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romero + obeji interior designers catalina island

Art Deco has been on my mind recently-I’ve noticed it getting some play in current interior design, it is also one of the first architectural and design styles I was first attracted to when I was very young- it definitely was resurfacing around in the 1970’s and early 1980’s as an obvious influencer on contemporary interior design styles and fashion at the time- I personally believe it also had a profound effect on the Italian Memphis Design movement of the late 70's-early 80's (absolutely one of my faves) - but let’s save that awesome topic for another article.

romero + obeji interior designers and friends took the ferry from Long Beach to Catalina for the day, after a great seaside lunch and a Bloody Mary, we were walking around and while approaching the Casino building I began to notice even the simple retaining wall lining the walkway to the building featured niches with, of course, Catalina tile and beautiful spiraling posts between the walls that had an unmistakable Art Deco look to them. The island of Catalina is undeniably beautiful – but I have always been intrigued by the casino. Of course I could have googled it, but for some reason I have been simply drawn to this building without realizing it really has incredible interior and exterior design and history. There are countless articles available on the net about this building written by much more informed persons than I - but in a nutshell- it was built in 1929 by William Wrigley Jr.,yes, think chewing gum, it features the world’s largest round ballroom for dancing (there was never any gambling) and below that is a really beautiful movie theater- the very first theater ever built for talking motion pictures- and get this- Louis B Meyer, Cecil DeMille and Sam Goldwyn used to arrive by yacht to preview their new films. I can only imagine the entourage of assistants, secretaries, valets and other staff who got to spend the weekend on the island during these trips. Here’s a little known fact, apparently Errol Flynn, while preparing for his famous role as Robin hood, took an Olympic archer with him in a boat around the island to practice his archery in the 1930’s. There must have been some amazing parties rocking this place back in the day. Back to today, when we finally got up to the entrance- I was speechless at the beauty of the murals and the exterior architecture. Fantasy Spanish revival meets Art Deco- and they dance beautifully together.

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How awesome are these hand painted murals (below) in the theater? You can just make out Venus standing in her shell above the very center of the screen. The lobby which circles around the theater has vaulted ceilings, oak paneling and of course, custom furniture and lighting. Early Southern California architecture and interior design was more than simply influenced by Hollywood the movie industry, a lot of all the great early 20s’ and 30’s and 40’s residential architecture was actually built by set designers who were highly skilled in decorative arts - so, you could say, people were actually living the fantasy. A drive through so many of the great old LA neighborhoods will turn up romantic Spanish revival homes cozying up with art deco fantasy's, you’ll see neo-Georgian “Tara” style estates and Tudor styles shouldering up to storybook fantasy cottages. It really reflects the democracy of the day when even early on, the movie industry was a wonderful mixture of extraordinarily talented people.

There is also the great new Catalina Island Museum, built in a pretty cool Spanish revival- deco style- fitting in beautifully with the best local original architecture. It features an outdoor movie screen- perfect for those perfect island evenings.

Thanks for letting me share some design that truly inspires us here at romero + obeji interior design.

Chris Obeji

senior interior designer / partner

romero + obeji interior design Southern California


interior & exterior design

architectural design

landscape design

renovation project management

space & color planning

custom furnishings, built-ins

lighting plans

custom window & wall treatments

household organization

eco living

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