This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

A Stylist's Guide To Downtown Los Angeles

Travel

Los Angeles is a city of extremes. A place of massive mansions and devastating slums, plastic surgeons and reiki healers, celebrity home tours and organic juice bars – there’s nowhere else in the world quite like this strange and wonderful city.

A couple of months ago, Sarah Ellison took her first trip to LA to visit Hawkins NY, the US stockist of her furniture and homewares brand. Staying nearby the store in Downtown LA, she was captivated by the gritty streets, incredible architecture and mouth-watering food the area had to offer. Today, she shares her guide for the places to eat, drink, stay and shop!

23rd August, 2019

A travel guide to Downtown LA from stylist Sarah Ellison. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

The iconic ‘Jesus Saves’ sign in LA. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Golden hour. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Local style! Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Taco stands abound in LA. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

$1.50 roadside tacos. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Sarah’s first trip to LA was to visit the sole stockist for her line of furniture and homewares. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Sarah Ellison
Friday 23rd August 2019

As a self confessed longtime lover of ‘Cali cool’ interiors‘, this was surprisingly my first trip to Los Angeles! With the opportunity to launch my brand with luxury homewares and lifestyle retailer Hawkins NY, I found myself based in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) in close proximity to the Arts District, where their LA store is located. Here I discovered a different side of LA – a raw and gritty version of the California experience that was eye-opening, interesting and at times confronting.

It’s easy to imagine the glamour of Los Angeles. The one that we have grown up seeing in movies and TV, and we certainly experienced this as we worked through our list of things to do in LA. Gentrification and dilapidation in equal measure is the best way to describe DTLA. It’s a city of juxtapositions – culturally rich but with some serious social issues, with homelessness being the most confronting of these. Breathtaking Deco architecture, in some cases transformed into abandoned parking lots, exists on the same block as new boutique hotels. A thriving global food scene with some of the best cuisine I have ever experienced is alongside $1.50 tacos on street corners. European designer fashion brands open their retail spaces next to pawn shops, a proximity that would be unimaginable in most major cities around the world.

If you’re looking for more of a travel experience than just your standard holiday, then add a few days in DTLA to your trip. Rather than get caught in traffic visiting on day trips, I would suggest staying here to really soak in the full experience.

Stylist Sarah Ellison in Downtown LA. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

The iconic Orpheum Theatre. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Downtown LA Theatre District

Stretching between 3rd and 9th on Broadway, the Theatre District houses 12 theatres built between 1910 and 1931. What struck me most about this area was the incredibly ornate Art Deco architecture. The glamorous facades that once welcomed Hollywood royalty are set against the now raw and gritty streets of DTLA.

There was some serious Marquee sign appreciation going down making it feel a bit like the set of a movie!

DTLA Theatre District
Between 3rd and 9th on Broadway 

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Another diamond in the rough, the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by revered architect Frank Gehry was a gift to the city of Los Angeles from Lillian B Disney. Located at the corner of First Street and Grand Avenue, the concert hall is recognised as an architectural and acoustic masterpiece that has forever changed the musical landscape of Los Angeles. If this city had a heart, this is it! It has revitalised the area socially and is an exciting architectural statement built in Gehry’s signature ‘silver sails’ style. Well worth a visit.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 

A street mural on Sunset. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

San Francisco export Tartine bakery is internationally acclaimed. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Tartine

In short this place is basically ‘bread porn’. I mean, who doesn’t love a good bakery!

The Tartine team are some of the most influential bakers in the US. Opening first in San Francisco in 2002, they recently opened their newest manufactory at ROW DTLA (a smattering of retail spaces, pop-up shops, restaurants and offices) where they bake the most wonderful selection of wood-fired artisanal bread and pastries, pizza and ice cream.

Set within an elegant open plan industrial building, the venue transitions between bakery to restaurant, bar and marketplace where they sell cute local ceramics, cookbooks and charcuterie. With its pink facade and elegant, relaxed interior brightened by loads of natural light filtering through large warehouse windows, Tartine ticked the interiors and culinary boxes simultaneously!

