L.A. hotels are a reflection of our diversity and dynamism as a city. The historic ones, from Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood to The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood to the The Figueroa Hotel in downtown (read about its latest art resident here), capture our glamour and culture, while the new ones evoke fresh perspective and creative panache.
Yes, there are no-frills, mid and upscale properties everywhere, usually favored by business travelers and family vacationers, but new experiential stays keep the industry vital. These hotel hot spots celebrate L.A.’s mystique as a travel destination, and provide novel social scenes for locals, as well. After two years-plus dealing with Covid-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions and overall uncertainty, this part of the hospitality sector was as hard hit as any, but it’s proven it can endure.
Perhaps the most overt example of the boutique hotel business’s struggles came when The Standard Hollywood on the Sunset Strip announced it would shutter in January of 2021. “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the closure of The Standard, Hollywood, which will shut its doors indefinitely,” its announcement read. “Despite 22 years of unconditional love for our hotel, our guests, our team and our community, the hotel was unable to prevent a significant increase to its lease, which makes operating the property impossible.”
Exactly a year later, The Downtown L.A. Standard followed suit. Formerly owned by André Balazs of Marmont, the two Standards’ melds of mid-century modern decor, velvet ropey vibes, a lively poolside scene and cheeky atmospheric touches (who can forget WeHo’s “The Box” with a live model behind a glass case in the lobby?) made them go-to’s for events and bigwig pow-wows, as depicted on shows like HBO’s Entourage.
Personally, we’ll never forget the Desert Nights music series, swingin’ nightclubs (Purple Lounge, Mmhmmm and Giorgio’s), Warhol-art adorned curtains and egg chair swings on Sunset, or the red and white-swathed rooftop pool scene in downtown, the later the site of the best birthday bash we ever threw (it was our 35th and we barely remember it, so we know it was a banger).
Los Angeles was and is full of fancy hotels, frequented by ladies who lunch and celeb meet-ups, too. The iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, The Four Seasons Hotel, The Beverly Wilshire (the “Pretty Woman hotel”) top this list, recognition-wise.
When we think about downtown dwellings, the creepy Cecil Hotel is what first comes to mind since we did a story about it not too long ago (it’s in the news this week thanks to the literal white-washing of its iconic sign). But there are plenty of places we’d actually love to stay-cay and often visit to this day nearby: from the iconic Biltmore Hotel to the retro-cylindered Bonaventure Hotel and the old school vibey Ace Hotel (sister to Palm Springs’ cool crowd Coachella party fave).
The Line Hotel in Koreatown deserves note for its pet-friendly rooms, outdoor cafe and ‘80s-themed nightclub, as does The Freehand Hotel in DTLA, which was recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as the best hotel in Los Angeles in its 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards, thanks to its historic location and rooftop oasis The Broken Shaker.
All of these destinations offer visitors a hefty dose of L.A. mojo, with unique atmospheres, ample amenities and clean, comfy rooms, many with views of our gorgeous sunsets and skylines. We’ve always recommended one of the above over an Air BnB stay to friends in town, selfishly hoping to score some pool time, brunch dates and a staycation state of mind, if only for a day or night. But right now, we’re looking at a new slew of hot hotels that conjure this vicarious allure in bigger and fresher ways. Let’s check-in on a few, shall we?
“We are in the Mona Lisa business,” famed entrepreneur Ian Schrager said of EDITION hotel when it opened late 2019, early 2020. “We aspire to be the best hotel in California; that’s always our approach. With architecture, design, entertainment and service, we try to offer something that people have never experienced before.”
Schrager, best known for his involvement with the legendary Studio 54 nightclub in New York, joined forces with Marriott Hotels to create “hotels that don’t act like hotels” in gateway cities throughout the world. Its opening marked an exciting new era for scene-y hotels, boasting beautiful restaurants, bars and clubs (their disco ball clustered Sunset nightclub seemed to have a line outside, the second it opened). Even the lobby bar at EDITION became soiree-like, serving as a holding space for those who couldn’t make it into the adjacent club.
Then the pandemic hit and its momentum was put on hold, like other hotels, for over a year and half. Hoping to pick up exactly where it left off, EDITION once again is touting its sleek, minimalist rooms filled with sunny yellow and gold hues, and irreverent touches that nod to the past alongside modern amenities. They’ve just announced DJ residencies (they partnered with Framework, an underground party incubator at Sunset), step and repeat wall-worthy events, and a new chef-driven seasonal menu at their Miami-style restaurant Ardor.
