With every hotel from Iowa to Indonesia claiming the “boutique” title these days, it’s hard to find the true design gems. Colleen Clark discovers the real deal in LA’s The Line thanks to new hotel world star Sean Knibb
Walking into LA’s The Line Hotel feels like a trip into the future of hotel design. Ombre blue stripes lap wavelike at the ceiling, angular banquettes twist through the lobby like some postmodern crystal cave and monochrome paisley rugs preside like dandies over travertine, concrete and marble.
It’s at once grand and inviting, edgy and warm, retro and modern. And there’s nary an Edison bulb or reclaimed wood wall in sight. The real shocker? The man behind the design has never before done a hotel.
Venice Beach-based Sean Knibb established himself as a landscape and later restaurant designer before going to work on this project. His mandate? Capture LA without Hollywood.
He started by drawing inspiration from the building itself, a modernist tower rising over Koreatown with views stretching across downtown to the Hollywood Hills. “LA’s midcentury modern movement was about simplicity of materials and economics.” Those banquettes? They’re painted plywood. The wavelike walls and ceilings? They’re made from hand-dyed and folded teeshirts, an homage both to the city’s garment business and its laidback fashion aesthetic.
Up in the rooms, a shelf displays a funky collection of momentos—a reference to the city’s hippy culture—while serape-covered modernist chairs nod towards the city’s Mexican population.
Knibb's background in outdoor spaces influenced the materials he chose to work with at The Line. “In landscape design, no plant is worth more than another. The size, the age gives a plant value. But a one gallon plant for the most part is the same amount of money,” Knibb says. “It’s not about one material or object, it’s about how everything fits together.”
Knibb has a way of making unlikely materials sing. Instead of scraping the hotel’s popcorn ceilings, he painted them in traffic paint, creating a textured ceiling that reflects the California rays and makes the room glow. The light softens the concrete walls and brings the outside in. And in his design for star chef Roy Choi’s onsite POT restaurant, he incorporated the unhippest of materials—dried flowers—into the wallpaper, bringing an organic homeyness to the otherwise spare dojo-like space.
His creative use of humble materials makes the experience of staying at the hotel one of discovery. The golden shapes above the bar? Metallic mylar balloons. The abstract art behind the check-in desk? Spray-painted plastic jugs. The hotel unfolds just like a good vacation, slowly, comfortably but with a sense of excitement. Not bad for a first stab a hotel design.
See the inspiration behind the design and more shots of the hotel on Pinterest.