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To Sleep With Angels

From Golden Age to cutting edge, L.A. hotels accommodate all tastes

Daniel Sogg
Posted: May 7, 2003

Shutters on the Beach
  If You Go  
  • Beverly Hills Hotel
  • Casa del Mar
  • Century Plaza Hotel & Spa
  • Chateau Marmont
  • Four Seasons
  • Georgian
  • Hotel Bel-Air
  • Loews Santa Monica
  • Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive
  • Maison 140
  • Mondrian
  • Oceana
  • Park Hyatt Los Angeles
  • Peninsula
  • Raffles L'Ermitage
  • Regent Beverly Wilshire
  • Shutters on the Beach
  • Viceroy
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      Moveable Feasts
    Los Angeles' top chefs have exported their cuisines and concepts around the world
      There's No Business Like Wine Business
    Westside L.A. shops feature a great cast of estates from California and beyond
      Power Couple
    Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman talk about wine, food and friendship

    In Los Angeles, a hotel needs screen presence to join the A-list. It must have the right look, set the right tone, create a distinctive appeal that's somehow unforgettable. In the city that defined the blockbuster, this allure usually entails a generous helping of luxury, an opulence worthy of royalty and heads of state.

    But entertainment is the business in Los Angeles, so the kings and queens of Hollywood are the royalty that matters most. Celebrity patronage is the authentication that launches new properties and validates the bona fides of the classics. In Los Angeles, even the grandes dames can't resist a little name-dropping: "Of course Gable, Chaplin and Marilyn stayed here. Need you even ask?"

    Location is essential. Los Angeles County covers about 4,750 square miles, but most of the top hotels are found in Beverly Hills or in a narrow strip along the Santa Monica beach. Opulence is to be expected at most hotels in Beverly Hills; the Regent Beverly Wilshire, the setting for scenes in the film Pretty Woman, and the splendid Peninsula are two noteworthy destinations.

    On a quiet residential street on the eastern edge of Beverly Hills, Raffles L'Ermitage offers a more restrained approach to luxury. The results are stunning, with sleek minimalism complemented by superior service and a host of modern amenities.

    World-class service and luxury come at a price. But don't be put off by sky-high published rates. Depending on the season and occupancy, deals are sometimes available. Los Angeles also has a few outstanding properties at modest prices, even in high-rent districts. Maison 140, for example, offers charm on a budget, with rooms starting at $149, and is just a half-mile walk from Rodeo Drive.

    About 10 minutes' drive northwest of Beverly Hills is Hotel Bel-Air. Surrounded by 12 acres of luxuriant gardens, it feels impossibly tranquil. Visitors to Los Angeles seeking a serene retreat (but with easy access to the city) need look no further.

    In some areas, notably West Hollywood, attitude and character can upstage opulence. The perpetually hip Chateau Marmont, perched on a hill above Sunset Boulevard, remains a favorite. One mile west on Sunset is the sleek, sexy Mondrian, a flavor of choice in a city of young celebrities and beautiful wannabes.

    Santa Monica has been a seaside getaway for Angelenos since the 1870s, and the area still offers a casual, hip alternative to the city proper. People come to shop along the lively Third Street Promenade, and to ramble the Santa Monica Pier and its amusement park. Mostly though, it's the sun, sand and ocean that draws them.

    Hotels in Santa Monica reflect the colors and mood of the beach. They're generally bright and buoyant, but with a casual chic that reminds you Beverly Hills is only 20 minutes' drive away. The area's finest property, Shutters on the Beach, looks like a transplant from the New England coast. Opened in 1991, it already feels like a classic.

    Also in Santa Monica is the Viceroy, the hottest new hotel scene in the Los Angeles area. Its bland facade camouflages a vibrant interior popping with energy. The younger crowd especially will like the look, as well as the relatively modest prices. Traditionalists may not approve, but this is a must-see for anyone intrigued by visual inventiveness.

    If You Go

    Rates published are intended as guidelines and may vary according to season and occupancy. Hotels are listed in alphabetical order.

