Santa Monica Proper, California
Infused with So-Cali confidence – and the Proper Hospitality Collective’s distinctive design – this Santa Monica stay brings loose luxury to the Westside neighbourhood
23 September, 2022
The Proper Hotel Collective's flagship beauty, this is a shrine for Architectural Digest subscribers and Kelly Wearstler interior stans. The decision to open a "proper" place in between the area's yoga studios, crystal shops and palm tree-necklaced beaches was a calculated move - when it landed on the scene in 2019, this was the town's first new luxury crashpad in 20 years. Offering an alternative to its hotel-heavy neighbour WeHo, the opening shook low-key Santa Monica up in all the right ways. Here was a hip hangout for the downtown crowd to congregate in, away from beachside tourism tussles.
You come to Santa Monica for that all-American, Californian beach; you stay for the welcoming, Girl Scout Cookies-on-your-doorstep neighbourhood vibe. This towering new-build might seem a little sharp on the outside, but once ensconced in the hotel's caramel-toned interior (all handwoven textiles and ergonomic textures), you'll feel firmly part of So-Cal's sunny sophistication. The design is the handiwork of the group's now long-term design partner, Kelly Wearstler, and the iconic Cali-cool architecture on offer is modelled on the designer's own Malibu abode. It's our interiors Pinterest board made material (if we had the cash of a Kardashian).
Wearstler's architectural showpiece, the lobby, and a bedroom. | Photo credit: The Ingalls
Temples of AD cover-worthy elegance. We'd recommend booking into the older wing of the building, where the rooms are more spacious. All 271 are decorated in biscuit-hued neutrals - a Fenty Beauty Snap Shadows palette of dun, smoke and peanut - and most come with terraces or balconies. We were particular fans of the shell-shaped, padded headboards and maple syrup-coloured marble in our bathroom (admired while lathering ourselves in Aesop's best soaps in the walk-in shower, naturally).
It's all exactly how we dream our home should look: beachy neutrals, mid-century styles, palms and potted ferns aplenty, plus enticing textures all round. Think wood-panelling next to polished concrete, and green marble tabletops beside Rubik's Cube-shaped brown leather sofas. Out of the window we could - if we squinted - make out the Hollywood Hills above LA's dusty funk. Other rooms overlook a central courtyard. All have Nespresso machines, Bluetooth speakers, televisions and air-con.
What's for dinner?
The verdant Palma, a free-flowing continuation of the lobby, serves dinner daily from 4pm to 10:30pm, plating up vibrant Cali plates in all their cuisine-borrowing glory. Expect oysters doused in lime-jalapeño mignonette, burrata bosomed up beside stone fruits and mint, and roast chicken breast with a peperonata sauce. Under seashell cream parasols up at the rooftop Calabra, you'll find a mezze menu (don't miss the crisped halloumi with a peach chutney), plus plusher mains like lobster and squid-ink spaghetti, and prime beef rib.
Textures collide in one of the suites, left, and one of the bathrooms. | Photo credit: The Ingalls
You can take it in the lobby-come-bar downstairs, but, on weekends, we're taking ours up on the roof. Both menus are packed with classics - think proper waffles, an LA take on the full English and (because this is California) plenty of gut-friendly dishes like apple and date bread with raw honey, soaked-overnight oats, and a Greek goddess yoghurt bowl. Coffee is on tap from 5am (helpful, if you're trying to kick the jet lag).
Is there a bar?
Yes, Palma, a free-flowing continuation of the lobby. Take a seat around the monolithic bar (decorated with a mural by local creative Ben Medansky) for small-batch spirits and craft cocktails.
The rooftop pool, though, is the nucleus of the hotel, attracting a mixture of guests, locals and work-from-anywhere millennials to its sun-soaked expanse. Expect poolside Zoom meetings to be taking place in the day, then, as evening arrives, the mood ramps up a notch. Book a seat at sunset to catch the sun dipping beneath the Atlantic, spicy pineapple margarita in hand and a plate of Cali-inspired sushi at your side.
A peek inside the Santa Monica Proper...
The Ayurvedic Surya Spa is the kind of space you feel like you'll run into Gwyneth Paltrow in; a place where you can book into a private yoga consultation, rock up for a sound bath or bathe in the radiant energy of an all-day wellness experience involving full-body coffee scrubs and four-handed herbal oil massages. The hotel also has a 24-hour fitness centre, boot camps on the terrace and a calendar of hotel happenings, from DJ sets in Palma to chef-guided market tours. Paddleboards and surfboards are available to rent, too. WiFi is free.
What are eco-credentials like?
The Proper Hospitality Collective is pretty hot on this, and is always looking to reduce its environmental impact. Interiors utilise locally sourced, vintage and natural materials where possible, the hotel has on-site filtration systems for water, and it regularly partners with local environmentally progresive organisations to support green projects in the neighbourhood.
A sleek spa corner, left, and sunset over the hotel rooftop. | Photo credit: The Ingalls
What about accessibility?
There are lifts to all floors and some rooms have been adapted. Santa Monica, unlike most LA neighbourhoods, is also quite well-contained and easy to navigate.
What's the crowd?
Cali cool kids congregate in the (now-iconic) palm tree-filled lobby, or up on the roof to shoot their latest swimwear reel. You'll also find multi-hyphenates holding meetings in the alcoves downstairs. We also spotted a surprising number of young families - all in matching Pangaia sets, obvs.
Within a short walk I can find…
Rent an e-bike from Proper to hotwheel it down to the buzzy neighbourhood beach (or stroll for seven minutes), stopping off at Santa Monica's farmers' market, 11 blocks down, to pick up picnic bites for a sandy-toed supper. Head the other way to swing by Tartine Bakery for chocolate chip walnut cookies and herbal iced teas.
Although a bit of a bop - about a 30-minute walk - the indie boutiques on Abbott Kinney, ranging from planet-friendly athleisure brands to manifestation stores (think healing crystals, tarot cards and loads of sage) and the odd vintage book library - are worth a visit and offer the true Santa Monica experience to a T.
Things I should know…
Families love this hotel (and even bring their dogs). Don't go expecting an adults-only oasis.
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