Review: The Proper Hotel Is Santa Monica’s New Crown Jewel
This is what happens when you give a designer free rein to build a guesthouse
The primary goal of a long weekend is to temporarily divest your life of its stressors. Unfortunately, getting out of LA — especially in a car — is not always conducive to that goal.
So why not treat yourself to a getaway that doesn’t require much of a schlep at all? Enter the new Santa Monica Proper Hotel, where designer-to-the-stars Kelly Wearstler and her husband Brad Korzen have partnered with Proper Hospitality’s Brian De Lowe to bring a new name in luxury living on the West Side.
The new space has all the trappings of a five-star hotel without the pretension: they genuinely want to be a part of the community that surrounds them, and it shows in both the design and the general ambience of the place. With our trusty overnight bag slung over our shoulder, we recently took in the new hotel and its accoutrements and found the space to be as snazzy and welcoming as advertised.
Below are four of the many things we loved about our stay — like the name suggests, it’s a proper place to not only spend the night, but the day as well.
1. The textures and patterns will make you look very good in photos
The Santa Monica Proper derives its design from a few different genres: Spanish Colonial revival, mid-century European, uh … Californian. But the truth is that words and phrases don’t do Wearstler’s vision justice. It’s something you truly must see for yourself: the endless combinations of patterns and textures in earthy tones that swaddle the property’s every nook and cranny are the stars of the show. “So many of the items they used on property were pulled from Kelly and Brad’s house,” says Jordan Morosco, the hotel’s Area Manager. “They wanted to make sure its a place that felt authentic to the environment, down to the flooring, design, wallpaper and lighting.”
2. The lobby lounge alone is worth the price of admission.
As Jordan continues our tour of Proper, one particular quote rings more true with each passing moment: “There’s such a large creative ribbon that runs through L.A. … and they’re not looking for something that’s following suit, but rather something that’s paving the way, and hopefully we’re creating that space.” No place in Proper embraces that ethos quite like the lobby lounge and its restaurant, Palma. It’s a space that shows off Wearstler’s designs to a tee, a melange of Casablanca and LA modern wedded with grace and purpose.
It’s also the exact kind of place any creative dreams of grabbing a coffee before sitting down to an afternoon of work. You look around and no two chairs are alike, no two textures alike, no two patterns are alike … and yet everything still feels coordinated. For a designer, that effect is a very small bullseye; the slightest misstep can send the space spiraling into a clash of contrasts or sensory overload. But the subtle, natural tones and warm, low lighting here work — it’s the most impressive area in the entire hotel, no question.
3. The rooftop
The rooftop at proper provides a near 360-degree view of Santa Monica, and guests that layabout by the pool will catch briny gusts of seabreeze throughout the day. The space — and the vista — provide respite to weary travelers no matter the time of day, but sunset is obviously not to be missed. And just a stone’s throw away from the pool is Calabra, Proper’s rooftop restaurant, where Chef Kaleo Adam’s menu complements the atmosphere with effortlessly tasty cuisine (more on that below).
4. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to food.
Whether it’s breakfast at Palma in the lobby lounge, drinks and dinner at Calabra or soon-to-to be open Onda, or everyone’s favorite go-to room service, when it comes to food at Proper, you’re spoilt for choice. “Everything is curated — even the minibar was hand-chosen by Kaleo [Adams],” says Jordan. “He oversees all the food and beverage for the entire property, from Calabra, to Palma, to in-room dining, to even Onda, which is opening with Jessica Coslow and Gabriella Cámara [in September]. He’s overseeing everything.”
Should you be content to remain in your bathrobe, stay in and tuck into a funky Caesar salad (like all the best Caesar salads, it delivers a wallop to your tastebuds). Or head to Palma to sequester yourself into a corner of the library grotto for your morning coffee and breakfast. But if you’ve only got time for one meal, head back to the rooftop for dinner at Calabra.
Start with the avocado meze and laffa bread (the laffa is simply outstanding), but make sure to try the sweet potato, served with a jalapeño dill aioli and burnt-onion soil. Like many things in the Proper, trying to explain how burnt-onion soil elevates the sweet potatoes leaves us at a loss. From there, the hamachi crudo, sesame skirt steak and scallops (featuring playful North African spices) are more than enough to satisfy your appetite — leaving plenty on the menu to try the next time you find yourself in this part of town.