Tartine ‘The Manufactory’
757 Alameda St, Suite 160
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Outside Bestia. Photo – Sierra Prescott.

Left: An LA streetscape. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor. Right: Fresh pasta at Bestia is the best Sarah has ever eaten! Photo – Sierra Prescott.

Bestia

Bestia is literally, the BEST Italian I have ever eaten! This restaurant is a must-visit and all about the food, but you will definitely need to make a booking a couple of weeks in advance to get the time you want. Our setting was at 9.30pm, but hey! We were on LA time.

Located in the Arts District, you kind of feel like your Uber driver doesn’t know where he is going when you drive around the industrial streets. All of a sudden, you arrive to find a thriving eatery with as many staff as customers. The industrial space was the kind we dream about in the Australian property market but can seldom find anymore. We ordered a shared-style menu of antipasti, pizza, pasta and meat and then proceeded to eat way more than was necessary! Of course.

The service was impeccable and the vibe was loud and exhilarating. The most memorable part for me was the hand made pasta – I had never experienced pasta that fresh and tender. A foodie’s heaven!

Bestia
2121 E 7th Pl
Los Angeles, CA 

The Firehouse Hotel is housed in – you guessed it – an old firehouse. Photo – Laure Joliet.

The bar at the Firehouse Hotel. Photo – Laure Joliet.

An interior space at The Firehouse Hotel. Photo – Laure Joliet.

A room at the Firehouse Hotel. Photo – Laure Joliet.

Firehouse Hotel

Situated in LA’s Arts District, The Firehouse Hotel is as the name suggests – a boutique hotel built within an old Firehouse. With just nine rooms and an adjoining restaurant, it has a warm and laid-back feeling to it. The interiors are trendy, unexpected and fun, celebrating local designers with each room themed a different colour.

We had two lovely meals at the indoor/outdoor restaurant which focuses on American style dishes. A great place to enjoy a cocktail in a cool and relaxed setting. It feels kinda local.

Firehouse Hotel
710 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA

The Gothic facade of the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA was inspired by the Segrada Familia in Barcelona. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Ace Hotel

The most exciting thing about the Ace Hotel DTLA for me was the 13 storey Gothic architectural icon in which it is housed! Built in 1927 as a film studio founded by Charlie Chaplin the building was inspired by La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Such a pleasant surprise, particularly once I learnt about its history.

The rooms feel like you are staying at your ‘cool LA artist friend’s’ apartment. With a vintage/industrial aesthetic, they are small but cosy with a moody colour scheme, concrete columns and chipboard walls. All the little details that make you realise you are staying somewhere that has real vision for the styling and art direction.

On the rooftop, there’s a very busy plunge pool and Insta-worthy rooftop bar, situated high-up within the Gothic facade of the building. You’ll enjoy panoramic views out over the city. It’s is definitely a must-visit at sunset for a cocktail.

Ace Hotel
929 South Broadway

Los Angeles, CA

ROWDTLA is a curated shopping experience. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Hawkins NY is the sole US stockist of Sarah Ellison’s furniture. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

Shopping at Hawkins NY. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.

ROW DTLA

A creative district thoughtfully re-imagined for creative spaces, retail and art. The antithesis to the American Mall, ROW is a conceptual shopping experience, located within an architecturally impressive row of former industrial buildings. The businesses here have been carefully curated as a unique shopping experience full of exciting young creative brands in fashion, interiors and art, as well as great cafes, restaurants and bars. You can take a ceramics class, do yoga or even get a facial!

Well known sneaker store Bodega is worth a visit, hidden behind a ‘fruit market’ facade which pays homage to the former produce factory the store is located within. It’s a hidden gem.

Hot tip! If you go on a Sunday you can also experience Smorgasburg LA. An artisanal local LA food market, that is adjacent to ROW.

ROW DTLA
777 Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA

Hawkins NY @ ROW DTLA

Hawkins NY is the exclusive retailer for my brand in the US – so I may be biased – but they really are one of my favourite homewares stores, which is why we ended up there! Offering a beautifully curated collection of ethically sourced, high-quality pieces at reasonable prices. Originally from New York, Hawkins are famous for their gorgeous bed linens in earthy tones, which they merchandise impeccably alongside local lighting design and handmade glassware.

