Writer’s note: This is not a sponsored post, and in no way did The Proper hotel know I was writing this story.
The first thing you see when you walk into The Proper’s red brick building in Downtown Los Angeles is the ceiling. Boasting images of Mexican folk art animals and flora and fauna, the mural is the work of local artist Abel Macias. It’s bright and colorful, and a far cry from the sandy tones and neutral palette that greet you at The Proper in Santa Monica. Then, when your eyes digest the beauty and whimsy of Macias’ hand-painted masterpiece, you’ll begin to notice the other details: the coral-and-cream marble floors and ornate doors, both original to the building, and the L.A. ceramicist Morgan Peck’s incredible graphite work lining the front desk. The interior feels like a mishmash of time periods and styles — a marriage of Mexican, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Moroccan influences.
“Welcome to The Proper,” A female voice from behind the front desk snaps me out of my reverie. It happens so quickly — the check-in process which, anywhere else, involves signing reams of paperwork and waiting and waiting. We’re handed out room cards in no more than a few minutes. “We heard you’re celebrating something special,” she says. Yes! I smile behind my mask. They’ve left us a surprise in the room, we’re told. You know, as a way to kick-off the festivities. Nice touch. As if I needed more reason to sprint to my room.
I’ve been excited to see The Proper since it opened back in October. It’s been a long wait, a three-year undertaking, elongated by the pandemic. I can’t tell you how many times we drove past the building, with its Art Deco sign, and wondered what sort of design wonderland Kelly Wearstler would dream up inside its walls. Perhaps I’ve been babbling too much about the hotel’s other outpost in Santa Monica. Maybe I even dropped a hint or two about wanting to stay here. Either way, Anton got the message and booked us a room for my birthday. And now, he can finally see for himself that my descriptions of Wearstler’s work weren’t just larded with hyperboles.
Stepping out the elevator on the fifth floor, I can immediately tell that the building had a past. In its previous life, this 1926 California Renaissance Revival landmark was a social club and once even housed the YWCA. The corridor walls are a dusty, burnt coral, and it feels decidedly from a different time. Then, we open the door to our room, and the colorscape changes. Here, I can feel Wearstler’s rolling-sand-dunes aesthetic.
There isn’t too much space here, but every inch is thoughtfully utilized. Half the room is taken by a king-sized bed with an earthy-colored woven headboard and two side tables, stocked with boxed water. Nice. At the foot of the bed, a sofa and coffee-slash-dining table punctuate the room, offering an alternate resting area and convenient place for a room-service breakfast near bed. Adding a touch of whimsy is the media cabinet, a playful, nontraditional piece that I’ve already mentally moved into my fantasy home.
There are personalized touches, too. I unfold the handwritten letter left behind by hotel staff, wishing me a happy birthday and a wonderful stay. Inside the mini bar, we find our surprise — a bottle of fizzy rose. Anton pops it open, and we hunker down in front of the TV, clinking to this perfect start to the day. And while it feels so tempting to spend the next few hours before our dinner reservation pinned here on the sofa, picking up where we dropped off our favorite Netflix shows, we decide to do what folks typically do in a new place: explore.
The penthouse floor opens up to the hotel’s second restaurant, Cara Cara. (The other, Caldo Verde, is on the ground floor. Both are helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin.) Coming off the elevator, you’ll walk into a bar area and then outside to a sprawling rooftop space boasting views of Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a pretty nice place to grab a bite. There are many lounging nooks and cloistered little enclaves — so it can be as private as you’d like.
Take a right turn, and you’ll find a multilevel pool and deck. The pool isn’t particularly large (actually, it’s quite small), but the checkered tile and beautiful lounge chairs are so aesthetically pleasing that I imagine, on a particularly warm day, I’d be in fierce competition over a perch here. But today, it’s pretty chilly, and the only spots worth fighting for are the ones closest to the heater. Anton and I make plans to come back up here for a cocktail after dinner.
The evening went beautifully. Dinner was spectacular; the wine was equally fabulous. The shower was a much-need relief after the din of the day. The Proper’s bathroom is spacious but windowless, with a glass-partitioned shower, a corner vanity and Aesop toiletries. One of my favorite, albeit the smallest, details is the shower valve, which unlike most hotels, isn’t placed underneath the showerhead. No — it’s installed on the opposite wall, so guests can turn on the water and wait for it to warm without getting soaked. Oh, and did I mention the waffle weave robe?
Now it’s time to convalesce from my food coma. This is it. The true test of a hotel room, which single-handedly determines whether or not guests will come back: the bed. There’s nothing more satisfying than slipping into the cool of sheets with shower-warm skin and dropping off for the night. It’s an even more spiritual experience when the bed is comfortable to your liking — which this one totally is. I happily stretch myself into starfish form. Yes! The Proper passed the test with flying colors. With The Holiday providing some white noise, it doesn’t take long for me to drift off.
In the morning, after an incredible in-room breakfast, we pack up our things and head downstairs for check out. Standing under the mural, ogling it one last time, I hear the couple in front of us begin to interrogate the front desk clerk. “My husband and I … we slept so well last night,” she says. “The beds are amazing.” Then the questions begin. What magical mattress is it? Where can we buy it? How much? Is it memory foam? She answers the guests’ questions without skipping a beat; I’m not surprised if she gets them every day.
The checkout process proves just as easy as check-in. The same staff members greet us, asking if I had a wonderful birthday. Why, yes, of course I did! I’m impressed that she remembers. I wouldn’t have faulted her at all if she didn’t, but it’s these attentive interactions that really make for a pleasant experience. After a bit of a snafu with our breakfast (we ordered two cups of coffee and had four arrive to our room, and the waiter never came back with the adjusted receipt), the hotel staff tell us: “Don’t worry. Breakfast is on us.” Wow. We’re endlessly grateful.
As we leave our key cards behind and step outside into the hubbub of Downtown Los Angeles, I feel myself eager to come back to Kelly Wearstler’s world of pure imagination. If not for the fantasy she’s created, then for the service that truly lives up to the hotel’s luxury billing. Oh — and that heavenly mattress, of course.