Zee stripe! It is gone! She is not a skunk at all!

by Johara Al-Rasheed

We took a tour of the new DTLA French Brasserie Le Petit Paris with its Architect Beth Holden
If a twenty-minute drive would get you to France, would you go? Le Petit Paris, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, is as close to France as you will get without enduring a long flight and the inevitable wailing baby. The woman to thank is Beth Holden of New Theme Inc. who designed the entire space. In Le Petit Paris she has transformed the former Hotel Stowell (later the El Dorado Hotel) into a fine Parisian brasserie that’s far from its French home.

“The brasserie in France is sort of your everyday restaurant, its very familial, so that’s what we were looking to achieve.” Holden tells me on a crisp November afternoon. If the “grand sal” downstairs with its crystal chandeliers and high ceilings don’t appeal to you then you might want to check out the upstairs mezzanine where a DJ plays every night.

Holden’s goal when designing the upstairs was “to create little zones and to make it feel cozy because a big space like this could feel very vast and empty and sterile,” she goes on to reference acclaimed downtown patisserie Bottega Louie’s “cavernous and open space,” which isn’t surprising considering the comparisons being drawn between the two DTLA European eateries.

The finished design strives for this coziness with tufted velvet poufs, and a mahogany and onyx bar (which—along with the rest of the furniture—Holden designed with her husband Wolfgang Melian).

Redesigning a historical building comes with its share of obstacles. Holden tells me that they had a completely different design for the bar but because of existing ducts they had to “react to what was here and sort of make it work,” this applies to the columns as well in that “they weren’t in great condition, some of the spaces and molding were painted blue and pink,” a fact you could never tell when looking at the beautiful columns today. Holden decided to restore these columns to their original gold by layering gold and bronze and darkening pieces “to really accentuate the details and shape.”

One of the first things that draws the eye when entering Le Petit Paris is the grand staircase at the end of the dining hall. Holden was adamant that minimal work should be done to this exquisite piece of architecture. She decided to keep most of the existing elements like the metal railing, the natural color of the tile, and the elegant curve. She did add a bit of carpet which “helps with absorbing sound and with the texture marries with the color of the tile,” but for the most part, the stairs remains as it once was “it’s the hero, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Some of the newer elements of the space include a faux chimney upstairs that Holden designed from existing molding, and the idea of the rotating art, where different artists’ work will be featured.

While Le Petit Paris is the largest restaurant Holden’s done, the finished design is an accomplished blend of modernist aesthetic with historical elements, much like the city that inspires it.