“Although the area experienced its highs and lows, The West Hollywood EDITION pays homage to its enduring history by reviving the Golden Age energy, and creating a new kind of gathering place for visitors and locals alike on Sunset Strip,” Schrager shared in PR materials for the hotel when it opened. “The streets were filled with music and people from all over the country were pouring into California to be a part of it. Sunset Boulevard became the voice of a generation, and we are trying to recapture that same magic and energy with EDITION.
In recent weeks, Schrager has made statements via his Instagram that the EDITION in Madrid, Spain “is one of the last remaining Editions I will be doing before I focus 100% on expanding Public.” Public is his haute New York property, which houses “smart and simple” rooms, eateries and a multimedia performance space called House of X. Not much else is known about the hotelier’s actual plans, but Deadline Hollywood reports that he’s in talks to purchase The Standard Hollywood, as well.
Either way, the Standard’s reemergence alongside EDITION’s could signal revitalization for the area, which has arguably suffered during the pandemic and due to the demolition of iconic venues such as House of Blues and talks of more (The Viper Room) in the wake of redevelopment.
Speaking of the changes on the Strip, the Grafton Hotel has definitely made some– it’s now Hotel Ziggy, a rock ‘n’ roll inspired paradise city adorned with wall art that makes The Rainbow seem minimalist (vinyl albums, framed portraits, legal documents, magazine covers). There’s also a live music/DJ driven space called The Backbeat, “West Hollywood’s largest saltwater pool,” an old fashioned pizza parlour, and a jam room with complimentary guitars, headphones and recorders for guests to live out their rockstar fantasies.
The space, from Springboard Hotels, just opened in April and it’s clearly going for a vibe that references its surroundings, which any music lover can appreciate. The rooms look like your coolest friend’s apartment, with rockin’ mural-style art, groovy furnishings, color-coordinated decor and a more-is-more psychedelic aesthetic.
It may not have the action of WeHo, but Culver City is looking to up its cool quota with The Shay, a boutique hotel spear-heading the new 500,000-square-foot Ivy Station mixed-use project in the area. Part of Hyatt’s Destination Hotels group, the hotel features a 5,000-square-foot rooftop space with a pool, lounge and restaurant – etta, from noted Chicago chef Danny Grant. L.A. artists’ work adorns the space, which includes a game room and craft cocktail bar.
Designed by Studio Collective, the group behind Hotel Figueroa’s revamp and The Bungalow Santa Monica, The Shay hopes to bring people from all over L.A. into its fold with unique pop-up events, like its lively Imperial Barber activations, which offer spiffy haircuts, DJ beats, whiskey pours (Kikori Whiskey featured as a neat pour, Japanese old fashioned or classic highball) and signature cocktails, The Ashcat (El Diablo), Shiny Pants (Sidecar) and Pearl Diver (Vesper).
Culver City has a big entertainment industry contingent (Amazon Studios, Apple TV and HBO all are nearby), and an array of new restaurants and retail outlets apparently are on the way. Ivy Station hopes to be at the center of it all with fun and free events like fitness classes and craft fairs.
With two Los Angeles properties, the latest in Downtown Los Angeles’ former Case Hotel site, Proper Hotels has made a real impression on the hospitality scene. Downtown L.A. Proper, designed by Kelly Wearstler and located in the landmark 13-story 1924 property, is getting tons of buzz not just for its locale but for its unique dining experiences by top chefs.
LA Weekly’s food editor Michele Stueven recently went to sample the cuisine and said, “If there’s a stellar foundation to the Downtown L.A. Proper, it’s Caldo Verde on the hotel’s ground level from James Beard Award-winning restaurateurs Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of The Lucques Group.”
Thoughtful and carefully curated Portuguese influences bring a unique Mediterranean flavor to this casual, yet elegant corner on the historic core across from the newly restored Herald Examiner building. Stueven cites the Portuguese chopped salad as one of the best in Los Angeles (it combines endive, broad beans, potato, braised leeks, black olives, chorizo and firm São Jorge cheese) and says the buckwheat tortiglioni (tender prawns, spicy clams, heirloom garlic, harissa and al dente rapini) is a great option. For dinner, she had the classic piri piri with arugula and signature cocktails (the Bairro Alto with tequila, amaro angeleno bitters, pomegranate and citrus and the gin-based Proper Welcome). There’s also an extensive list of rarely available Spanish and Portuguese wines.
As for the hotel itself, it goes for a vibrant, vintage-minded mood that references the location and the changing makeup of the area – both business-oriented and artistic. The original building was constructed by Los Angeles architects Curlett & Beelman in the 1920s, as a private club whose members included Cecil B. DeMille. Elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican and Moroccan design embellish the venue throughout such as 100 different kinds of hand-painted and custom tiles.
