HomeAdvisor, a platform that connects homeowners to home improvement contractors, has created a visual tribute to Paul Revere Williams, a trailblazing Black architect whose work carried the glamour of classic Southern California style to the rest of the world.
“Williams opened his practice in the early 1920s when Southern California’s real estate market was booming,” according to the American Institute of Architects. “His early practice focused both on small, affordable houses for new homeowners and revival-style homes for his more affluent clients.”
As Williams’ reputation grew, so, too, did his client list. Between the 1920s and his retirement in 1973, Williams designed more than 2,000 private homes for legendary figures in business and entertainment. He counted Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Tyrone Power and Barbara Stanwyck among his celebrity clients.
Williams left his mark in the city’s most glamorous and exclusive enclaves—Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air and the Hollywood Hills. His architecture design varied from casual ranch-style to Colonial Georgian.
In recent years, A-listers such as Denzel Washington and Ellen DeGeneres have lived in Williams’ homes. He also designed public housing and a host of civic, commercial and institutional buildings. Regardless of style or use, his work shared the common threads of elegant composition and perfect proportion.
Paul R. Williams: Classic Hollywood Style, a book written by Williams’ granddaughter Karen Hudson, gives a visual tour of the prolific architect’s most spectacular houses, with a special focus on their roles not only as places for high living but also as venues for world-class entertaining.
“They feature many characteristics that were innovative when he used them in the 1920s through the ‘70s and are considered common practice now — like the patio as an extension of the house and hidden, retractable screens,” the book states.
Williams was deeply involved in the Black community in Los Angeles and in African-American affairs nationally. He spoke about the challenges he faced in an article for The American Magazine. “Without having the wish to ‘show them,’ I developed a fierce desire to ‘show myself,’ ” Williams wrote in a 1937 essay, I Am a Negro. “I wanted to vindicate every ability I had. I wanted to acquire new abilities. I wanted to prove that I, as an individual, deserved a place in the world.”
Eight of Williams’ works have been named to the National Register of Historic Places. In his support of William’s nomination for the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in 2017, William J. Bates, a fellow of AIA, wrote: “Our profession desperately needs more architects like Paul Williams. His pioneering career has encouraged others to cross a chasm of historic biases. I can’t think of another architect whose work embodies the spirit of the Gold Medal better. His recognition demonstrates a significant shift in the equity for the profession and the institute.”