Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A stylish, if sometimes dowdy, bohemian boutique just blocks off West Hollywood's famous Sunset Strip
The Petit Ermitage isn't for everyone. The reason is summed up on the hotel's homepage: "Bohemianism is a way of life," it declares at the top, quoting the supposed Bohemian Manifesto, and thereby capturing the essence of the hotel with the very first word. Bohemian -- that is the Ermitage.
That said, you don't have to be an affirmed bohemian to enjoy the Ermitage. But be forewarned: This is not your typical sleek, sexy SoCal property. There's an inviting rooftop pool, but it's surrounded by a fireplace and a bench shaped like a mythical creature of some sort, not celebrities or cosmo-toting scenesters. The clientele tilts strongly toward the hipsterish; you see a lot of skinny jeans during your stay. Finally -- most crucially -- there's the design, which is very, well, bohemian. The hotel was fully renovated in 2009, but because of the decor -- antiquish furniture, faded floral carpeting, distressed fireplaces -- it often looks like it hasn't been updated in years. Some -- proud bohemians, perhaps -- would call it shabby-chic; others would just say dowdy.
Your trusty reviewer's take? It didn't quite work for me in the rooms (dowdy), but I totally dug the atmospheric public spaces like the hallways and Masters Lounge: tres (shabby-)chic. Note the vines that crawl from the hallway carpets up onto the walls, and up the telephone pole in front of the entrance; check out this painted piano in the Masters' Lounge. And just when you think the Ermitage only does quirky, it throws in some sexy, too. The extensive and eclectic art collection features originals by Dali and Miro. Just stepping out of the elevator on the 4th floor -- look at this 4 -- is enough to put you in the mood.
Mostly, though, the Ermitage meets its goal of feeling like a home away from home. It calls itself an all-suites hotel because even though most rooms don't actually feature a separate bedroom, they're all quite large, and many boast well-stocked kitchens or kitchenettes. Even my demi-suite (aka "The Little Lovely"), the lowest-level room, featured a kitchen, complete with dining table. The intimate public spaces, tiny lobby, and multitasking staff add to the homeyness; in many ways, the Ermitage resembles a bed-and-breakfast.
Formerly known as Hotel Le Petit, the newly renamed Ermitage is marketing itself as the "fashionable alternative to the Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Marquis," which are also in West Hollywood. That's a bold statement: The Chateau and Marquis aren't exactly known as slouches, style-wise. Still, unless the goal of your vacation is celebrity-spotting, the Ermitage is superior to the Chateau, and often half the price. As for the rest of the competition? It's really a matter of taste. The Ermitage is one of a kind. The question is, Are you bohemian enough?
Tag-team style. Excellent bell staff; otherwise, competent but nothing special
Some elements of the service are excellent for the price (24-hour room service; bellmen who open the front door); others don't measure up to what you'd find at a luxury boutique or even a larger midrange chain (no concierge, no express checkout). In keeping with the laid-back mentality, the Ermitage is staffed almost entirely with young people; in keeping with its bed-and-breakfast feel, staffers sort of mill about, handling whatever needs to be taken care of. After breakfast, for instance, a waiter who had poured guests coffee downstairs in the lobby was helping out one of the front desk staffers. Whether this quasi-tag-team method is intentional or not is hard to say, but it certainly contributes to the hotel's bohemian vibe.
In a quiet residential area of West Hollywood, three blocks off Sunset Boulevard
The Petit Ermitage sits in the heart of West Hollywood, three blocks off the Sunset Strip, the mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard known for its cutting-edge rock clubs and night spots and its collection of premier boutiques and restaurants. Because the immediate area feels so suburban, however -- even the hotel itself resembles a condo complex -- the location is as quiet and peaceful as it is central and convenient.
The Strip has long been known for music clubs like the House of Blues, the Roxy, Whisky A Go-Go, and the Viper Room (where River Phoenix famously overdosed), which is just down the street, but it has gotten significantly more upscale than it was in its strip-club-and-head-shop days in the '70s and '80s. It looks like the A-list designer boutiques and restaurants are here to stay.
Even if you don't love the Ermitage's brand of bohemianism -- antiquish furniture, faded floral carpeting, distressed fireplaces -- there's a lot to like about the rooms. First and foremost, they've got the basics covered. They're big (375 to 650 square feet), clean (outward appearance notwithstanding), and high-tech, and they have comfy beds and nice bathrooms. And then the bonuses and little touches: a kitchen or wet bar in every room, balconies in some, boutique-brand bath products from the Dead Sea (yes, you read that right), and "Elephants on tricycles in every room" (yes, you read that right), as the website boasts. Hey, some hotels take pride in their three-star chefs and marble bathrooms; for others, it's elephants on tricycles. To each his own. Though there is a lot of good, there are some minor issues as well. Thin walls and/or ceilings mean some noisy nights. Balconies could be a bit cleaner.
The names of the four types of suites are as quirky as the hotel itself:
They vary a bit by size, layout, bed size, and so on even across a single room type (my Little Lovely suite had a kitchen, for instance, but not all of them do), so you might want to discuss the details on the phone before you book.
Here's what they all have in common:
A lovely saltwater rooftop pool, plus some fun little extras
Besides some fun little extras, the Ermitage doesn't offer much in the way of amenities. The highlight, to be sure, is the picturesque pool on the top floor, which boasts 360-degree views of the city. The pool itself is small, but it's heated and salty (the newest trend in hotel poolery), and the surrounding deck, with its hip design, makes it one of the Ermitage's main draws, especially in nice weather.
Fine for kids, but they're definitely not the target audience here
Because of its bohemian feel (quirky design, hipster clientele) and quiet, almost meditative atmosphere, the Petit Ermitage isn't ideal for families. Still, there's no reason in particular not to take the kids. At the least, they'll dig the pool, and some of the suites include well-stocked kitchens or kitchenettes, which allows you to save some dough by eating in.
Well maintained -- even if it doesn't look it
Because of its quasi-shabby-chic decor, the Ermitage doesn't look very fresh or new, but it was fully renovated in 2009. Aside from the distressed furniture and outfittings, an intentional style choice, the only problems we noted were a few stains on the room's kitchen table and some serious grime on the balcony. (Apparently balconies aren't on the daily housekeeping checklist, at least in the winter.)
One small restaurant on-site, but there's plenty of other options just blocks away, on the Sunset Strip
The Ermitage's restaurant, Butterfly Bar, is like the hotel itself: small but classy. You can eat indoors or outside in the rooftop garden amid not just flora but some fauna as well -- the flying kind. Originally conceived as a buttefly and hummingbird sanctuary (as it is recognized by the National Wildlife Federation), it's unsurprising that a hummingbird dined on a flower right beside guests in the garden. If it's too chilly for al fresco, you can also sit in the atmospheric Masters Lounge. Usually used for cocktail sipping (the space has hosted Scotch, Whiskey, Absinthe, and Mezcal tastings in the past), the Masters Lounge can also be reserved for private dining. Poolside, diners and drinkers can relax at the Firedeck, which can also be reserved for private events, or request bottle service at one of the cabanas.
It's a matter of taste. The hotel's bohemianism -- think hipsters and distressed fixtures -- will appeal to some but not others. Oyster's take? We dig it, man. For half the price of some of its competitors, you get amodern, truly unique boutique with large suites (many with kitchens) and a lovely rooftop pool.
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