What do you get if you cross James Bond bachelor chic, mid-century metropolitan architecture and acid-bright pop-culture wit? The Standard, Downtown LA. This fun and funky downtown boutique hotel in Los Angeles bears all the outré hallmarks of dynamic hotelier André Balazs: one of the coolest bars in LA, baths big enough for basketball players, and on-the-money decor that cries out to be a Sixties-era film set.
LA's coolest urban hangout
Signature rooftop pool with scarlet astroturf
Indulge your secret-agent style fantasies
One hour of table tennis in the Spin Lounge, two drinks and two appetizers
In the know
Also need to know:
There are smoking and non-smoking rooms; smoking is not permitted in the indoor public areas.Mood lighting, scented candles, giant mirrors and treat-filled mini-bars make the Standard’s rooms the perfect set for recreating those fantasy movie moments… Groovy, baby. The windows actually open, too.
Slick swimwear for poolside glamour (avoid orange, though – you'll clash with the red astroturf); a warm cover-up for winter evenings.
Casual jeans combos – but more Juicy Couture than Glasto grunge.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
On my first visit to Los Angeles some ten years ago I stayed in the downtown area of the city, MacArthur Park to be exact; a place made famous by the song of the same name (did somebody really leave a cake out in the rain?). On my first day I discovered a masked jogger in the park and, a week later, the people I was staying with were making a documentary about him. That’s Los Angeles – strange and wonderful things are expected to happen.
As a travelling DJ and musician I have tasted the delights of many of the world’s hotels, more often than not only for a brief interlude before the airport and another city call. A two-night stay is quite a luxury in my line of work and, what better way to spend it than in fine company, four blocks from the infamous MacArthur Park that framed my first experience in a city I now call home?
The Standard in downtown LA is a hip and happening place – I have visited before to check out the sonic selection of some of the world’s finest DJ talent. Walking into the hotel, the neon lighting and sharp lines remind me of the film Blade Runner, fortunately without the rain; while the futuristic quality of the outlandish lobby furniture makes me think of Fifties and Sixties projections of how we would be living in the Noughties.
The Standard building was turned from a Fifties office block into the hotel in the mid-Nineties. The transformation took five years but, thankfully, the building’s history and soul weren’t totally eradicated. The lifts remain intact, warts and all, and metallic reliefs from a Fifties oil company adorn the entrance which is also home to a fabulous old Mexican organ, which perfectly offsets the modernism.
We are shown to our room by a helpful member of staff, down corridors where the raised carpets seem to be laid on pancakes. Our room reveals itself to be satisfyingly uncluttered. The hotel has a no-nonsense approach to room classification – ours is a Wow and this is no misnomer. It is spacious and playfully designed but restrained at the same time. The blinds at the windows are perforated, allowing little stars of light to shine through. However, the same approach has been applied to the curtain linings and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the gusset in a pair of sport shorts.
The Standard seeks to attract the young and hip and, therefore, the lobby and bar, particularly at weekends, have the energy of a club. The music playing in the lobby when we got there was classic electro from Afrika Bambaata, adding to the sense of the past’s obsession with the future. We were curious about the 50-ft blue neon words-of-wisdom machine which occasionally comes out with statements such as, ‘When someone beats you with a flashlight, you radiate light in all directions’. Make of that what you will but subversion in Los Angeles is a rare thing.
Having completed an inventory of our room we went downstairs to the lobby. It’s entirely lemon. I’m talking really lemon. So lemon, in fact, that you can almost smell and taste citrus. It is an inspired choice and I gravitated there to write most of this review. When hunger beat at our door, we went looking for the restaurant but were surprised to discover that it is, in fact, integrated with the hotel’s café area. The food was a little disappointing but no matter, we were too busy admiring the interior design.
And so to the beating heart of this pleasure dome: the hotel’s rooftop – a dizzyingly cool party spot for the Golden State’s buffed and beautiful young crowd. As well as the pool, there are crazy cushioned space pods in which to curl up and hide from the sun. I didn’t try them – even I like to let my inner lobster out now and again.
We reckon that Sunday afternoons are the best time to head on up to the party. Check out the varied and excellent music: hip-hop, crunk, krump, disco, house, soul, Eighties… all played by pros, and watch as the sun goes down, revealing the myriad lights all around. This is a sensory trip, your fellow revellers are here to chill out, dance, have fun and perhaps be a little naughty…
We did manage to drag ourselves away from the party beat but we didn’t stray far. A ten-minute walk saw us at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) from where we crossed the road to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, an inspirational Frank Gehry building that resembles a spaceship crossed with the Sydney Opera House. Of course, if you’re staying at the Standard, you’re unlikely to want to check out the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The environs of the hotel are heaving with juice bars and cafes and we gave La Cita a whirl, a Mexican-themed bar providing great music. Other cool and happening spots in the hotel’s vicinity include the Edison, an exquisite cocktail lounge and the hang-out of choice of indie movie stars; and the Golden Gopher, which also has a good party reputation. We tried neither, figuring we were staying at the hottest hang-out in town.
The Standard doesn’t hide the fact it’s a party hotel – humour and irreverence are everywhere. Back in our room we played with the in-house entertainment. The phones have buttons for services such as ‘fluffer’ and ‘alibi’. I thought the sign for ‘fluffer’ looked like a massage spa so I pressed it and listened in wonderment as female, sexual-enjoyment gasps played on loudspeaker! Hilariously, the bedroom bins are designed at an angle, for the perfect collection of any alcohol you might not want to process fully. The bottom of the bin actually had a little sign showing a cartoon huey in progress! Our bathroom was excellent: the humongous bath took time to fill but it was worth it for the breaststroke practice. Mind you, in this place that term might well be misconstrued.
When it came to leaving, we felt fortunate to have flown with California’s beautiful barflies and felt utterly satiated by our back-to-the-future trip. The Standard, just like my first experience downtown here, is both strange and wonderful, in a fantastically LA kinda way.
550 South Flower Street at Sixth Street, Los Angeles, California 90071, United States
0.8 mi / 1.3 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- Onsite laundry
The Standard's cheery canary-yellow diner-style restaurant is just off the lobby and open round the clock; it offers a gratifyingly unfussy menu of neo-comfort food (syrup-drizzled pancakes, croques monsieurs, meatballs).
Head for the patio and get a side of California sunshine with your meal.
The Rooftop Bar, 10pm; The Standard Restaurant is open 24/7: breakfast 6–11am; lunch 11am–5pm; dinner 5pm–11pm; overnight menu 11pm–6am; weekend brunch, 11am–5pm.
24 hours; food comes from the restaurant.
The Standard's Rooftop Bar is super-cool, dizzyingly hip and boasts stimulating 360º cityscape views. As well as bar snacks, it serves up a feisty collection of cocktails and mellow, toe-tapping house tracks.