With its entrepreneurial creatives and corporate opportunists willing to take risks and spend cash, Los Angeles has been an inspiring canvas for renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry.
Successive economic booms and busts have resulted in a melee of styles, from Late Moderne and Brutalist, to Spanish Mission, Colonial and Futurist. Nowhere else are these styles better evinced than in the city’s iconic hotels. Here are a selection of LA’s most evocative auberges.
Sixty Beverly Hills
Sister to the more raucous Sixty Soho in New York, this sleek, leathery slice of Beverley Hills riffs on the International Style of the 1920s and 1930s. Amping up the hallmark rectilinear lines and plain taut surfaces, it trades the traditional glass and steel for black marble, glossy wood and smoking lounge-style hide. Mirrors are plentiful, helpfully provided in explosions of asymmetrical glass stuck to the ceilings above the beds, so you can adjust your look before your bedmate wakes up. The rooftop pool is a major draw; as well as being the sharpest rectangle you’ll ever see, the terrace offers killer views of the Hollywood Hills, plus nightly film screenings. Rooms from $330. sixtyhotels.com/beverly-hills
The Line Hotel
This Koreatown hotel lives in a 1964 Brutalist building originally designed by Daniel Mann Johnson and Mendenhall. Now a smart little boutique designed by Venice Beach’s flavour of the month Sean Knibb, The Line blushes with ethnic furnishings. Think Asian-inspired hangings, Guatemelan upholstery on the minimalist chaises longues and Binic lamps.
Knibb kept a close rein on his hotel’s Brutalist heritage, however, offering stark concrete walls in each room, all of which look out through the huge matrix of rectangular windows at LA’s northern hills. The mishmash of styles suits the location in the ever-cooler Downtown area, itself a hybrid of strip malls, art studios, fashion high and low, and chic, global eateries. Rooms from $330. thelinehotel.com
The gigantic, 300-room Roosevelt opened in 1927, a riot of Spanish-style stone, tile, brick and cocktails that the stars loved. It hosted the first Academy Awards in 1929, and was Marilyn Monroe’s home for two years while her career was taking off. The location is a bit Piccadilly Circus, right opposite the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, and this means it’s not the quietest of hotels nor the chicest of locations. But its gleaming, history-laden ballrooms; sexy enclaves for particularly private tete-a-tetes; spacious rooms in muted colours and rich materials, and big, palm-lined pool are more than adequate compensation. Rooms from $320. thehollywoodroosevelt.com
Belmond El Encanto (Santa Barbara)
Drive past Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway for an hour for a literal breath of fresh air. This unobtrusive hotel began life in 1912 as a set of dormitories for the State Normal School across the street, later becoming a popular hangout for artists and movie stars. Clark Gable was a fan.
Set atop the hill rearing over the Pacific coast, the collection of mini Spanish Colonial-Style revival cottages was added in 1918 and has kept the Spanish look, with rooms housed in whitewashed domes, bright red tile roofs and stairs. The contemporary El Encanto is designed for outdoor living, so you can keep an eye on the fog as it rolls over the ocean below, and admire the silhouette of coral trees against the sunset while sipping your local pinot and nibbling a halibut sashimi on the terrace or by the lappable infinity pool. Food is excellent, and service is seamless and smiley, so it’s worth coming here for sunset cocktails and dinner even if you aren’t staying. Rooms from $425. belmond.com/el-encanto-santa-barbara
Sunset Tower Hotel
This Art Deco behemoth is a classic of its type and a first port of call for aficionados of old LA hospitality style. Considered a prime example of the Streamline Moderne subset of Art Deco, with its long horizontal lines, languorous curves and nautical accents, it was a block of flats for stars in 1930s, with residents including John Wayne and Harold Hughes, and was only turned into a hotel in the 1980s by master hotelier Jeff Klein.
Since then jetsetters have been enjoying its bulging windows trimmed with black and white zig zags and latticed glass, a chunky caramel stucco frontage and a lively swimming terrace. One of Hollywood’s best vantages. Rooms from $375. sunsettowerhotel.com
Why have Renaissance when you could have Renaissance revival? This 91-room Koreatown boutique sports the latter on the outside, with Spanish colonial revival on the inside. The current incarnation pays sensitive homage to its roots as a 1926 building built by famous LA duo Albert R. Walker and Percy A. Eisen, whose other projects included the Beverley Wilshire Hotel and the United Theatre on Broadway in Downtown LA. The original bones are all in tact; they just have more plus soft furnishings now. Quirkily, the in-house restaurant is Cassell’s Hamburgers (first joint opened in the 1940s). The Renaissance can only take you so far, after all. Rooms from $199. hotelnormandiela.com