LOS ANGELES—Proper Hospitality is taking the Golden State by storm this summer. Following the San Francisco Proper Hotel’s debut in the summer of 2017, there’s a slate of openings ahead for Proper—plus the hotel brand’s debut outside of California.
Proper Hospitality, developed by L.A.-based The Kor Group, is set to open the Santa Monica Proper Hotel in May, followed by Austin Proper Hotel & Residences and Downtown Los Angeles Proper Hotel this summer.
Rapidly growing and setting its sights on more—Portland Proper’s construction is set to begin later this year—the company doesn’t just choose any market to expand in. So, how does Proper pick where to bring its name? According to Brian De Lowe, president/co-founder of Proper Hospitality and The Kor Group, the answer is simple: They think about where they would like to stay themselves.
“One of the greatest things about being a privately owned company like we are is that we get to pick and choose our projects selectively,” De Lowe said. “We get to focus on locations, buildings and partners that we, ourselves, are inspired by. It all comes together fairly organically.”
As a Santa Monica resident himself, De Lowe noticed a missing piece in the Westside L.A. marketplace. “It lacked a luxury hotel that offers what creative-leaning residents and visitors are looking for. Santa Monica Proper delivers product and service that’s as good as any hotel, but that captures that special, more casual-luxury that the Westside of L.A. is known for,” De Lowe said.
The expansion in Austin also marked a personal connection for De Lowe who frequents the city, and much like these areas of L.A., he felt something missing in the city’s hotel offerings. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Austin through the years and I’ve gotten to know the city,” he said. “Nothing downtown provided a high-end experience that seemed to match the vibe of Austin that I loved.”
Proper is all about creating a vibe, too, which was already partly in place at the California properties. Both the Santa Monica and Downtown L.A. properties have a piece of the culture built in, naturally imparting a local feel, while Austin Proper is a complete new-build.
The Santa Monica Proper is a historic 1920s Arthur E. Harvey-designed Spanish Colonial Revival building that will have a modern new-build attached. The Downtown Los Angeles Proper is a local landmark; the Curlett & Beelman-designed 1926 building acted as a private club in the ’30s, hotel in the ’40s and a YWCA until 2004.
The Kor Group has a deep history of working with historic spaces both in hospitality and residential.
“There’s always obstacles, challenges that turn into opportunities where other hotels or companies maybe would have said, ‘How do we take this 1,500-sq.-ft. suite and turn it into five or 10 guestrooms?’ But for us, as a brand, it was so important to restore the timeless elements of the building and celebrate them,” De Lowe said. “We’ve taken really beautiful spaces and preserved them and allowed for the public to get to experience them.”
Whether it was preserving, starting fresh or both, the company remained focused on creating unexpected experiences for guests, which was the impetus for its partnership with interior designer Kelly Wearstler.
“She [Wearstler] considers history, location and architecture—which are the foundation for each project—and then she pushes the boundaries and rules. That approach is very much aligned with our ethos in creating culturally relevant, incredibly creative hotels,” De Lowe said.
By incorporating work from locals, Wearstler is able to stay true to her distinctive vision for each location, bringing in artwork, furnishings and local materials that will look and feel different between each property.
“What she’s really known for is creating a variety of experiences within a single space,” De Lowe said. “She has a distinctive point of view. Her use of materials, patterns, colors and juxtaposition of contemporary and vintage adds a sense of soul and story to our spaces.”
For the Santa Monica Proper, Wearstler focused on earthy details highlighting the proximity to the sea, bringing in natural materials like wood and stone. The Downtown Los Angeles Proper also plays on California culture with Spanish-Mexican-California tones, dark wood and marble details.
Austin Proper takes a bit of a different approach being a completely modern space, featuring Art Nouveau and the city’s Craftsman style.…vintage carpets and neon accents that pay homage to the city’s neon signs included.
What sets Downtown Los Angeles apart from the others, however, may have been part of the hotel’s preservation process. The property will have two suites with nods to local history. The Pool Suite incorporates the former YWCA’s indoor pool into the living area accompanied by a ceramic mural by L.A. artist Ben Medansky. The Basketball Court Suite features a racquetball-turned-basketball court, into an event space and guestroom.
De Lowe recognizes the sense of juxtaposition in all of the properties, not only from Wearstler’s designs but from the distinct locations they’re in.
“You walk in, and immediately you get this feel that on one hand, it’s very innovative, and on the other, it’s locally relevant,” he said.
While each property spotlights locale, whether it be through thoughtful design, partnerships with nearby artists or locally inspired F&B programs, there’s a common thread, something that is integral to Proper’s mantra: providing a canvas for guests to create meaningful experiences.
“It’s not a given that every hotel out there inspires and enriches. We think our approach lends itself to creating hotels that are appealing because we collaborate and partner with the most creative innovators and disruptors we know in each market,” De Lowe said.
Proper is continuing to explore new markets: in Portland and beyond, such as New York; Miami; and Nashville, TN, and eventually, overseas.
“What remains critical is focusing on places where we actually want to spend our time,” De Lowe said. “We need to do it at a pace that allows us to overthink all the details we think are vital to delivering the quality of experience that we expect.” HB