If He Builds It, They Will Come
Hotel and restaurant designer Dodd Mitchell has an eye for perfection
Dodd Mitchell is on a date at his new restaurant, The Lodge. But instead of staring at the supermodel sharing his table, the red-hot designer is fixated on the mirror behind her. Mitchell explains, “I’m a total perfectionist and control freak. I mean, she’s a supermodel but all I could see was this big smudge. I’m kind of weird like that.”
What does this mean? Well for one, Mitchell is not always a great date. But more importantly, he’s not your typical interior designer. The intensely driven, semi-obsessive fortysomething is behind more than 20 of LA’s celebrity-filled hot spots, including Katana, Cinch, The Crescent, Ashton Kutcher’s Dolce, Chi and, most recently, the legendary Roosevelt Hotel.
With a boyish charm and a touch of self-professed ADD, the designer, named the “Crown Prince of Restaurant Design” by LA Magazine, boasts that, despite his lack of formal training, he has been designing his entire life. “There are pictures of me at 4 years old hammering the walls,” he recounts. “I was always moving the furniture around and building huge forts with these old floral blankets. I’d show my mom how the light made patterns through the floral—which is funny because now I’m known for my lighting.”
Mitchell eventually moved from sheet forts to set design and worked on several television projects. His first break into the nightlife world was designing the small but long-lasting Santa Monica club, 217.
Since then, Mitchell has developed an eclectic, edgy style. His designs are sexy, otherworldly creations full of earthy textures, unusually placed leathers and natural assemblages of wood, stone, fire and water. The designer, who has not taken a break in 12 years, says, “I try to make my designs into mini-vacations. Whether they’re staying at one of my hotels or just a couple hours at a restaurant I want them to feel like they’ve gotten away.”
Recently, the passionate mind embarked on one of his biggest projects—the renovation of the Roosevelt Hotel. The 78-year-old Hollywood landmark hosted the first Oscars and was a favorite hideout for stars like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Today, the revamped classic has regained the fame it held during the Golden Age—thanks, no doubt, to Mitchell’s creative infusion.
Mitchell describes the new feel as “Four Seasons with edge.” The lavish, palm-tree-filled poolside bar, The Tropicana, is frequented by the likes of Nikki and Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Bruce Willis, while the lush retro patio is equal parts Palm Springs oasis, South Beach hip, celebrity Mecca and classic Hollywood glamour.
Inside, the impressive lobby is adorned with Spanish tiles, exotic leathers, custom-designed furniture and exposed wood-beamed ceilings. The nightclub, Teddy’s, showcases high arches, ostrich feather chairs, lucite chandeliers and crocodile furniture. Despite this hip new interior, the hotel still maintains its old Hollywood feel and original 1920s Moorish architecture.
As Mitchell bounds from room to room excitedly pointing out every detail—from the 60s-inspired chandeliers to Teddy Roosevelt’s original Brunswick pool table—he explains, “I am inspired by the everything. It’s kind of a spiritual thing. I can be inspired by a martini glass or Mother Nature—whatever comes into my head is what the client gets. But when I start, you never know what is going to come out.”
And behind every unusual design choice, there’s an unusual story to match. “I was watching a porno late one night and a girl was undoing her lace boots,” Mitchell explains. “It was so sexy, so I decided to turn the laces into curtains.” Mitchell took thousands of feet of regular bootlaces and created a moving sea of black leather that surrounds the lobby. As he tells it, “It’s all about the sex.”
The chic rooms showcase flat screen televisions and soundstage-inspired, suede-covered walls. “They give it that Hollywood feel,” says Mitchell. “And it’s great for sound proofing.”
The Marilyn Monroe suite features a slim sleeping alcove, Bert Stern’s 1962 classic photograph of Marilyn, and a mirror over the bed. “The mirror is tilted. As long as it’s that way, everyone looks skinny,” he smiles.
Mitchell stresses that his designs are all about comfort. “I want to make people feel good,” he professes, quickly adding, “I am a really shy person. In my designs, there are always places for people to kind of hide, to lean on something or just sit down.”
And that’s no accident. As Mitchell explains, when people in Hollywood go out, they like to be seen—but not entirely. “It’s like the lingerie effect,” the designer elaborates. “It’s sexier if there is something in between you and them. It makes people curious and want more.”
Mitchell says the key to being a successful designer is to “be passionate about your work and think from your heart.” He does not favor any particular one of his designs “because I haven’t designed it yet. I’m really hard on myself and nothing has been quite perfect. I can see it in my head though, and I’ll definitely build it one day.”
And when he builds it, we will come.
Pictured: The Roosevelt’s Moorish-tiled lobby., reimagined in Mitchell’s vision. Courtesy of the Roosevelt Hotel.