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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

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