    Beverly Hills Hotel
    9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 276-2251; (800) 283-8885
    Fax (310) 887-2887
    Web site www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com
    Rooms 166
    Suites 37
    Rates $380 to $5,000

    Understated it is not, but this 1912 Mission Revival hotel, known as the "pink palace," probably captures many peoples' idea of Beverly Hills. From the moment guests traverse the porte cochere up a red carpet wide as a tarmac, over-the-top opulence is the rule, with scalloped draperies, palm frond to motif crystal chandeliers and plush rooms dominated by salmon hues.

    Some elements need updating, such as occasional worn spots on the wallpaper and a power strip half-concealed under drapery. But service is friendly and attentive, and the serenity of the 12-acre grounds, replete with ferns and palm trees, belies the hotel's proximity to Sunset Boulevard.

    Casa del Mar
    1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 581-5533; (800) 898-6999
    Fax (310) 581-5503
    Web site www.hotelcasadelmar.com
    Rooms 126
    Suites 20
    Rates $380 to $3,000

    After $50 million of renovations, Casa del Mar reopened in 1999. The hotel, which was the happening Santa Monica club in the late 1920s, recalls that era with a jazzy flair that evokes the French Riviera and the South Pacific.

    Marble mosaics at the entrance welcome guests with a swirl of sea green, sky blue and sand tones. The front desk, lobby and restaurant are contiguous and as vast as a football field, with niceties such as a polished copper bar-top and plenty of seats and tables overlooking the beach. The rooms are bright, with soft yellow wallpaper and a relaxed sophistication reminiscent of a stylish guesthouse.

    Century Plaza Hotel & Spa
    2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles
    Telephone (310) 277-2000; (800) WESTIN1
    Fax (310) 551-3355
    Web site www.centuryplazala.com
    Rooms 684
    Suites 40
    Rates $219 to $3,400

    One of the largest hotels in Los Angeles, this crescent-shaped property saw the completion of $70 million worth of renovations in 2000. The results are impressive, beginning in a spacious two-story lounge area dominated by rows of white columns and cream-colored marble. The rooms are soothing and elegant, with stylish bathrooms sporting glass counters with inset porcelain sinks.

    Asian-inspired decor and calm prevail in the 35,000-square-foot spa, which has 31 treatment rooms, as well as a private entrance for the shy or famous wishing to remain incognito.

    Chateau Marmont
    8221 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
    Telephone (323) 656-1010; (800) 242-8328
    Fax (323) 655-5311
    Web site www.chateaumarmont.com
    Rooms 11
    Suites 52
    Rates $295 to $2,025

    Oh, if these walls could talk. Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart and James Dean are among the luminaries to have stayed here. John Belushi checked out from a drug overdose in Bungalow 3. Built in 1927 as an apartment complex on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard, the hotel opened during the Depression and has been a Hollywood favorite for seven decades.

    In 1991, a new owner purchased and then refurbished the Marmont, so gone are the days when Led Zeppelin raced Harleys in the halls, and drugs seemed as standard as pillow mints. The spacious, Art Deco to style accommodations in the main building have full kitchens (in all but 11 rooms) fitted with refurbished appliances dating from the '40s and '50s.

    "No one ever asks for directions to Disneyland," says a hotel employee, referring to the fact that they have 80 percent repeat guests, predominantly from the entertainment industry. Professionals often book a roomy (600-square-foot) cottage or one of the four sprawling bungalows, designed by early California Modern architect Craig Ellwood, and with decor from the 1960s and '70s. Privacy, rather than painstaking service, takes precedence for many guests.

    At night the property puts on a sensual allure, whether at the pool with its lush, jasmine-scented gardens, or in the courtyard, where tiki-torches cast shadows onto the tiles beneath the Gothic arches. Anyone susceptible to Hollywood romance should consider staying at this singular classic.

    Four Seasons
    300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles
    Telephone (310) 273-2222; (800) 332-3442
    Fax (310) 385-4927
    Web site www.fourseasons.com/ losangeles
    Rooms 187
    Suites 98
    Rates $295 to $4,300

    Situated on a palm-lined residential street, this hotel offers the same standards of service and sophistication customary at other Four Seasons properties. An added enticement is its central location, just outside Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

    Business travelers make up the majority of the clientele, and high-speed Internet access (through the phone line or the television) are standard in all of the understated, elegant rooms. Bulgari products stock the bathrooms.

    A spa on the fourth floor offers a wide array of massages and treatments. Guests seeking hands-off relaxation can enjoy the serene rooftop pool and its verdant garden.

