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Destination: design

By Elizabeth Varnell, Photograph by James Merrell (courtesy of the SLS Hotel) | April 21, 2009 | Story National

Old trip: An extravaganza of interiors
New trick: A new Starck-ly designed hotel (and some restaurants)

In Los Angeles, even the city's bricks and mortar are image-obsessed. Just ask Frank Gehry, of Walt Disney Concert Hall fame, or Thom Mayne, whose sheathed Caltrans headquarters are blowing design minds all around the world. Now, Philippe Starck has bestowed his Midas touch on the new SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. His sudden decor dominance (three hot new restaurants reflect his handiwork) evokes the spirit of design greats from the past—William Haines, Tony Duquette, Frances Elkins, and Michael Taylor—all of whom strolled along the tree-lined streets of this area, known as the Design Quarter, and frequented the antiques shops on La Cienega. Forty years later, you can sleep, eat, and shop in the same tiny, stylized universe without ever getting into a car—unless, that is, you want to ogle the perfectly tousled valet candy gracing the SLS. Even a spin around the block is worth the view.

STAY: The Sam Nazarian-backed SLS Hotel has all the Starck trademarks: a loungey lobby, inviting nooks, topsy-turvy furniture, and Dalí-esque art objects (miniature green apples atop an enormous pig, tiny plants in towering vases). It's even outfitted with the newest in fitness: the Kinesis Personal system, a hybrid of the Bowflex and Pilates genres, designed by Antonio Citterio. The equally new London West Hollywood, designed by David Collins Studio, is the antithesis of SLS's slick, off-kilter aesthetic. Its ivy-covered walls hide more than they reveal—but if you plan to relax on your balcony, don't kid yourself that you're on the DL, since the boulevard is right below.

DINE: XIV has a Sunset address and an industry clientele, but the benefits of Michael Mina's newest dining room outweigh such risks. The sommeliers supply perfect pairings, and the Starck-designed inter­ior resembles a decadent, scotch-soaked library. Diners sit on leather couches and can order à la carte or agree on a prix fixe tasting menu for the table. Design cognoscenti love to sup at the Bazaar by José Andrés (another Starck project, inside the SLS) amid sparkling glass vitrines filled with objects curated by Murray Moss. The bill follows the diner throughout the restaurant, so you can order the Organized Caesar salad at your table, nibble on the salmon roe with cream cheese from a roving snack cart, and try the Pop Rocks covered in chocolate from the pâtisserie.

PLAY: The sparking chandeliers dangling from the ceiling at Kelly Wearstler's offices on North La Cien­ega shine like beacons for design disciples. This street is ground zero for some of the country's best interior-design boutiques, from Dragonette's midcentury-modern collections to newly created leather armchairs at Jean de Merry. The galleries and showrooms are spread across the Design Quarter from Santa Monica Boulevard to Beverly Boulevard.



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