‘Vintage Shanghai meets Art Deco’ Engagement Shoot at The Oviatt Penthouse

As the backdrop for Robyn and Sven’s ‘Vintage Shanghai meets Art Deco’ engagement photoshoot, The Oviatt Penthouse embodies the glam and glitz of Art Deco excellence.  These video game designers, artists, and graphic novel enthusiasts travel back in time to meet somewhere in an alternative universe, at the intersection of their cultures and creative outlets to celebrate their engagement in style!

Planned and Designed by Anything But Gray Events, this styled ‘Vintage Shanghai meets Art Deco’ photoshoot at The Oviatt Penthouse, captured by Soda Fountain Photography, is as one of a kind as the building itself! Let’s share some of the fascinating history and architecture of this Los Angeles landmark.

 

 

The History

 

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

This grand building and The Oviatt Penthouse, which sits on the 12th floor, and rented for events, was constructed as the headquarters of one of the most prestigious and expensive haberdasheries in the city, Alexander & Oviatt. Originally built as a top-of-the-line haberdashery, or men’s clothing and accessory department store, in 1928, owned by Alexander & Oviatt, the bottom floor, now called The Cicada Club is a restaurant and live theater performance venue.

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The Alexander & Oviatt Haberdashery, circa 1928, at 617 S Olive Street in Los Angeles, California.

The Art Deco Movement

 

The Art Deco style, which originated in France just before World War I, had an important impact on architecture and design in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. It combined modern aesthetics, fine craftsmanship, and expensive materials, symbolizing luxury and modernity. While rarely used in ordinary residences, it was frequently used for office buildings, government buildings, train stations, movie theaters, diners, and department stores. It was also used in furniture and the design of automobiles, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as toasters and radio sets.

In Art Deco design, whether in architecture, objects, or details, we see:

  • Classical balanced and symmetrical form.
  • Windows are arranged as vertical recessed panels.
  • Surfaces sheathed in smooth, flat stone or stucco.
  • The use of light and dark shading and transitional patterns.

 

Many people confused Art Nouveau and Art Deco, which are two very different art movements happening congruently in the 20th century. They both influenced all elements of visual culture, from fine art, and design to architecture and graphic arts. Art Nouveau celebrates elegant curves and long lines, Art Deco consists of sharp angles and geometrical shapes. So, they are very different from each other but frequently confused by their similar names.

The Elevator

 

The ornate elevators at The Oviatt Penthouse were designed and crafted by the A. J. Bayer Company, founder of the Los Angeles Art Metal Works Company. Each cab boasts marble floors, carved woodwork, and decorative grilles. The firm also worked on elevators in the Los Angeles Athletic Club (right now the street), the Union Oil Building, the Hall of Records, and City Hall.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

Check out this amazing 1927 Llewellyn Iron Works elevator at The Oviatt Building in Downtown Los Angeles.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

 

The Glamour & Fashion

 

Robyn’s beauty and stylings, by Beauty by Bon Bon, paid homage to her Chinese heritage. With her jet black hair, slicked into a low chignon, winged liner, and feathered lashes, completed with ruby lips, she looked like Anna May Wong, an American actress, considered the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood. Wong’s varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

A vintage face netting by milliner, Debra Shirley and a gold wire headpiece by bridal accessories designer, Julie Harris Designs were completed with a Chinese dress called a qipao or cheongsam. This collared Chinese wedding attire is often red with silver and gold embroidery.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

Sven’s ensemble, a classic black and white tuxedo by Friar Tux epitomizes the dapper gentleman of this era. 

 

 

The Interior

 

 

The Oviatt’s ten-room penthouse, now available for wedding, event, and filming rentals, was originally decorated by the Parisian design firm of Saddler et Fils. The rooms, including a spacious bedroom with a walk-in closet, master bathroom, living room, library, cocaine bathroom (you heard me right!), bar, and outdoor rooftop space with adjacent clock tower, featured rich burled mahogany furniture and etched cabinets, parquet wood floors in geometric patterns, carved woodwork, imported fabrics, and Lalique glass throughout.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

 Pops of red and green set off their looks with personal florals by Leta Verbena

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

Dripping with gleaming marble, ornate chandeliers, Lalique glasswork, moire wall coverings, hand-carved parquet flooring, and burled maple, mahogany, and thuya built-ins, the Oviatt Penthouse is a definite stunner both inside and out! And even for a building almost 100 years old, it is beautifully maintained and a time capsule of yesteryear.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

The master bath in the Oviatt Penthouse is one of the venue’s most lavish and talked-about areas, featuring carved lacquer-covered terra cotta walls, a Lalique glass skylight, a brightly-tiled yellow steam/massage room (seen above), two sinks (one strictly for shaving), a large step-down bathtub, and a bidet. This was a modern marvel of design in the mid-1920s.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

The Exterior & Rooftop

 

 

The most famous rooftop penthouse in Los Angeles and one of its first, The Oviatt Penthouse was the brainchild and longtime home of James Oviatt (1888-1974), co-founder of the West Coast’s most prestigious haberdashery, “Alexander & Oviatt” / “Oviatt’s”.

Sitting atop the legendary Oviatt Building and designed by interior architect Joseph L. Feil, the 1928 Oviatt Penthouse was L.A.’s first Art Deco residence. The custom-made furniture by Saddier et Fils, etched-glass windows by Gaetan Jeannin, and ceiling lights by Lalique was imported directly from Paris boasting the finest luxurious experience.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

In 1975, a year after James Oviatt’s passing, his widow, Mary, sold the building which eventually fell into the hands of famed L.A. preservationist Wayne Radkovich. Wayne converted the penthouse –virtually, a Roaring ‘20s time capsule– into an event and location shoot venue. To this day, the Oviatt penthouse and rooftop amaze and delight visitors and guests hosting their own celebrations including weddings, events, and filming. The same space where James Oviatt’s Hollywood friends and industry titans once partied and imbibed, thumbing their noses at Prohibition.

If you want information about renting this space for an event of up to 120 guests, contact https://www.theoviatt.com/.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

James and Mary Oviatt circa 1930. Notice the stairs have not changed much except for adding a railing for safety, something that wasn’t considered needed back then!

 

 

The Clock Tower

 

 

The two-story tower on The Oviatt Penthouse building houses the first neon clock with three faces of the city.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

In 1928, the city’s height limit was only 13 stories, with The Oviatt Penthouse on the 12th and the clock tower on the 13th. In comparison, it now seems small against the massive, modern buildings and structures that surround it nearly 100 years later.

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

Whether in technicolor or black and white, there are so many nooks and crannies, secret doors, and hidden compartments in The Oviatt Penthouse making it a treasure trove of Los Angeles history. The stuff Hollywood legends are made of….

Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven
Robyn and Sven

Want more styled engagement photoshoots? Check out the Anything But Gray Events blog.

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