    1415 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 395-9945; (800) 538-8147
    Fax (310) 451-3374
    Web site www.georgianhotel.com
    Rooms 56
    Suites 28
    Rates $179 to $289

    Founded in 1933, the Georgian brings a taste of old Hollywood to its position across the street from the Santa Monica beach. During the hotel's heyday, stars such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard joined gangsters (Bugsy Siegel, for example) in seeking privacy here. The muted colors and doors with porthole-style peepholes reflect the Georgian's Art Deco character, as does the herky-jerky ride in the mahogany-paneled elevator. About one-third of the rooms provide an ocean view and the property is within walking distance of the Third Street Promenade and the Pier.

    Hotel Bel-Air
    701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles
    Telephone (310) 472-1211; (800) 648-4097
    Fax (310) 476-5890
    Web site www.hotelbelair.com
    Rooms 52
    Suites 40
    Rates $385 to $3,000

    Disbelief is a reasonable first response. How can the Bel-Air, just 10 minutes' drive from bustling Beverly Hills, feel as isolated as Shangri-la? Consider it Shangri-L.A. In operation since 1946, this estate, hidden in a wooded canyon, has long been one of California's most exclusive retreats.

    The serene grounds include a placid lake patrolled by four swans, as well as 12 acres of gardens with enough plant species (200) to entertain a botanist. Relaxation is easy, with gurgling fountains dotting the property, and teak lounge chairs surrounding a 40-foot-long oval pool.

    Breakfast on the outdoor terrace is comfortable even in December due to overhead heaters and the warmth emanating from heated terra-cotta tiles (upgrades included in the recent $16 million renovation). If sun glare intrudes, a waiter will gladly adjust a blind attached to the trellis overhead.

    Expect unobtrusive, friendly service. The concierge is particularly well-informed about local resources and is happy to print out directions for anyone unfamiliar with the area. Minor details too get their due (maids bookmark the TV Guide to that day's listings).

    With the exception of the dark, clubby bar, decor is feminine, with lots of pink and floral patterns. Even the standard accommodations are roomy, with plenty of closet space (though fashion divas should request a suite if, like one recently deceased guest, they plan on staying 40 years).

    Loews Santa Monica
    1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 458-6700; (800) 235-6397
    Fax (310) 458-6761
    Web site www.loewshotel.com
    Rooms 326
    Suites 16
    Rates $215 to $2,400

    This beachfront property stands out for an eight-story atrium that contains two rows of 45-foot palm trees, and an expansive pool and deck with a grand ocean view. More than 25 cardio and a dozen weight machines are housed in the fitness center, which is one of the best in Santa Monica's hotels.

    The rooms have fetching beach-cabana chic, with touches of Southern California color, from the mother-of-pearl soap dishes to books such as Remembering Muscle Beach.

    Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive
    360 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 273-0300; (800) 468-3541
    Fax (310) 440-3890
    Web site www.luxehotels.com
    Rooms 82
    Suites 4
    Rates $195 to $1,000

    Shopaholics beware: Luxe is ideally situated for a high-end binge. Cartier, Harry Winston and Ferragamo are within a stone's throw. Two Valentino shops sit next to the hotel property.

    Last summer, Luxe completed a $15 million renovation overseen by New York designer Vicente Wolf. While the rooms aren't oversized (200 square feet for the 84 standard accommodations), they boast an uncluttered ease, with cool white and pale blue tones that suit the minimalist decor.

    Maison 140
    140 S. Lasky Drive, Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 281-4000; (800) 432-5444
    Fax (310) 281-4001
    Web site www.maison140beverly hills.com
    Rooms 43
    Rates $169 to $199

    This delightful new hotel should be the first option in Beverly Hills for anyone lacking the budget (or preference) for gilded luxury. Just a few blocks from the shopping district (and across the street from the Peninsula), Maison 140 has loads of character and a funky Franco-Asian flair.

    The dim lighting in the halls accentuates the impact of the rooms, which have red, gray or saffron-yellow color schemes. Off the hotel entrance is the Bar Noir, a dark, moody space that evokes a 1930s' Shanghai boîte run by a retired Moulin Rouge dancer.

