The Beverly Hills -Then and Now

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The Beverly Hills turns 50 this year, and for those countless numbers of guests worldwide who return here time and time again…from the decor to the supreme comfort levels, it’s about that sense of coming home. There simply isn’t a soul around who doesn’t know the name Beverly Hills. It’s an integral, iconic part of the fabric of the greater city of Durban, and as the very first hotel envisioned by the legendary hospitality giant, Sol Kerzner, it was arguably the first of its generation to offer a classic five-star experience which felt like home.

Coming Home means different things to different people, but one thing it always means, is a certain comfort level which begins with the decor and design. Fifty years ago of course, the decor at the Beverly Hills was very different to that of today, yet that thread of classic comfort has, and always will, run through it. Colours, textures, styles and trends change, but guests are never disappointed when they walk into their cabana and feel at home; walk into the lounge, and that stylish chair isn’t just about good looks…it feels good too. Beverly Hills’ guests have always had an expectation of superior service and exceptional comfort, and today as yesterday, they know they’ll find it.

Fifty years doing what it’s always done, and done so well, is no small feat in the hospitality industry. This beautiful old building standing sentry at the Umhlanga lighthouse, with breathtaking ocean views from most vantage points, owes its success, in part, to those welcoming layers of comfort exhibited in the curtains, carpets, lounging and dining areas. In keeping with international and local trends, the hotel’s decor may have changed considerably over the years, but, says design and decor consultant to the Tsogo Sun group, David Muirhead of David Muirhead & Associates, “We’ve come a long way from the days of blue swags, and the original turquoise, blues and greens.”  David smiles when he remembers himself as a regular guest at the hotel, years before he became involved at a design level: “For me, the Beverly Hills was always about that incredible attention to detail, the staff, the service, the decor. That gracious porte cochere, the welcome home.”

pic 4 entranceFor David, being involved in the decor of the Beverly Hills was a dream come true, and from the wrought iron details, dolphin water feature in the foyer to the splendid mahogany piano, David was determined to retain what he calls “the personality” of the hotel. The very reason why so many guests wouldn’t consider staying elsewhere.

The original florals and blues of the hotel decor gradually evolved into a fresher, cleaner, less floral look. The fabrics, too, shifted as much in textures and shades, as they moved towards longevity and less busy patterns – velvets and suedes, even PVC, reigned.


Perhaps one of the most noticeable decor changes was the transformation of the Cabin into Elements. David remembers it well: “Very dark timbers, rich carpeting, heavy panelling…it was time to open it up, lighten it and give it a fresh, contemporary cocktail beach-bar feel. We took our inspiration from the inside of a shell, and the entire space was transformed into shades of white.” It was a little oasis in the Beverly Hills, indeed in Umhlanga, and became the trendiest place for cocktails and easy dining. Modern sat happily side by side with classic, and the two complemented each other to perfection.


So, from 2008 to 2010, chandeliers were painted white, the grand piano lost its mahogany and went white, and the overblown florals gave way to simpler, earthier, often monotone colours like sand and leather.


The cabanas, too, were transformed with classically contemporary furnishings and furbishings – never flashy, always warm, quiet and stylish. Beverly Hills’ guests walk into their chosen cabana with confidence, knowing it’ll be as comfortable, calming, and easy on the eye as it was when they were last there. Different perhaps with modern light-fittings, fresher fabrics, lighter colours, but timeless, like the expansive sea views.


The Beverly Hills may be fifty years old, but constant, often unobtrusive shifts in decor and style have allowed guests to walk right back into their comfort zone with a sigh of contentment at the familiarity of the surroundings. That’s what the Beverly Hills is all about.


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