I could wax romantic about Los Angeles for days. As an east coast transplant who moved to the city of stars over six years ago, LA has won me over completely with its melting pot of cultures and cuisines, arts scene, and, of course, its architecture.
One of the more striking differences between New England and Los Angeles that continues to bowl me over is LA’s uniquely eclectic architectural styles. From the Space Age-inspired Googie architecture of the mid 1950’s to the fairy tale charm of French Normandy apartment buildings, LA represents a tapestry of aesthetics, styles, eras, and cultures within almost any given city street.
Of course, protecting and preserving historic architecture is no easy feat in a city that moves at breakneck speed with skyrocketing property values. Developers looking to make a quick buck wreak havoc across the city, homogenizing old homes with the same soulless laminate flooring. Despite these atrocities, there’s thankfully a small yet mighty coalition of people and groups who’ve made it their mission to preserve LA’s architectural splendor.
At the top of this list are the heroes over at GLB Properties, a family-run property development and management company that specializes in architecturally significant and historic 1920s and 1930s apartments, homes, commercial buildings, and film locations in the city. GLB Properties creative director, designer, and brand manager, Ivana Rose Bramson, operates the business with her parents, who founded it in 1980. Together, the family stands guard for the history of LA by lovingly preserving, restoring, and celebrating their vintage properties.
Bramson has answered a few of my questions below about her relationship to this work and why LA architecture lights her up.
Why is preserving and restoring these 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s LA buildings so important to you?
Los Angeles’ architectural history is so young (mostly under 100 years old), and many people are all too comfortable tearing it down. We at GLB Properties are caretakers of history, art, and architecture.
Spanish Revival, French Normandy, Art Deco, and other Old Hollywood architecture is unique to Los Angeles, and it is a privilege to be able to keep it alive. Keeping this precious and impactful part of Los Angeles history relevant today is what I love most about my job. There’s a difference between reading about Old Hollywood and Los Angeles architecture in coffee table books and actually experiencing and living your life through it, letting the history and energy from the past inspire your life and lifestyle in the present.
What architectural features from this era excite you the most when you come upon them in a property?
There are too many architectural details from this era that excite me! In an Art Deco property, it might be the reveal lighting in the ceiling that visually makes it appear to be floating, or the way a wall curves from the living room into the dining room. In a Spanish Revival property, it might be the original stenciled wood beam ceilings in the living rooms, or the original colorful bathrooms where no two are alike. In a French Normandy property, it might be a functional turret that makes for a perfect reading nook off of a bedroom, or the original wedding cake moulding along the walls.
It’s the immediate impact of history, detail, and space. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes serene, and always filled with a sense of discovery. Living in and exploring a GLB Property is an immersive experience where there’s always something to see, discover, and be inspired by.
What is it about LA architecture that sets it apart from other cities?
The architecture from this era is a fantasy turned reality, a true Hollywood interpretation. In my opinion, this was the most exciting time for architecture (1920s-40s). Los Angeles’ architectural history is iconic and elegant, eccentric and whimsical, inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood. You just can’t get that anywhere else.
What do you enjoy most about the renovation and restoration process?
I love the smell of fresh cut wood as we are about to lay hand cut/hand finished chevron floors down, and the feeling when I look at a completed project. These projects can take anywhere from months to years. We never take the quick and easy route, and pride ourselves on meaningful restorations, renovations, and respectfully enhanced interpretations in some cases. I love watching a neglected or tired piece of architecture/art being brought back to life, whether it means being meticulously restored, interpretively restored, or updated to be relevant and useful, while still maintaining the integrity of the original architecture. I also love that I get to work with my parents who are both designers and incredibly fun to collaborate creatively with.
What are the biggest challenges you run into when standing guard for these old buildings?
There is an incredibly high cost to do things the right way when restoring these properties. That’s why “they don’t make ‘em like they used to.” So I would say a big challenge is spending the money to do it right while trying not to break the bank!
Another element to that is the potential for misuse before we acquire a property, or if someone lived in a space and didn’t care for it that well. We have experienced some disasters and they are hard to recover from and properly restore. The cost today to replicate far exceeds what it originally cost, and it’s also incredibly difficult to find craftspeople that can actually replicate a high quality of work. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the amazing craftspeople we work with. Many property owners cannot financially justify saving or replicating the architectural integrity of the property, as rents cannot return even a fraction of the cost involved.
Do you have an all-time favorite GLB property or project from over the years?
It’s very hard to pick just one! All of our projects have some element that’s epic and memorable. La Villa Allende in Miracle Mile was an incredibly time consuming labor of love and test of patience (a major repurpose of sorts). Every room has a different pattern of flooring and no bathroom is the same. We turned a small leveled dirt yard into a multi-level summer courtyard destination with a pool and installed beautiful, mature landscaping. I feel comfortable saying there’s no home like it in the area. We used a mixture of terracotta, Zellige Moroccan tile, Malibu tile, and other materials to create an incredible living experience unique to Los Angeles. Every bedroom has French doors that bring the outside in. It’s an entertainer’s dream.
Chateau Rossmore in Hancock Park and The Gothic Los Feliz are favorite overall projects too, but there are also specific homes, spaces, and apartments that really stand out, like a colorful revival bath we did at Las Ramblas on Sycamore in Hancock Park. It’s yellow, turquoise, pink, and black, and makes me smile every time I see it. Every project, small or large, is a chance to make an impactful architectural statement.
Can you describe the ABODE series you’ve launched through GLB Properties? What inspired this endeavor?
ABODE is a lifestyle series that I originally launched to feature our creative and talented tenants. In doing so, I realized the GLB lifestyle was bigger than our community of tenants, and so I opened it up to our Instagram community as well. We are so lucky to have a large community of like-minded individuals who love and appreciate this era of architecture as much as we do! ABODE features people in their homes in Los Angeles (and soon beyond!) who live in historic and architecturally significant properties (apartments, lofts, homes). As ABODE evolved, I started to feature local artists, creatives, curators, collectors, and entrepreneurs. I’ve always loved photography and connecting with new people, so this series is a labor of love connecting all the things I love to do: photography (film and digital), architecture and interior design, and meeting and connecting creative people. This series is incredibly fulfilling for me and I have so much fun doing it.