    8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
    Telephone (323) 650-8999; (800) 525-8029
    Fax (323) 650-5215
    Web site www.ianschragerho tels.com
    Rooms 34
    Suites 203
    Rates $270 to $3,000

    The Skybar, one of the ultimate Hollywood venues to see and be seen in, comes attached to a hotel, the Mondrian. Like other Ian Schrager properties, such as the Royalton in Manhattan, it's an amalgam of sex and hip whimsy: Recessed elevators are framed by backlit chiffon curtains behind glass; two rows of ficus trees and bougainvilleas planted in 5-foot-tall pots form an arbor on the deck.

    The rooms, which start at about 350 square feet, are restrained, with precise minimalism and cool tones of gray and white. The gift shop off the lobby sells Variety, the fashion rags, and required West Hollywood reading such as the indispensable how-to guide Charm School for Sissy Maids.

    849 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 393-0486; (800) 777-0758
    Fax (310) 458-1182
    Web site www.hoteloceana.com/san tamonica
    Suites 63
    Rates $250 to $800

    It's easy to understand why guests typically stay 10 days at the Oceana. Rooms average 820 square feet, making them possibly the largest in Los Angeles. Well-stocked kitchens come standard, with a gas stove, microwave and dishware.

    The hotel sits across the street from the beach, just a few minutes from downtown Santa Monica. The bright, enlivening decor, such as chromatic padded headboards and Jean Cocteau to style murals, underscore the Oceana's hip, youthful energy. If the nearby surf is too cold, the hotel courtyard, with its planter-lined walkways, has an inviting, kidney-shaped swimming pool.

    Park Hyatt Los Angeles
    2151 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles
    Telephone (310) 277-1234; (800) 233-1234
    Fax (310) 785-9240
    Web site www.parkhyatt.com
    Rooms 179
    Suites 187
    Rates $189 to $4,000

    A $10.5 million renovation completed last year replaced the furniture and soft goods throughout this property, situated alongside Fox Plaza in Century City. The new design is bright and vibrant, with understated pan-Asian elegance. A $4 million spa and fitness center are scheduled for completion mid-2003.

    Accommodations are at least 350 square feet. All sides of the 17-story tower have great views, either west toward the ocean, or east (and north) to the Hollywood Hills. Three-quarters of the guests are business travelers, lured by the nearby entertainment industry offices and the Park Hyatt's 12,000 square feet of conference space.

    9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 551-2888; (800) 462-7899
    Fax (310) 788-2319
    Web site www.peninsula.com
    Rooms 144
    Suites 36 (plus 16 villas)
    Rates $375 to $3,000

    Founded in 1991, the Peninsula Beverly Hills might seem like a relatively recent addition to the time-tested roster of illustrious Los Angeles hotels. But the brick-lined courtyard -- crowded with Rolls Royces, Mercedes limousines and Jaguars -- reveals the hotel's rank with well-heeled travelers.

    The Peninsula has the choice location, plush accommodations and beautifully manicured gardens one expects at a world-class hotel. But its status is also due to superior service and exacting attention to detail.

    The conveniences start even before your stay. Guests can circumvent lost-luggage hassles by preshipping bags to the hotel, which will have clothes pressed and waiting at arrival, and check-in is available 24 hours a day.

    Pink, peach and creamy yellow tones dominate the rooms, which start at a healthy 480 square feet. Control panels on both sides of the bed allow guests to stop incoming calls, summon the valet or adjust the temperature. Bose sound systems (with a speaker in the bathroom), high-speed Internet and WebTV come standard.

    The fifth floor spa, which opened in 1998, is popular with guests and local clientele. It offers more than two dozen treatments, such as a hydrotherapy bath (with 200 air and water jets) and eight kinds of massage. There's a full array of exercise facilities, including 11 cardio machines and a 60-foot rooftop pool.

    Raffles L'Ermitage
    9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 278-3344; (800) 800-2113
    Fax (310) 278-8247
    Web site www.lermitagehotel.com
    Rooms 108
    Suites 16
    Rates $325 to $3,800

    At Raffles, sophistication and superior service are not luck-of-the-draw. This superb property offers elegance with an understatement that sets it apart from other Beverly Hills luxury hotels. The rooms and common spaces have refined, Asian-influenced decor, with a modern accent complemented by soothing wood tones and cream-colored carpeting.

