A PLACE TO LAY OUR HEADS By Leisure Magazine
The ultimate luxury in Los Angeles is that of sanctuary, a place removed from the cacophonous commotion of the city, while still posted in the city’s bustling epicenter. And, it being the home of Hollywood, what better “sanctuary” might Los Angeles offer, than a hideaway dedicated to the silver screen legends that once wandered its grounds. At the Charlie Hotel in West Hollywood, Golden Era greats such as the hotel’s namesake, Charlie Chaplin, along with starlets such as Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Swanson (just to name a few), inspire the mood of decadence enveloping this eclectic hideaway. Celebrities—many of whom once called the hotel their private abode, Chaplin included—lend their names to the cluster of 14 bungalows at this residence-turned-hotel. Originally built in 1924, courtesy Oscar-winner Ruth Gordon’s family (audiences will remember her as the duplicitous Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby), it only seems fitting the property should pay homage to the celebrity canon. Though old Hollywood sets the scene at The Charlie, guests will finds it is anything but the usual celebrity haunt. With charm distinct from that of its blogged about neighbour, Chateau Marmont Hotel, The Charlie maintains the quaint appeal of a property not originally designed as a hotel, snug in a residential oasis. That said, the former owners of this one time “residence” were a family known for hosting events studded with intimate friends that also happened to be celebrity titans, the likes of Clark Gable and Bette Davis. Guests were often also invited to call the Gordon’s home their own, and many of the celebs are said to have taken the family up on the offer, packing for extended stays.
Years later, neglect fell upon the residence and one-time celebrity refuge. It wasn’t until 2008—after a 6 year renovation overseen by new owner, Menachem Treivush—that the residence would be fully restored to its former glory, and open its doors as The Charlie Hotel. For Treivush, the decision to operate The Charlie more as a B&B, rather than a grand hotel, was to maintain the intimate charm that its former celebrity tenants once coveted the property specifically for. Luxury though, is not something spared at The Charlie, “quaint” or not. Between the Gilchrist & Soames bathroom amenities and the tranquil private terrace of cottages such as Charlie, few 5 star hotels feel as gloriously glamorous as the cottages here.
As for the hotel’s favourite celebrity Charlie Chaplin, the London-born silent cinema star did more than temporarily stay at the address, he built a writing studio and used the property as a cottage refuge. Amongst the carefully curated collection of Chaplin memorabilia on the property (including some of his trademark canes unearthed from the basement of the property and a portrait of the actor on the staircase of his cottage, posed in almost the exact spot the painting hangs), one feels inspired to retreat to their bungalow (preferably the Charlie), cue up The Gold Rush and sit back with a cocktail of apricot brandy and lime, reclined in one of the cozy sitting room’s pair of lux leather wingchair. FYI: the rose-filled gardens between the property’s cottages were designed under the guidance of a woman with connections to the property during the days of Charlie Chaplin. She was Chaplin’s secretary-paramour…the girl that gives the femme fatale a run for her money in pulp fiction novels. While this comely lady’s worked on the grounds, she shared with Treivush tidbits of history, such as the fact that Chaplin enjoyed to take tea in the afternoon by the shaded outdoor fireplace, and that he offered the cottages rent-free to struggling actors.
A picturesque feat of architecture, characterized by leaded glass windows, wild gardens and the thoughtful restoration of vintage features, including the beamed ceilings and black-and-white bath tiles, the 27,000-square-feet that encompass the property is an artist’s haven—be you a writer, a painter or a thespian like so many of its ex-guests, including contemporary actors such as Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler, as well as former Twilight sweethearts Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Take a book or a pen and a pad of paper out to the hotel’s communal deck overlooking the garden, and soak in inspiration under the California sun.
Like the Charlie, every cottage unit is named after a star who once passed through; each one an addition to the unique charm of the property. Each have their own signature allure; the Betty, (Davis not White) has an upstairs should you desire more room to stretch out in, while the Marlene (Dietrich) offers the glamour of a powder room (the perfect place to get camera ready) and a private patio. Or, for high-rollers looking for the penthouse equivalent, there is the Valentino (of Italian designer fame), the most spacious of the properties units, it can comfortably house two groups with its roomy living arrangements, which includes a vast master bedroom that comes complete with a celebrity-approved walk-in closet for those with more than one LV trunk to unpack.
In all of the rooms, there is a nostalgic elegance, each perfectly decorated with timeless touches, such as black and white photographs and monogrammed pillows. For guest conveniences, each bungalow features an industrial style kitchen, washing machine and tumble dryer, making it a perfect home away from home for those staying for longer periods. Modern touches, typical to traditional luxury hotels, like flat screen televisions with full cable access including on-demand options, provide the conveniences of home in a cooler, kitschy setting. Image watching a movie where Chaplin might have been reading a script; the experience is surreal.
Located in Los Angeles’s popular West Hollywood neighbourhood, the hotel’s location is ideal for any traveler, especially shoppers and foodies, with the address locked between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. For those who want to check out nearby attractions, The Grove is a local favourite, with both fast and high fashion shops available for perusal, in addition to dining and a cinema. And, just adjacent to the outdoor shopping mall, is a must-see attraction for Top Chef fans: The Original Farmers Market. With more than 100 stalls and an electric-powered streetcar that runs between the two sites, home cooks will swoon when they take stock of the bounty before them, ripe for the picking and perfect to bring back to your bungalow kitchen. (May we suggest stopping by Huntington Meats & Sausage should you be a carnivore with an discerning palate.) Before heading back, stop by Chaplin’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and share with passersby that you’re currently kicking back at his old pad.
For any Chaplin fan, The Charlie Hotel is Mecca, but you don’t have to know the difference between City Lights and Duck Soup (the latter is a Marx Brothers production) to appreciate the unmatched comforts afforded guests of The Charlie Hotel. You need only to enjoy the finer things in life, while basking in the simple ways it can be delivered. Bye-bye valet parking, hello tea in the afternoon by the shaded outdoor fireplace à la Chaplin.