CHARLIES - creative club in Los Angeles
Charlies, the creative club I designed for Australian in Film is located in Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. The brief was to create an anchor point for Australian writers, directors and producers in Los Angeles – a space that people would feel at home in. Where creativity and ideas could flow and connections sparked through people bumping in to each other. The name comes from Charlie Chaplin, who used to play cards there in the 1920s when it was the studio of his great friend Douglas Fairbanks.
I wanted to evoke a timeless atmosphere, a space with an intangible quality. A feeling of the potential still to come. Charlie himself was key to this: a rare photo from his early days , without his moustache, became my inspiration. A portrait where he holds a clear gaze straight down the barrel of the lens. Something of a pioneering spirit about him - his ragamuffin outsider charm still holds. I think if he were around today he would be a YouTube star…
One of the most wonderful parts of the process was reconnecting with Norman Lloyd, Hollywood’s oldest working actor/producer at 101 and a half, who amazingly, was friends with Chaplin. A charming and vibrant presence, Norman provided a portal back in time. Over a series of lunches, he told me stories that Charlie had told him – like the one about his snobby butler with the wooden teeth and the time he buried a million dollars.
The writers room I painted inky dark. A place to focus, to dive deep into the creative well. Just about all the furniture was sourced from the great flea markets held weekly in LA, including the iconic Rosebowl. The meeting room was named The Mermaid Lounge in honour of the Australian swimmer/film star Annette Kellerman. Initially a rather boxy room, Raleigh Studios management generously provided their wonderful carpentry team to knock through the back wall and connect to the kitchen. This completely changed the energy of the room, making it more contemporary. Painted a soft old Hollywood pink, with chairs reupholstered in vintage barkcloth, the feminine energy enhanced by a ravishing photograph of Hedy Lamarr.
One time out with Norman Lloyd, I showed him an early picture I had found of Charlie Chaplin. He said “There he is – there’s the man the world loved”. He later talked of the idea of a creative lineage, how it is handed down through people. I hope that’s how it will be with Charlies.