“One of the uniting features across all of Proper locations is a dedicated sense of place,” says Stephane Lacroix, General Manager of Downtown L.A. Proper. “Downtown L.A. Proper, for example, embodies the unique history of the heart of Los Angeles in its 1920s-era landmark building, which was once host to a high-end club frequented by the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age before being transformed into a YWCA. The unique design of the building celebrates this rich history while allowing visitors to experience the current cultural renaissance of downtown’s Broadway Corridor.”
“Launching a brand new property during the pandemic was actually a unique way to promote to our clientele a pristine product that not only was unique but also safe,” Lacroix adds, when asked about the challenges the past couple of years might have posed for the industry. “From the pre-opening phase, our main priority has been to focus on the safety and wellness of our team and our guests at all times. At the onset of the pandemic Proper Hospitality’s Corporate team established a robust Covid-19 protocol which evolved in real time with local mandates providing us with a step-by-step road map to safely operate all our properties.”
Ever since the W Hotel Hollywood became home to clubs like Drai’s, snazzy jazz nights in its lobby and fun food events, we started to see a change in how Walk of Fame adjacent hotels appealed to visitors. Dream Hollywood expanded on this nightlife factor with offerings from the Tao Group, and more have followed.
According to Dan Daley, CEO and cofounder of Ten Five (the group behind the new-ish Tommie Hollywood and The Thompson Hotel), “we don’t create hotels for a demographic, but with a unique experience in mind.” That’s clear as soon as you walk into the warm and whimsical Tommie on Selma Avenue, which makes you feel like you’re in someone’s impossibly chic living room. Tommie also has a colorful rooftop scene, and a lush al fresco restaurant Ka-Teen – one of the few new places we ventured to during the pandemic. We were not disappointed.
Daley tells LA Weekly that Tommie and The Thompson were both created for locals and visitors to the city alike. “Every detail in each hotel matters immensely,” he says about the intended alchemy of design, service, food and beverage. Tommie was designed by Venice Beach’s Studio Collective firm to evoke mid-century modern touches and home spaces. Steel post columns, natural white oak, natural stone, blackened steel and hand-made ceramics catch the eye. Desert 5 Spot on the rooftop has a ‘70s Palm Springs feel and 360-degree LA views to die for. It also has a small stage where bands can jam for special intimate gatherings, as Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong hosted a few months ago.
At Thompson, the interiors were created with London-based interior architecture studio Tara Bernerd & Partners, combining elegance with a raw industrial edge. “The overall design draws upon the West Coast Modernist movement and adds a dash of quintessential Hollywood glamor,” he explains, of both the hotel and Bar Lis, its decadent French Riviera-themed drinking establishment.
“Hollywood holds an incredible history and we saw an enormous opportunity to create something very different from the market as a whole that reflected its creative roots,” Daley says. “The amount of development in this area is tremendous, and we knew this would be an opportune moment to establish a bustling nightlife and entertainment block that catered to various demographics. Our biggest challenge, and I think the challenge for many hotels in the Los Angeles area, has been navigating the myriad of ever-changing rules and regulations designed to keep our guests safe, while still providing them with the top-of-the-line service they expect from a lifestyle hotel.”
Speaking of Hollywood history, The Aster hopes to capture it by bringing back some of its exclusivity. Tourists on a budget need not apply. Part private members’ club/part hotel, it launches in June 2022 as a place for work, play and stay, offering personalized service, plus indoor and outdoor amenities –swimming pool, lounges, workspaces, bars, restaurants, recording studio, screening room (pictured) and spas– for members and guests.
The adults-only facility is being executed by Salt Hotels in the six-story 95,000-square-foot building next to Avalon nightclub on Vine Street, across from the Capitol Records building and in perfect view of the Hollywood sign. A destination restaurant is currently in the works atop its 7,200-square-foot rooftop space, offering panoramic views of the Hollywood sign and more.
We got a glimpse of just how special the roof scene can be when we scored entry into the venue’s invite-only Duran Duran concert, a party for the band’s upcoming tour announcement. The sound and sight lines were incredible – the band was backdropped perfectly by the Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records building, which was lit up blue and yellow in tribute to Ukraine, as the band played its hit “Ordinary World,” then did other cuts like “A View To A Kill” and “Union of the Snake.” If this is the kind of exclusive event the Aster has in store, we think this hybrid model venue could have real allure for savvy travelers and locals alike, and make Hollywood a haven like never before.