This Hotel Suite Is Built Around Its Own Massive Indoor Pool — in the Middle of Downtown L.A.
Entering the foyer of the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel is a bit like stepping into a fantasy. Through the pink portal we go, an arched canopy of wondrous Mexican folk creatures and kaleidoscopic color painted by artist Abel Macias. General manager Stephane Lacroix whisks us into the elevator where he presses 7. We actually might not have found this hotel's singular Pool Suite had he not escorted us, since Proper's version of a presidential is unmarked, its dark double doors so exclusive as to be anonymous. "You have to know to know," he remarks. Inconspicuous, I think, just the way people who spend $10,000 per night (the starting rate) on a hotel room like it, such as the global entertainer power couple I'm told booked it for Valentine's Day.
The wow moment comes as soon as the door clicks open to reveal a 35-foot-long pool, all tropical-sky blue and trimmed in black tile, with a monumental Ben Medansky tile wall backdrop that turns the whole thing into a work of art. The textured motif, lightly reflected on the water's surface, feels simultaneously ancient and contemporary, like little geometric messages that add not only quirk, but soul, too. Curvy tiles echo the sensuous shapes of the furniture, collected into welcoming and moodily lit vignettes of wildly comfortable chairs — some vintage, some custom designed by Kelly Wearstler, the crafty mastermind behind the entire property's lush, handmade visage.
It feels as if we're in some secret underground swim club, but with daylight streaming in all afternoon from a wall of windows and our own playlist casting via Bluetooth to the suite's surround sound speakers. From the huggable leather chairs at the end of the pool to the cavelike pink plaster living room nook to the deep bedroom sofa, there are so many plush places to relax that I almost don't know where to start. There's no doubt this is the kind of suite made for drinking Champagne, and a bottle chills on ice atop the wooden dining table, so we eagerly change into swimsuits and pop one open. It turns out a pool suite can transform any old day into a celebration. Today, ours is a party for two and a half, with our 11-month-old stoked to ride the miniature flamingo pool float resting temptingly by a vintage biomorphic wood sculpture near the pool steps.
Our first family dip is glorious and fresh. At 82 degrees, the pool is heated, but definitely not hot. While swimming, I basked in the splendor of our private pool, realizing that it does feel like the ultimate luxury — even more so when it's somewhere as unexpected as downtown Los Angeles.
As the day goes on, this massive aquamarine gem is like the elephant in the room — in the best way possible. I'm drawn to it and constantly want to be around it, if not in it. At night, tinted light dances on the Medansky wall, as if calling me to strip down and slip in. This urge, however, comes as we're wrapping up dinner — in-room dining, because why would we leave a space this divine? I'm so full of yellow tomato campechana (a fantastically bright seafood-studded gazpacho), piri piri chicken, savory Brussels sprouts, and silky pistachio flan that I'm convinced I would get a cramp if I entered the tempting water. That's to say nothing of the Tempranillo we drank, selected from a list stacked with Spanish varietals, in keeping with the themes of star chef Suzanne Goin's Caldo Verde and Cara Cara restaurants.
In fact, it's partially for this reason the original pool depth was dramatically altered during the renovation of this 1926 California Renaissance Revival building into the current 148-room boutique hotel. What was once a YWCA pool had been a whopping 11 feet deep. (Another remnant of that time became the Proper Basketball Court Suite.) The suite would have had to be staffed by a lifeguard, Lacroix joked, for him to get any sleep at night. Without such a chaperone, however, it was our responsibility to remember that classic pool rule: no running. In this opulent escape, after all, the pool deck was entirely laid with Italian villa–inspired pink and purple marble tile.
The bedroom, behind a heavy door at the end of a hallway off the main space, feels even more secretive. It's a spacious yet cozy sanctuary in serene blues and sunny golds that nudged me into total relaxation mode, especially as I sank, wrapped in a Parachute robe, into the cloudlike bed, fantastically ornate and upholstered in a lovely woven fabric that evokes oceans.
The next morning, we finally emerged from our aquatic hideaway — after a lazy swim with baby, of course, followed by a hot rinse in the two-head double shower enveloped in custom tile. Breakfast downstairs at Caldo Verde, a restaurant as beautiful as the Portuguese-Spanish inflected food it serves, is worth it. I'm careful not to over indulge on the carnitas and sweet potato hash and a decadent pecan sticky bun because yet another swimming pool is beckoning on the rooftop. What this one may lack in size — it's more of a spa pool for soaking — it more than makes up for in truly awesome views of downtown L.A. spread out below.
After a bit, I start to miss our own poolside vintage chairs and little flamingo floaty, so we return. As I take my fifth plunge in 24 hours, I realize this goes well beyond a presidential suite. Those always seem so showy, like a brag about top-floor status, space (though this suite does have plenty, clocking in at 2,777 square feet), and number of bathrooms. This unmarked accommodation, however, boasts not only real personality and character, thanks to Wearstler, but water. And of this I'm sure: The Pool Suite is not just the most unique, but also the most special suite in this city of dreamers.