    Closed from 1993 through 1998 for a $60 million renovation, the hotel reflects an exacting concern for privacy. To reduce noise, none of the rooms abut a central hallway. And house-keepers won't ever disturb guests (motion detectors indicate if rooms are occupied, so they need not knock).

    At a minimum of 650 square feet, the rooms are unusually large, with sycamore latticework screens, maple furniture and silk bed shams. The higher floors have impressive views over the city and the Hollywood Hills.

    "We pride ourselves on technology here," says a hotel employee. Each room has a 40-inch television, complimentary high-speed Internet access, and, in larger suites, separate climate controls for the bedroom and sitting area. At check-in, guests receive personalized stationery and business cards with a direct-dial telephone number (each room has five phones, including a mobile). Repeat guests can get the same number.

    The property has a spa on the eighth floor with two treatment rooms and a spacious, well-equipped gym. Meals can be taken at the rooftop pool, either on a deck chair or in a cabana.

    Regent Beverly Wilshire
    9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
    Telephone (310) 275-5200; (800) 545-4000
    Fax (310) 275-5986
    Web site www.regenthotels.com/ beverlywilshire
    Rooms 270
    Suites 127
    Rates $385 to $7,500

    The diverse clientele attests to the Regent's enduring appeal. Well-coiffed ladies, toting shopping bags from Rodeo Drive, fill the elegant Lobby Lounge at high tea, while down the hall two young rappers and their agent hammer out a contract in the bar.

    Built in 1927, the Regent is a Beverly Hills landmark still at the top of its game. Since 1987, it has undergone more than $150 million in renovation. The common spaces are uniformly resplendent, starting in the two-story marble lobby with its lacquered mahogany reception desk.

    The largest luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, the Regent comprises two buildings separated by a private driveway. Traditionalists might prefer the Old World charm of the Wilshire Wing, constructed in 1927, while the Beverly Wing, built in 1971, appeals to a more modern sensibility.

    All of the rooms are spacious, with soft wheat and egg yolk colors that bespeak a sunny, Southern California aesthetic. Oversized tubs, separate showers and vanity mirrors are standard in the bathrooms.

    Expect attentive service that includes a butler on every floor. The property supplies a host of other amenities, such as a salon, a spa (with sauna and steam rooms) and a well-equipped fitness facility.

    Shutters on the Beach
    1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 458-0030; (800) 334-9000
    Fax (310) 899-1605
    Web site www.shuttersonthebeach.com
    Rooms 186
    Suites 12
    Rates $380 to $3,100

    At times, guests at Shutters will forget they're staying at Santa Monica's premier luxury hotel. Nestled just 100 yards from the ocean, Shutters resembles an impressive Cape Cod beach house, with slate gray shingled siding, hardwood floors and bright, airy spaces.

    The rooms have white Frette linens and white walls that seem to magnify the brightness of the ocean air. Eighty percent of the rooms have at least a partial ocean view, though relatively few look directly at the water. The decor throughout the hotel combines old and new with a distinctly residential flair. Antique touches, like spindle-leg walnut tables and leaded glass mirrors deftly harmonize with homey notes, such as a bowl of colorful seashells and sand-filled jars. Every room contains a fine-wine selection, such as Laurent Perrier Brut and the St. Supéry Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2001.

    Wireless high-speed Internet service allows Web access anywhere on the property, even the beach. The workout facility has an impressive array of the newest weight and cardio machines. There are also personal trainers offering rock climbing, surfing and beach volleyball lessons.

    Shutters is quite popular, and at busy times a queue of cars and crowd of people wait for the valet. Book well ahead.

    1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
    Telephone (310) 260-7500; (800) 622-8711
    Fax (310) 394-6657
    Web site www.viceroysantamonica.com
    Rooms 165
    Suites 5
    Rates $239 to $1,500

    The design of the Viceroy, which opened last July, resonates like the peal of clashing cymbals. Designer Kelly Wearstler (who also did Maison 140) has borrowed from diverse sources -- English Regency, 1960s London, perhaps even a hint of Alice in Wonderland -- to achieve maximum visual impact.

    And it clicks. The limed wood floor in the lobby, parrot green lounge chairs and a wall with 250 china plates work together, albeit with attitude. The rooms are comfortable and equally vibrant, with striking touches such as a white Lucite table inset with a live orchid. Don't leave Santa Monica without at least visiting.

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