IT'S HARD TO GO WRONG WHEN YOUR STARTING point is what many consider Los Angeles' most beautiful building. But then again, being the plastic surgeon entrusted with the face-lift of a renowned beauty—in this case, a striking Art Deco tower that epitomized opulence during its heyday in the 1930s—isn't a job for the shaky-handed. The Kor Group and its design partners held steady with the conversion of this iconic landmark, accentuating the structure's classic features, while eliminating those that were old and tired.

On the outside, the renovation of the Eastern Columbia Outfitting Cos.' 13-story tower (formerly an upscale clothier for the stars) appears subtle and effortless, and that's the art of it. In fact, the project, now called the Eastern Columbia Lofts, involved extensive (and historically abiding) restoration of the building's exquisite turquoise and gold terra cotta façade, deep-recessed windows, four-sided clock tower, two-story vestibule, and colorful terrazzo sidewalks. Ceiling heights (which varied by floor) were left intact in the steel-reinforced, concrete structure, but the spaces between them were gutted and repurposed as 147 airy lofts blending modern fixtures and finishes with vintage period details such as original windows, beams, columns, and decorative molding.

Young, affluent professionals were quick to snatch up 60 percent of the eclectic units in two kick-off events that signaled the tower's comeback. “The people who live here are passionate about the building,” says Kimberly Lucero, vice president of residential sales and marketing for Kor Group. “They do a lot of progressive parties that move from one floor to the next so everyone can see what their neighbors have done with their homes.”

The first units were introduced in November 2005; out of 147 total, just eight are now left. Six of those are penthouses that were not released until August 2007, “which partly explains why they haven't sold yet,” Lucero says. The building now houses no fewer than 20 different floor plans.

As befits a grand dame, Eastern Columbia has become a catalyst for upgrades to surrounding Victorian, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco buildings, restoring elegance and high style to an area that had fallen into decline. Its crowning amenity is a rooftop pool deck offering breathtaking views of the city.

“To envision yourself sitting up there with the sun going down, sipping a cocktail after work is pretty grand,” says Lucero. And in a place such as L.A., there's always the chance one of Hollywood's hottest stars might be sitting next to you, martini in hand.

Project: Eastern Columbia Lofts, Los Angeles; Sales started: November 2005; Units planned: 147, including 8 penthouses; Price: $400,000 to $3 million; Unit size: 866 to 3,208 square feet; Builder/Developer: Kor Development, Los Angeles; Architect: Killefer Flammang Architects, Santa Monica, Calif.; Interior designer: Kelley Wearstler Interior Design, Los Angeles photos: courtesy kor group

BODY ECLECTIC: The upscale residences at Eastern Columbia Lofts blend retro style with modern  luxuries such as industrial-grade appliances and large soaking tubs.
Kor Group BODY ECLECTIC: The upscale residences at Eastern Columbia Lofts blend retro style with modern luxuries such as industrial-grade appliances and large soaking tubs.
Kor Group
Kor Group

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.