Architectural Statement - Countdown Begins for the Reopening of The Huntington’s Historic Tea Room

Architectural Statement

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In 2020, when the Rose Garden Tea Room closed during COVID, The Huntington took the opportunity to renovate the building and at the onset, created a clear set of objectives for the project:

  • Preserve and restore the original structure
  • Create elegant dining spaces for visitors—both in the historic space and in new indoor and outdoor contemporary spaces—that can function for a range of dining activities
  • Create new additions that are compatible with the historic structure, yet distinctly contemporary
  • Preserve the surrounding historic gardens and connect them with the dining spaces
  • Create a fully equipped and functional modern kitchen
  • Improve accessibility to the building

The design of this project developed directly from these objectives.

There are now three separate dining spaces, each with its own connection to a historic garden. The outdoor Shakespeare Pavilion opens onto the Shakespeare Garden to the east; the Herb Room’s doors open to a terrace overlooking the Herb Garden to the west; and the main dining room is in its original location, looking out to the Rose Garden. Drawing on the original design of the building as a billiard room and two-lane bowling alley, a foyer (circulation spine) beautifully and elegantly connects the new dining spaces to each other and to the main entrance lobby, as well as to the kitchen and service areas.

The new entrance is shifted away from the front of the original Rose Garden Tea Room, now opening to the Rose Arbor walkway on the east side of the original building, providing for direct access to any of the three separate dining areas through the spacious lobby area. As a result, the Tea Room (main dining room) can function solely as a dining space, rather than as an entrance and circulation area. This also allows for universal access to the building.

The new additions maintain the scale of the original building, and they were constructed using The Huntington’s historic palette of materials (plaster walls, tile roofs) and classical proportions. They were configured in such a way as to preserve the adjacent historic gardens and landscape.

The interior of the building had similar design considerations. Previously remodeled ceiling and wainscot trims were restored to their original configuration. The fireplace and mantle surround were also restored. At the same time, contemporary lighting fixtures were installed to add flexible lighting options to the space. New banquette-type seating on the perimeter maximizes the capacity of the room. The finishes in the building’s new spaces consist of wood, plaster, and painted wall paneling—all of which are compatible to the historic building, while also being distinctly contemporary.

—Architectural Resources Group