Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A sleek leather and rug-filled lobby downstairs, and a pulsating, uber-trendy restaurant and lounge on top
Inside this shiny, prettily wrapped package, you get the nagging feeling that this centrally located, 209-room Santa Monica hotel (slightly too large to feel boutique) coasts along thanks to the wild popularity and studied chicness of its Penthouse restaurant and bar, which on weekend evenings morphs into a heaving meat market for industry insiders, celebrity wanna-bes, and the occassional celebrity (Sarah Jessica Parker, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Murray, and Mel Gibson among them). The hotel itself attracts mainly guests from the U.S. and abroad who come to do some damage to their credit cards at Fred Segal, American Apparel, and Design Within Reach.
After a four-year renovation that ended in 2009, the $18 million spent overhauling this former apartment building (built in 1962 by an architect named Huntley) is strikingly apparent in the lobby, exterior, fitness center, and Penthouse restaurant and bar, but is much less evident in the Deluxe City View Queen Room and bathroom. Erstwhile residences are now guest rooms nicely appointed with 42-inch LG flat-screen HD TVs, robes, and slippers, but stains and scratches are already perceptible upon close inspection of doorways and carpets. And the bathroom appears to be one-third remodeled: A new Kohler sink basin with a new marble countertop shares space with a Crane toilet that's ready for the salvage shop and a Kohler showerhead that looks like it's seen war, or possibly an earthquake.
Despite the lack of balconies and its location one-and-a-half blocks from Ocean Avenue, the rooms and suites on higher floors (close to the percussive Penthouse restaurant) have partial or full ocean views. But true beach bunnies may prefer Casa del Mar or Shutters on the Beach, which, as their names indicate, are as close to the sand as one can get without getting wet. They cost more, but offer more too: a pool, a spa, and a more tranquil atmosphere.
Pleasant and accommodating, but not excessively so
The Huntley aims for (and usually achieves) a high level of service, but only to a point.
Near popular restaurants and shopping, but the beach is a 20-minute walk
Sitting statuesquely on Santa Monica's palm-tree-lined 2nd Street, the 18-floor Huntley towers over the houses and low-rise condos on this quiet residential street. It's steps from popular Third Street restaurants, cafes, shopping, and spas, and around the corner from Ocean Avenue and its unobstructed views of the Pacific. Though the hotel is one-and-a-half blocks inland from the bluff overlooking Santa Monica Beach, some rooms on high floors have partial or full ocean views.
A fair amount of space, but light on serious luxury
Decorated primarily in muted, monochromatic tones and chartreuse hues, deluxe guest rooms are warm and inviting, with a wood-and-faux-suede buttoned headboard as their centerpiece (plus a smart-looking white leather desk chair on wheels). At 550 square feet and 400 square feet respectively, similar category guest rooms at swish nearby retreats Oceana and Shutters on the Beach are significantly larger, but for considerably more a night.
A surprisingly modest number of features for a purportedly luxe hotel
With no pool, spa, outdoor space, or beachfront access, the hotel offers little for guests to do other than eat, drink, sleep, and leave.
A 15- to 20-minute amble to a miles-long stretch of sand
An entire residential block, the Pacific Coast Highway, and towering bluffs lie between the Huntley and Santa Monica Beach. After walking around the corner to Ocean Avenue, beachgoers navigate easy paths down the bluffs, then cross footbridges above the busy highway before they reach the sand. Although the water sometimes smells acrid as a result of the enormous pollution Los Angeles generates, the waves at Santa Monica Beach are a magnet for surfers.
Around the corner from the oceanfront bluff (with beach access several blocks farther), but not a particularly family-oriented hotel
Without a pool or space for kids to frolic (except an inconveniently placed outdoor seating area with a gas fireplace off the parking garage), and a formal restaurant with a dynamic nightclub scene, the Huntley isn't a kids' zone. A few tots gambol around the lobby but their parents mostly try to steer them away from the expensive-looking leather and sheepskin fabrics and lightbox sconces. Pool purists should consider the Loews Santa Monica Beach or Fairmont Miramar.
Generally tidy, but could be better maintained for a high-design hotel
Overall, the Huntley looks and feels clean, but are were some very visible scuffs and gouges on doors and frames in the deluxe room and bathroom, knicks in the wall, stains on room and hallway carpeting, and the bed frame, and a tired bathroom in desperate need of updating, cosmetic attention, and a new showerhead. An ice machine on the 7th floor was rusted and had a busted hinge, and papers were piled up in the empty business center.
Its restaurant isn't cheap, but the food is excellent and the vistas stunning.
Dining at the Penthouse enclosed rooftop restaurant, with its billowy white curtains and rectangular gas fireplace, requires A-list apparel, a movie star salary, and earplugs -- the din can be thunderous. High-profile diners have included Luke and Owen Wilson, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Jessica Biel, Patrick Dempsey, and Ben Affleck. But unless you're one of them, you won't get special treatment; the Penthouse takes reservations on a first-come-first-served basis, even for hotel guests.
A design-conscious, thoroughly un-beachy 18-floor hotel in the center of a beachside community with an exceptional restaurant -- but, disappointingly, no pool -- that attracts a mix of European hipsters, wedding parties, and business travelers. It's good for those who prefer strolling and shopping to sunning and swimming, but scuffed-up rooms belie the four-year, $18-million renovation (completed in 2009).
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