Freehand LA started with a building in downtown LA that sat vacant for almost 3 decades – The Commercial Exchange Building.  A former office building (including the office of William Burroughs) which was lined with a series of retail shops at the base.  The main energy of the hotel exists in the ground floor with large carefully rebuilt windows to match the historical details and allow the façade to be reopened to natural light and show the expanse of space.  Starting at the corner restaurant – The Exchange – located in the former Owl Drug Co. is built on top of the original decorative mosaic floors adorned with intricately detailed owl medallions. Next, stepping down into the Living Room the furniture is set in a space lined with a tile border and centered with inset carpet.  Here, the expansive windows are lined with wood shelves that carry row upon row of native California plants.  This leads down a narrow corridor into the restored inset marble elevator Lobby with coffered plaster barrel vault ceiling.


From the Ground Floor & continuing to the Roof, is a consistent aesthetic for the spaces of the Freehand.



Designed to look like it was added by a younger generation, The Exchange takes its inspiration from California health food stores.  A built-in wood mezzanine adds additional private seating and encloses the kitchen below in a small nook.


Located in the center of the ground floor is a large double height space flanked by a low Bar and a Café.  Designed as the main axis between the Restaurant and the Hotel, it is the heart of the space.


Taking advantage of a large open deck, the entrance off of the elevator gently leads you from a corner of the building out into the open roof.  A colorful pool centered to allow movement on all sides set in a thick golden quarry tile designed to look like it was the existing roof pavers.



The rooms in the Freehand begin with the existing building – small rooms based on the historical corridor layout.  Each room was individually reworked to uniquely outfit & maximize the floorplan with built-in beds or bunk beds and an accompanying wall-mounted desk and chair.  Adding to the small spaces are small luxuries – full tile bathrooms and custom upholstered window benches.  The rooms were again finished with custom pieces of art made in the style of plein-air paintings.


The graphics and wayfinding are still a strong point of the Freehand brand.  The hallways of Freehand are painted in different bold colors to offset the historical corridors with war California colors.  Room numbers were created custom by the design team along with hand-painted room numbering on the existing doors – a nod to the numbering found on the historic doors in the building.

→ Visit Website



Interior Design, Graphics, Creative Direction
Roman and Williams
Adrian Gaut, Frank Lee, & Alen Lin

Leave a Reply