HomeAdvisor, a platform that connects homeowners with home improvement contractors, has created a visual tribute to Paul Revere Williams, a pioneering black architect whose work carried the glamor of classic Southern California style to the rest of the world.
“Williams opened his practice in the early 1920s, when the Southern California real estate market was booming,” according to the American Institute of Architects. “Its beginnings focused on both affordable tiny homes for new owners and wake-up style homes for its more affluent clients.
As Williams’ reputation grew, so did his client list. Between the 1920s and his retirement in 1973, Williams designed more than 2,000 private homes for legendary business and entertainment personalities. He counted Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Tyrone Power and Barbara Stanwyck among his famous clients.
Williams has left his mark on the city’s most glamorous and exclusive enclaves: Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air and Hollywood Hills. Its architectural design ranged from relaxed ranch style to colonial Georgian.
In recent years, figures such as Denzel Washington and Ellen DeGeneres have lived in Williams homes. He also designed social 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 homes, with special emphasis on their roles not only as upscale places to live, but also as world-class entertainment venues.
“They have many features that were innovative when he used them in the 1920s-1970s and are considered standard practice today – such as the patio as an extension of the house and the hidden and retractable screens.” , indicates the book.
Williams was deeply involved in Los Angeles’ black community and in African American affairs nationwide. He spoke about the challenges he faced in an article for American magazine. “Without having the desire to ‘show them’, I developed a fierce desire to ‘show myself’,” Williams wrote in a 1937 essay, I am a nigger. “I wanted to validate all my abilities. I wanted to acquire new abilities. I wanted to prove that as an individual I deserved a place in the world.
Eight of Williams’ works have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In support of William’s nomination for the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2017, AIA Fellow William J. Bates wrote: “Our profession desperately needs more architects like Paul Williams. His pioneering career encouraged others to cross a chasm of historical prejudice. I can’t think of another architect whose work better embodies the spirit of the Gold Medal. Its recognition demonstrates a significant change in equity for the profession and the institute.