For a beachside pied-à-terre, Palihouse Santa Monica is surprisingly moody and dramatic, with nary a white linen slipcover or seashell detail in sight. Which is, of course, a good thing, because a Nantucket-style seaside aesthetic wouldn’t fit very well with the building’s 1920s Moorish-inspired Mediterranean Revival architecture and Italian cypress–filled courtyards. Built in the days when Santa Monica was the end of the train line and still a months-long beach vacation destination, the now-landmark building has always housed holiday apartments, and its latest incarnation maintains that same relaxed, understatedly festive feel, with Paligroup owner Avi Brosh’s signature glamorous twist.
While the gardens feel straight out of Tuscany and the lobby lifted from an English private club (perhaps displaced to the Mediterranean), the spacious rooms and suites are a breezy, harmonious, and homey mishmash of Old World wallpaper, exposed beams, original 1920s architectural elements, and trendy accents such as vintage studio tripod lamps. In other words, this is the kind of apartment (most have fully outfitted kitchens) one would dream of having as their steps-from-the-beach pad. But, of course, because this is movie star territory, the hotel has bonus perks, from fridge-stocking services to in-room fitness sessions, and from a chauffeured car service to cocktails in the courtyard.
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Just a couple blocks up from bustling Third Street Promenade, and a few blocks from the beach, Palihouse couldn't be better situated for experiencing the laid-back Santa Monica lifestyle. Within walking or biking distance alone are countless restaurants, boutiques, bars, and sights. Try morning yoga on the beach with locals, cruise the iconic Santa Monica Pier, dine on farm-to-table cuisine at Rustic Canyon, stock up on fresh produce at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, have some of the best sushi in L.A. at neighborhood outpost Sugarfish, and go to the (beachfront) pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House. Hop in the car or cycle down the coast to Venice, and scope out its quirky beach scene and the critically acclaimed restaurants that line Abbot Kinney Boulevard nowadays, including Gjelina.
Need to Know
Rooms: 37 rooms, 28 suites. From $300. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: With its terra-cotta tiled floors and tufted leather sofas, the library-like lobby is a casual café by day—complete with a communal table for laptop-toting creatives—and a sultry bar by night. The seasonal all-day menu of fresh California cuisine—kale tabbouleh, smoked salmon benedict, roast veggie sandwich—can also be ordered to the communal table and teak benches in the Mediterranean-inspired garden. Spa and gym details: The hotel has neither a gym nor a spa, but the beach, just a few blocks away, has plenty of running and biking paths. The hotel also offers in-room spa and beauty treatments, personal training sessions, and yoga and Pilates classes. Passes to a nearby gym and pool are also available.
Who's it best for: Creative types making deals, stylish beach lovers, and anyone else with an eye for design who’s staying more than a few days. Our favorite rooms: All but nine of the airy, elegantly comfortable rooms are suites, with fully equipped kitchens and the original 1920s vanities; and even the Classic rooms have Dean & Deluca minibars and private Juliet balconies. Not surprisingly, though, the two penthouses steal the show, each with a large breezy terrace adorned with an ornately tiled fountain, soaring arched windows on nearly every wall, and lovingly preserved 1920s features in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Taking it easy: Even if guests are here on business, Palihouse should make them feel like they’re on a leisurely vacation, like the holiday-goers the building was originally designed to attract. So order a cocktail to sip during a game of bocce in the garden, rent Apple TV, or book a Linus bicycle from the front desk and cruise along the beach.