“I came to LA 15 years ago – it was when I bought The Argyle, which eventually became Sunset Tower – and I was instantly in love with the city. And what’s not to love, right? In all the ways we all know – the weather’s perfect, the mountains and the ocean. But more than that, when I arrived LA was a burgeoning place. It was sort of shifting from being a one-horse town where everyone and everything was in or about movies or TV. There was a tech world that was starting to take off, and which has grown.
I’d say between about 2005 and 2010 was the infancy of that moment, when LA became not only a great place to live – it always had that magical thing – but also interesting. A place that interesting people found to be an interesting place to live. Tom Ford showed his autumn/winter collection here in February 2015, and that was one of the greatest experiences. He chose LA instead of London, so everyone from fashion came, and it was right around Oscars season so it was super star-studded too. It felt like a seminal moment – it felt, like, this is the new LA.
The art scene has evolved as well. There are fascinating artists – Alex Israel, for example – who live and work here. You have LACMA and the Hammer museum, which have become amazing institutions that put on really thoughtful exhibitions with world-class artists. Both of them have captains who steer the ships with such skill and careful attention – Michael Govan at LACMA and Ann Philbin at the Hammer; she’s super-cool – and it’s really felt in the experience. And there are good galleries. Gagosian and Matthew Marks and some of the other big ones are all here, but I really like Marc Selwyn Fine Art and Kohn Gallery. The artists they represent are wide-ranging, but the galleries themselves are local, and they feel it. Michael Kohn of Kohn Gallery is married to Caroline Styne, who is [award-winning] chef Suzanne Goin’s business partner. They’re part of the community.
LA, and specifically West Hollywood, where I opened my boutique hotel 850 SVB last year, has always been good for furniture and antiques. Most of it’s on La Cienega Boulevard. I love Mecox Gardens for stylish and more affordable things; it has its own collections and also some good vintage. Lee Stanton Antiques is pretty great, ranging from the 17th to 19th centuries, French and English. He also does his own designs. Richard Shapiro Studiolo has the most incredible stuff – a mix of antique and modern furniture, lighting and objects from all over. And everyone should go to Hollywood at Home, Peter Dunham’s store. He’s a textile designer – we bought a lot of stuff there for San Vicente Bungalows, my members’ club – but the store also sells furniture, lighting, accessories, art and prints. I love how wacky it is. He really understands high and low and how they work in the mix.
Around here it’s easy to eat well because there are a lot of great places right in the area. I love lunch on the patio at Zinqué café, ordering “Le Bowl” with chicken and sipping a glass of rosé. If you can find Croft Alley, on Melrose Place, go; it’s a tiny spot that’s very local. I’m not even sure whether there’s a street entrance – I think you have to walk through Alfred Coffee – which is also great – to get to it. It’s like five tables in this sweet courtyard. The chef is Vietnamese, so there’s that influence on super-fresh western food. They do an amazing turkey-lettuce wrap, so have that and then eat one of the double-fudge-chocolate and sea-salt cookies, which will just make you die, they’re so good.
The omakase at Sushi Park is great. It’s really hard to get a reservation but worth it – they only serve omakase at the sushi bar. It’s totally unassuming, on the second floor of a mall on Sunset Boulevard, and you’ll probably sit next to someone like Justin Timberlake. The food is insanely good. The chefs are super-strict – “No soy sauce with that!” “This sauce with that one!” – which I love. I love it any time anyone is that committed to their craft.
If you’re in Santa Monica, Elephante is always fun. It’s a very hip new restaurant and it’s indoor-outdoor, so you have the views and the breeze when they open it all up. And there are always lots of young, very beautiful people there. But my happy place is Gjusta in Venice. I think it’s the best food in LA: casual, fresh, unpretentious – in particular the rotisserie chicken sandwich. The bread is all made there, and all delicious. It’s a 10 out of 10 on every level.
I’m not such a big Malibu fan, I have to admit. If you want to stay by the beach, I’d say The Rose Hotel in Venice is the place to book. It’s got that cool, boho-barefoot vibe that Venice is famous for – as well as quite a storied past.
The hike I do most often is Franklin Canyon Park, in Beverly Hills, which is not nearly as well known, or as crowded, as Runyon Canyon, and is, in my opinion, far more beautiful. You get incredible views of the city from the top and definitely that away-from-it-all feeling, despite being in the middle of town. Mansion Fitness, the gym at Sunset Tower, is huge – about 7,000sq ft – and half outdoors, so on a nice day you can work out in the fresh air, in the shade under the canvas. Most people think it’s for guests’ exclusive use, but you can book a personal training session as a non-guest.
Ditto Joanna Vargas, the amazing facialist. She used to come out from New York and book a suite at Sunset Tower for a week every six weeks or so. Celebrities and high-profile people would call on her all day; we just thought she was really connected. Then a friend of mine gave me a gift certificate for a facial from her and I found out that’s what she was doing. I’d had no idea. But the facial was incredible; I really did look 15 years younger afterwards. So we decided to make it legit, and now she has a full spa on the second floor of the hotel, with multiple suites and staff.
Sometimes I just walk along Melrose, which is a great way to get a sense of what LA has become. The Line and The Apartment by The Line are such innovative experiences, and there’s APC and The Row and a lot more great fashion. There’s also Moon Juice and Sweet Lady Jane, where the triple-berry cake is addictive. And then all the design and antiques.
I sometimes say that LA reminds me of the New York City I grew up in in the ’80s and early ’90s – the New York where, when you went down to SoHo at night, it was vibrant and exciting and maybe even a little dangerous – versus what I feel New York has now become. I think that’s why I love it. It feels incredibly sophisticated and like a village at the same time.”