April 26, 2017

Photo Essay: The Art Deco Jewel of The West

It's one of the Art Deco treasures of Los Angeles—or, really, of the entire Western U.S. But since it was converted from a department store to residential lofts, most people can only admire it from the outside.

Its turquoise-colored, terra cotta-tiled, gold-leafed exterior is one of LA's most photographed and filmed (appearing in everything from the pilot of Moonlighting to the Transformers blockbuster movie).

But if you're lucky enough make it past the zig-zagged, chevroned vestibule of the Eastern Columbia Building (so named after the Eastern Outfitting and Columbia Outfitting companies, for which it was built)...

...walk upon the lobby's original terrazzo floor (which was restored in 2007)...

...and ride one of the original elevators to one of the upper floors...'ll see how Angelenos once shopped for furniture and rugs, standing on concrete floors between monumental columns, under wedding cake-shaped Art Deco lighting fixtures.

And, during my visit, I got to see how the other half lives...

...namely, movie star Johnny Depp...

...who recently moved out of the five penthouses he called home...

...three of which were interconnected through secret passageways behind shelves and one authentic bank safe.

He devoted an entire floor of one of his penthouses to closet space...

...a "his and hers" setup he shared with his most recent wife, Amber Heard.

Each side had its own private bathroom, in addition to the loo downstairs (and those in the other penthouses).

The penthouse is technically in the decorative clock tower, so you're standing right under the clock when you walk out onto the patio. It's an homage to the career beginnings of Eastern Columbia founder Adolph Sieroty (at a clock shop), but it was also a cheat that allowed the 13-story building to surpass the height limit of the time. Its neon had been dark for about 20 years until it was relit upon the 75th anniversary of the building in 2005.

That clock might be the most distinctive feature of this 1930 landmark, but for those who actually live in those lofts, you just can't beat the view you get out of those original, iron-clad casement windows.

It's a wonder that Johnny Depp ever decided to sell.

Interior designers of the lofts seem to have embraced the 1930s charm of the building, incorporating Art Deco elements (like salvaged panels from the 1933 World's Fair)...

...with retro-styled appliances...

...and, if not original, then good reproductions of vintage lighting fixtures.

Eastern Columbia Outfitters went out of business in 1957, after which point its flagship store was converted into office space. For its reuse as a residential tower (containing 147 condos), developers added a "leisure terrace," featuring a sundeck and a pool, onto the roof below the clock.

You can get 1730 square feet of the building, consisting of two bedrooms and two bathrooms, for a mere $1.4 million—which, in my mind, is a steal compared to real estate prices for shoeboxes in New York City.

Or you could move into one of Johnny Depp's former penthouses—each with more than 2000 square feet and two beds, three baths—for around $2.5 million.

But if I were a millionaire, I'm not sure that's what I'd spend my money on. For now, my tiny Art Deco apartment suits me just fine.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Bullocks Wilshire, The Art Deco Law School Campus (Updated)
Photo Essay: Oviatt's Art Deco Penthouse, At Night
Photo Essay: The Oviatt Building's Art Deco Legacy
Furnishing an Art Deco Apartment on a Dorm Room Budget

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