gallery, plans to open a project space in TriBeCa. 

Arne Glimcher may have six decades in the art dealing business under his belt, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. The founder of Pace Gallery plans to establish a project space in TriBeCa called Gallery 125 Newbury—named after the Boston address where he founded Pace, in 1960—that will function as a sandbox for him to experiment. Up first is a show about “futurism” that features forward-looking contemporary artists. Located at the corner of Broadway and Walker Street in TriBeCa’s bustling gallery district, the new space will feature five exhibitions a year and plans to bring non-Pace artists into the fold. 

Today’s attractive distractions:

Will Adidas’s giant floating tennis court raise awareness of oceanic pollution?

Virgil Abloh’s documentary about Sha’Carri Richardson will debut at Sundance. 

Junya Watanabe remakes Jamiroquai’s ahead-of-its-time “Virtual Insanity” video. 

A new study finds that eyes hold the key to finding out one’s true biological age.

All Stories