When it comes to homewares stores in LA this is one of the best. You will certainly find something to bring back in your suitcase. My credit card statement is proof of that!

Hawkins NY
767 South Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA

View Comments

Similar Stories

Travel

Two Days In Paris With Our Art Director, Annie Portelli

Everything Annie ate, shopped and explored in her recent visit to the City of Lights!

Travel

Where To Explore, Eat + Unwind In Vibrant Marrakesh

From tranquil riads to bustling cafes, Tigmi Trading's guide to the ochre city at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
Danielle McEwan

Travel

A Design-Lover's Day In New York City

Our Editorial Assistant Sally Tabart takes us through her favourite haunts in the Big Apple!

This Week

Homes

A Well-Balanced Home In Hawthorn

In nutritionist and meditation teacher Briony Goldsmith's balanced home, all the energies align!
Lucy Feagins
  5 hours ago

Dream Job

How Lucy Folk's Marketing Manager Landed Her Dream Job

Gemma Leslie spills the beans on what its like working at one of Australia's coolest companies.

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Roasted Tomato Summer Soup With Mozzarella

Celebrating the best of easy summer eating with this sweet roasted tomato soup, creamy mozzarella and a drizzle of basil oil.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Architecture

A Multigenerational, Modern Farmhouse

Two houses are better than one, in this beach house for two families by Tom Robertson Architects.

Architecture

A Compact And Curvy Family Home In Glebe

Arched windows and internal voids converge in this mind-bending spatial marvel in suburban Sydney by Chenchow Little Architects.
Sasha Gattermayr
  21 hours ago
49.15

Podcast

TDF Talks With Textile Designer Cassie Byrnes

A hilarious chat with the celebrated Melbourne designer about new motherhood, the joys and perils of small business, and the benefit of bit...

Homes

An Enchanting, Rustic Rental In The Macedon Ranges

Lisa Hodge lives in this Macedon rental property, after making the tree change from Melbourne six years ago.

Tiny Homes

A 'Minimum Dwelling' Studio Apartment That Maximises Every Inch

Minimal interventions and clever partitioning make the most of this this tiny studio apartment in Fitzroy.
Sasha Gattermayr

Art

Milly Dent Is Taking The Cliché Out Of Porcelain

The Sydney-based ceramicist uses skills she picked up in China for her new show, 'Wishful Thinking'.
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

A Native Garden Made With Recycled Renovation Debris

This Sydney garden by Fig Landscapes maximises drought tolerant plant life, and inventive upcycling!
Sasha Gattermayr

News

A Valentine’s Day Pop-Up At Hattie Molloy

The experimental florist will hold a one-day-only pop-up at her Melbourne store.

Shopping

Julia Green Brings Morocco To Australia In This New Textiles Collection!

Stylist Julia Green launches a debut collection of rugs, textiles and ceramics handmade by artisans in Morocco.
Sasha Gattermayr

News

Australia’s Biggest Urban Art Festival Transforms A Kensington Warehouse

Can’t Do Tomorrow is an epic 10 day festival featuring local and international street art heavy hitters in Melbourne this month!
Sponsored

Stays

An Old School Campground Transformed Into A Beachside Paradise

A tired holiday camp in Esperance, WA, is now a picture-perfect boutique accomodation offering.

The Good Room

A Stylist's Good Room In South Yarra's Most Coveted Apartment Building!

Heather Nette King shows us around 'THE room' in her apartment in Melbourne's Beverly Hills apartment complex.
Lisa Marie Corso

Similar Stories

Travel

Two Days In Paris With Our Art Director, Annie Portelli

Everything Annie ate, shopped and explored in her recent visit to the City of Lights!

Travel

Where To Explore, Eat + Unwind In Vibrant Marrakesh

From tranquil riads to bustling cafes, Tigmi Trading's guide to the ochre city at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
Danielle McEwan

Travel

A Design-Lover's Day In New York City

Our Editorial Assistant Sally Tabart takes us through her favourite haunts in the Big Apple!