Rooms start at $229.
A 10-minute drive from Hollywood, the independent municipality of Culver City was once a Technicolor crucible of moviemaking. In 1939 on the MGM Studios lot (currently Sony Pictures Studios), Judy Garland followed the Yellow Brick Road in “The Wizard of Oz,” while down the street at Culver Studios, David O. Selznick was filming “Gone with the Wind.” Two years later found Orson Welles plumping the pillows in a bungalow while shooting “Citizen Kane.”
Fast forward to today, when the new content barons of the 21st century have come calling. Amazon has leased 580,000 square feet of the former Culver Studios space for its Amazon Studios division; across the street, Apple has taken 128,000 square feet of office space. The Palihotel Culver City opened in January, and belongs to the Palisociety group, a boutique chain that includes locations in Santa Monica, and on Melrose Avenue and Westwood Village in Los Angeles. The founder, Avi Brosh, says that each of the hotels reflects the mood of the immediate neighborhood.
At the 49-room Palihotel Culver City, the developers have retained the building’s Art Deco bones and its glowing red “HOTEL WEST END” rooftop sign, left over from a previous incarnation. An exterior wall, designed by the multidisciplinary artist Dana Carly, has been painted in a floral profusion, resembling something the late interior designer Mark Hampton might have thrown on the wall in Brooke Astor’s bathroom. In the lobby, a pewter loving cup brims with bright yellow tennis balls, a nod to Mr. Brosh’s passion for the game. (There is no tennis court.)
On a residential street, Palihotel is within easy walking distance to Culver City’s increasingly upscale attractions, such as the blocklong Helms Bakery District (comprising furniture stores such as HD Buttercup; the hard-to-resist Arcana art and design bookstore; and several restaurants, including the chef Sang Soon’s Southeast Asian eatery, Lukshon). International architecture firms such as Morphosis and Studio Pali Fekete have likewise colonized Culver City with head-turning headquarters. A big perk anywhere in L.A. is public transportation: The Expo light rail line stops in Culver City on its way from downtown L.A. to the sunsets in Santa Monica.
My “garden view” king room offered a view of a parking lot (well, there were trees), and was painted in what looked like British racing green (actually Benjamin Moore’s “Calico Blue”) and white (Dunn Edwards’ “Cool December”). A Bakelite rotary dial phone sat on a small desk tucked into an alcove, overseen by a painting of a young woman in a red-and-white striped swimsuit by the Ontario-based artist Janet Hill. The (very comfortable) bed was topped with a tartan camp blanket; painted white wood shutters tried, and failed, to mute the morning California sun (pack a sleeping mask).
The marble bathroom, reached by a pocket door, was spacious and done in white ceramic tile and Lefroy Brooks fixtures. A massive shower head delivered a promised “rain shower.”
The lobby blends seamlessly into Simonette, a French-style bistro featuring a bar wrapped in red leather, fabric-covered bar stools and an open patio courtyard surrounding a mature Carrotwood tree. The waiters, in red horizontal-striped shirts, resembled jaunty French sailors (waxed mustaches made an appearance). I took a seat at the bar not realizing I was next to the “smoke box” — a contraption that belched smoke every few minutes as the bartender responded to orders of “Urgent Fury,” a cocktail made with mezcal espadin, coconut porter syrup, cherry, ras el hanout, mole, egg and smoke ($14). Between eruptions I had a dozen oysters exquisitely prepared with mignonette, lemon and parsley ($39). Chicken paillard cooked in lemon beurre blanc, crispy capers sweet potato and arugula ($20) completed a perfect bar meal. Other entrees included fried whole trout almondine served with pickled haricot vert, toasted almonds, caper berries and mayonnaise ($28). Simonette bristles with neck-craning L.A. ambition, and is likely to get goosier still, as all those Apple and Amazon employees stream in to order tequila shots and exercise their options.
To save you the trouble of Googling before you go, each room has a Tablet curated with detailed information on the surrounding art galleries, shops, bars, restaurants and hikes. Room service is available from Simonette.
The Bottom Line
As a modish base camp from which to poke around Greater L.A.’s most compelling new destination neighborhood, the Palihotel is well equipped with ambience and attitude.
Palihotel Culver City; 3927 Van Buren Pl.; 424-321-7000; www.palisociety.com/hotels/culver-city/