Hollywood Regency Style: Get the Look

Few interior design styles carry with them the glitz and glamour of an entire decade. But Hollywood Regency is making a modern comeback, well after its heyday in the '30s.


Design by Barclay Butera

Design by Barclay Butera
By: Alyson McNutt English

When designers from Hollywood's Golden Age, like William Haines and Dorothy Draper, encouraged West Coast film luminaries to decorate their home with overtones of glitz and glamour, a new design style emerged. The 1930s Hollywood Regency style was a favorite of celebrities ranging from actress Joan Crawford to the future First Lady, Nancy Reagan.

Hollywood Regency design, however, is not a relic of the past. The over-the-top style is not just for the rich and famous; a modern version is surging in popularity, fueled by designers like Kelly Wearstler. Shawn Henderson, design director for the online auction site www.eBay.com, says there's no denying the high Hollywood style is back. "Hollywood Regency has spiked in sales," Henderson says. "Recently a William 'Billy' Haines cabinet sold on eBay for $7,500."

Not everyone can afford original Haines pieces, but elements of Hollywood Regency style are within reach for even the most budget-minded decorator. Here's how to adapt a few Hollywood Regency elements to your home decor.

Going Hollywood Regency is all about the details, says interior decorator and furniture designer Barclay Butera. "The wonderful fabrics, fringe on lampshades, chandeliers with crystals — Hollywood Regency style is about glamour, but so much is found in the wonderful details," he says.

Designer Kristan Cunningham, star of HGTV's Design on a Dime, says for those working on a budget, jazzing up thrift pieces is also about having an eye for detail. "If your grandma gave you an over-the-top brass chandelier, replace the flame-tip bulbs with mod opaque globe bulbs," she says. "It creates the juxtaposition of 'super clean with super fussy' that is so relevant in Hollywood Regency."


Design by Barclay Butera

Design by Barclay Butera

Lovely Lacquer

Hollywood Regency focuses on making the home a showpiece for guests, and classic designers spared no shine, glitz or glamour in making that happen.

"Lacquer everything!" says Henderson. "Hollywood Regency style used a lot of bright, glossy colors on furniture. So, have furniture lacquered or buy some super glossy spray paint and do it yourself."

For her den, Cunningham did just that, purchasing an inexpensive white lacquered TV credenza and adding her own Hollywood Regency design style. "I replaced the knobs with brass Chinese medallion hardware, and I added brass corner details to each door," she says. "It's so glam, and the best part is, no one else will have the same piece!"

Lots of Luxe

Velvet drapes, silk lampshades and thick, sculpted carpets mark the Hollywood Regency design style. "In the era when Hollywood Regency evolved, people really wanted to impress each other with their homes," says Butera. "Homes were really destinations." Butera says adding showy fabrics into a decorating scheme gives any home the sense of scale and glamour that Hollywood designers of the era strived for.


Watch the Scale

In the era of overstuffed sectional sofas and imposing double-chaise lounges, the idea of small-scale furniture is a bit of a novelty. But that is exactly what Hollywood Regency design calls for, says Karen Figilis, publicist for William Haines Designs. "It's hard to get the scale right," she says. "The furniture is supposed to really fade into the background, because Hollywood Regency design is all about the people."


"The elbow chair is a witty conversational piece, meant to be sat on sideways, with your elbow leaning on the chair," says Karen Figilis, publicist for William Haines Designs. Photo: William Haines Design.

"The elbow chair is a witty conversational piece, meant to be sat on sideways, with your elbow leaning on the chair," says Karen Figilis, publicist for William Haines Designs. Photo: William Haines Design.

Butera notes the design's emphasis is not on the furnishings or accessories, but the feeling they create. "It's about entertaining, from before we all had great rooms and large televisions and open floor plans," he says. "Centering a room around the furniture and the way people will interact with each other is the idea."

Design for the Individual

Because Hollywood Regency design is meant to be an eclectic mix of styles with one overarching luxurious theme, people sometimes make the mistake of thinking that they can just throw any flea market find into the mix. Karen says while the style lends itself to mixing and matching, it's important to remember coordinating elements.

"The whole concept is that this is a suite of furniture for an individual," she says. "It's classic furniture that never goes out of style. It's back because it's luxurious and glamorous, and because you can create an individual look because it allows you to mix and create your own living space."

Invest in Classics

For those who truly want to imitate the masters, however, investing in a few classic pieces can be a real point of pride. "Any pieces from Dorothy Draper or William Haines are a great investment," says Shawn, noting the high prices these items fetch online.

If the price tag for a vintage Hollywood-design table is too intimidating, however, Henderson recommends looking to the supporting furniture cast. "Start with smaller pieces like lamps or side tables," he says. "To create balance, introduce some bold colors and layer in some chinoiserie pieces as part of the artwork and accessories."

And Kristan says even if you don't want to go full-out Hollywood, that's OK. "Hollywood Regency is a perfect style for a younger generation to be able to mix vintage, borderline-tacky pieces, and have them live in harmony," she says, adding that even if you love modern lines, you can still incorporate something like a high-lacquered Queen Anne chair.

Glitz, Glamour and Gorgeous

While Hollywood Regency design is a throwback to another era, it's still incredibly modern and relevant to today's hurried lifestyle, where people view homes as havens where they can relax.

"The whole style is about enjoying people, enjoying time [together]," says Butera. "It's about glamour and getting a glimpse of those bygone days where TV was less important and it was about cocktail hour and company."

Now that you know how to get the look, here's where to shop for Hollywood Regency style:

Inside Avenue
Brocade Home
655 Home
Councill Furniture
Jayson Home & Garden
1st Dibs

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