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.
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.
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.
A street mural on Sunset. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.
San Francisco export Tartine bakery is internationally acclaimed. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.
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.
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.
The Gothic facade of the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA was inspired by the Segrada Familia in Barcelona. Photo – Rhiannon Taylor.
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.