The Santa Monica Proper Has Redefined the Luxury Hotel

The Santa Monica Proper Hotel brings a fresh breeze of air into the art of fine hotelkeeping. And much, much more.

From the moment one walks in from a quiet tree-lined residential street off sunny Wilshire Boulevard, it is obvious how seriously the founders (who started the much-admired Viceroy Hotel Group) have thought about gently disrupting the traditional, stale hotel industry. They have been inspired with brio to create a most relaxed hotel for today’s frequent and discerning travelers, giving them everything they need and nothing they don’t. This is a hotel designed with many new ways to enhance the guest experience at every turn.

This means a central location just seven blocks from the beach, at an affordable price. Not just a place to sleep, but somewhere to work, relax and play–just like home. Somewhere with superfast free Wi-Fi, tech that makes life easy, and world-class art that isn’t “hotel art.” Yet, a place that whispers “de-stress” from every corner.

Enter The Proper and step into a magical world of art. The wave-like curvature of the walls, the vaulted ceilings, the giant bamboo fan light fixtures, the cool wood floors, the dramatic sculptures, even the handsome dove-grey tunics on the reception staff all bespeak of careful design-driven decisions.

Supersized suites and rooms in sand, earth and organic tones are flooded with natural light thanks to curved floor-to-ceiling windows. Balconies and garden terraces offer plenty of soothing California views. There are ultra-comfortable XL custom beds (dressed with Bellino and Fili D’oro linens) to crash in, and marble baths with a powerful rain shower to wash-up in. All rooms feature premium WiFi, Apple TV and bedside controls to adjust blackout shades and lighting. The mini-bars are stocked with quality and very clever treats and drinks. The housekeepers take impeccable care. This is 21st century luxury to be cherished. Credit must be given to the originality of designer Kelly Wearstler whose uncompromising commitment to premium quality without sacrificing comfort is unrivaled.

A top-notch spa called Surya is inspired by Eastern wellness, where the goal is to bring the transformative and healing experience of total body, mind and soul to guests through the most effective and innovative therapy techniques including Ayurvedic.  Boards and bikes stand at attention for a surf or ride on the beach path. Yoga classes can be found on the 2nd floor terrace. A state-of-the-art fitness center buzzes 24-7 with signature programming.

We never left the hotel and worked from our room, worked out in the gyms. We dined at their hot-ticket restaurant, Palma, a living room of sorts off the lobby for a most memorable, carefully-prepared meal. Fresh Kumamoto oysters, silky burrata and stone fruit, panzanella and nicely grilled steaks with sugar snap peas were what we feasted on, with fine French Pinot Noir from a list that showed great imagination. This dining room feels more living room than restaurant with the jeunesse doree lounging about, flutes in hand, heads bobbing to the music.

We could have dined alongside sweeping views of the Pacific at Calabra, an indoor-outdoor rooftop Balearic bistro and beach-inspired lounge where ocean views are paired with biodynamic wines, signature cocktails, and Mediterranean and California cuisine. Think branzino, lobsters, grilled octopus, spiced Greek and yogurt chicken. There is no charge for front-row sunsets and sea air over the Pacific. Another option we saved for a future visit is Olea, a lush and breezy garden terrace, for fresh and inventive sushi rolls and sake.

There is no better way to end the day than in The Library, a secluded alcove embraced by ceiling-to-floor Rizzoli and Taschen books and fascinating art, for snacks, a mezcal or glass of wine from their extensive selections.  

This is a very cool and clever hotel, full of innovation, managed by a charming, eagle-eyed couple, Julien Laracine and his wife, Cara Stoffel. Their international credentials are impressive. Julien brought magic and total luxury indulgence to guests as GM of Nihi Sumba in the Indonesian wilderness. The polite and attractive staff is properly trained to attend to every need, actually anticipating most of them, as if you had your own private retainer. Design buffs will find dreamy sanctuary at the Santa Monica Proper. A stay here is an authentic escape, a luxe, local experience in the heart of the city. A true lifestyle hotel within walking distance of boutique shopping cafes, and the beach.  And with rates starting at $459, it is a bargain, say in comparison with Shutters at $925. Santa Monica Proper Hotel, 700 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, (310) 620-9990,

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