The Best LA Hotels With Fewer Than 15 Rooms
These little oases are hiding in plain sight
It’s easy to drive past the San Vicente Bungalows. Even the Lyft drivers arrive at the other side of the street, craning their heads in confusion. “It says it’s right here.”
But it’s not. It sits low, sandwiched between an apartment building and the shops that line Santa Monica Boulevard in WeHo. It’s shrouded in bougainvillea, orange and kumquat trees, rose bushes and geraniums. There’s a classic green-and-pink umbrella where valets stand unassumingly, obscuring the door.
“I wanted it to feel like you’re on vacation,” says owner Jeff Klein. “It’s really my fantasy of what the Beverly Hills Hotel was combined with what I know about the Gardens of Allah, the bohemian community Joni Mitchell sings about.”
San Vicente Bungalows is a private club with a nine-room full-service hotel. There are 750 members and a waitlist over 8,000. Yes, there are celebrities there. But there are also journalists, techies, artists, musicians and anyone the committee thinks will contribute to a positive, stimulating energy. You can’t use your phone inside — they even sticker the camera.
“People have been Instagramming the sticker,” says Klein, who’s also the owner of the Sunset Tower. “That wasn’t the idea, but as long as they’re not taking pictures inside, I’m okay with it.”
He’s speaking to the notion of getting away from the day-to-day stresses of modern life. And small hotels really cater this notion: they harbor the intimacy of a bed-and-breakfast with the sexier energy of a hotel.
And around Los Angeles, there are more than a few that fit the bill. Though they’re not as exclusive as San Vicente Bungalows, they’ll work for a long weekend when you can’t get away long enough to visit Palm Springs.
San Vicente Bungalows
You’re either already a member, on the waitlist to become one, or know a member and can have them inquire about booking your room. If you don’t fall into one of those three categories, the San Vicente Bungalows is the sort of shaded desert oasis better classified as a mirage. Their nine rooms range from 400-800 square feet, and each comes with its own terrace or garden, Waterworks fixtures and a private butler to cater to your needs. You have access to the restaurant, bar and an impressive roster of events that includes comedy nights and screenings, like Paper Moon with a Q&A with Peter Bogdonovich and Tatum O’Neal.
If you live on the westside, Downtown LA might as well be another city. That’s where you’ll find the Firehouse Hotel, an ultra-slick eight-suite gem that (as its name suggests) used to be a firehouse. The sundrenched suites come with marble-counter-topped kitchenettes and SMEG fridges. The floors are reclaimed lumber. The beds look like colorful clouds. The lobby has a charming coffee stand, and there are stacks of art books that are fun to flip through as you wait for your date to finish getting ready. The restaurant is beyond the lobby and serves a French-style cuisine with a strong wine list. The back patio is always happening, and there’s plenty to do in the neighborhood: visit ERB, Bestia, Two Bit Circus, Guerilla Tacos, Church and State, and the Good Liver.
The chaps behind the Firehouse Hotel also own Hotel Covell, another lofty suite hotel with nine offerings that combine old Hollywood charm with Parachute bedding. Like the Firehouse, they stock their bathrooms with Le Labo products. Bar Covell, downstairs, is a venerable wine spot plating a grilled cheese sandwich that’s crisp on the outside but pulls aparts with molten gooeyness. Home State is next door and serves quoue-worthy Tex-Mex tacos, Go Get Em Tiger has your coffee fix on the side of the hotel, and Kismet is a block down. You can go hiking for quite a while at Griffith Park, and shows at The Greek run well into October.
The Charlie Hotel
The Charlie is a historic tudor house with 14 suites that pay homage to the days of Charlie Chaplan, the former owner. The dark wood rafters, built-in bookcases and stately furniture are a tasteful throwback. The suites are centered around a courtyard with a fountain, which you can hear from your room, and where you can take your morning coffee. They don’t have food service, but they’re walking distance to Alfred Coffee on Melrose as well as Sweet Lady Jane, Rosalin and EP&LP (if you’re looking to get after it).
The Rose Hotel
The Rose Hotel has seven suites right by the beach, and given that the tourist tide is receding, it’s a good time to head down there. Keeping with Venice’s bohemian history, several of the smaller rooms have shared bathrooms; the suites don’t and come with Aesop products. The rooms are all softly lit, with hardwood floors and lots of white linen. They have a resident health nut, Eric, who can take you biking and surfing. You can also rent their bikes for a spin, and they have resident massage therapists who can report directly to your room. For food, you’re on Rose, not far from the Rose Cafe, Gjusta and Venice Wines. Around the corner is the new Waterfront Restaurant, where you can watch the sunset on the Pacific while drinking Rose and eating brisket poutine. The Dudley Market just reopened and is a seafood-laden romantic dinner.