We expect almost everything to be personalized. Experiences, restaurants, phones. All customized to tailor exactly to you. Hotels are no exception to this rule, though it’s never been harder to figure out the right hotel to fit your lifestyle. There are so many options that the hotel landscape can seem overwhelming. Sites like Kayak, TripAdvisor, or Hotels.com come with detailed terms and conditions, thousands of photos, and an endless stream of user reviews that are generally worthless.
On top of that, Marriott has a million brands under their umbrella, boutiques seem to pop up overnight, budget versions can be hit or miss, and Airbnb is a total crapshoot.
But every once in a while a hotel brand comes around that knows exactly what it is, who it’s appealing to, and what they’re trying to get across. Proper Hospitality is one of those brands. For those not in the know, Proper has hotels in San Francisco (which Fodor’s named as one of the best hotels in the world in 2019), Santa Monica, Austin, Downtown L.A., and coming soon to Malibu; Proper caters to “today’s global creative nomad.”
We wanted to get a little insight into this up-and-coming hotel brand, so we chatted with Proper Hospitality President and Co-Founder Brian De Lowe to understand more about who they are, what they’re up to, and what’s coming up next.
Let’s just start with the basics. How do you describe the Proper Hotel brands?
We design, brand, and operate curated lifestyle hospitality experiences under the Proper brand and under the Hotel June brand. I think at Proper, we’re really filling a void in the market in creating hotels that are special and unique–and hopefully will stand the test of time. Our goal is to create hotels that speak to a new generation of high-end travelers who don’t just want elevated services and amenities but are really looking for more memorable stays and cultural connectivity.
It feels like design is a huge part of the hotel’s ethos. How does that play into what you’re doing?
We call our properties a looser kind of luxury that leans into Kelly Wearstler’s design-aesthetics. She’s the designer of the Proper branded hotels. It’s kind of unique and eclectic and luxurious while mixing with these carefully curated one-of-a-kind experiences and programming and really exceptionally thoughtful food and beverage offerings. And we try to do that all through this socially-aware lens that cares about our environment and cares about our neighborhoods. So, Proper Hotels are really the perfect fit for high-end travelers who appreciate great design but also want to come away feeling like they were part of the city and got the best kind of local experience through our lens.
You describe your demographic as this creative nomad, but can you get a little more specific on who you’re appealing to?
Yeah, I think we’re unlike an Ace Hotel or a Standard, one of these more typical boutique lifestyle hotels where the customer age skews maybe 20 to 40. I think our customer age skews a little bit older. So, 30 to 50 is probably the sweet spot, but very much tailored to the creative fields, sophisticated in terms of their travel and food and beverage tastes, design tastes, and can probably afford to stay at a more traditional luxury hotel like a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, but they don’t want to.
You seem to be expanding rather quickly, what’s coming up for the company?
We went into COVID having opened our two big flagships, which are in Santa Monica and Austin. When the pandemic hit, we were kind of hunkering down, but I’m proud to say that we have now opened all of our hotels that we had shut during the pandemic. We opened our first Hotel June in L.A. last summer. We opened the Venice V last month, and we’re opening two more hotels this summer or fall with another Proper in Downtown L.A. and a Hotel June in Malibu. And we’ve signed a few more deals, as well. So, we’re very much growing.
Another big part of your hotels centers around the food. What do you look for when you think about your hotel restaurants?
It’s a huge part of the Proper brand. We’re big consumers of food and beverage ourselves, and it’s all I really think about. When I travel, culinary is a big part of what brings me to destinations and what I focus on when I’m there. So, a really fun part of my job when we’re opening hotels in other markets, we link up with culinary partners in those local areas that are doing great things. Some hotel brands focus on the kind of real big-name partner that maybe has 20 or 30 other hotel restaurants, with a national or international appeal. But for us, we’re really focused on the local hero partners that we think the local communities think of really highly, but maybe the traveler isn’t aware of. So we can offer that to our guests and offer them something that really feels like it’s of the city.
Can you tell us about the two new properties in Downtown Los Angeles and in Malibu?
We’ve always loved Downtown L.A., but we didn’t quite think it was ready for a hotel like ours until fairly recently. We bought the building six or seven years ago and it’s a 1920s, California Renaissance Revival landmark building. It was originally built as a state-of-the-art private club back in the ’20s and it had members like the film director Cecil B. DeMille. It was built with an indoor basketball court, indoor swimming pool, and all these amazing spaces within the building. Then it was converted to a YWCA in the ’60s and it was operated as a YWCA until a couple years before we bought it. We’ve now reimagined it and have these insane suites, an incredible rooftop with 360-degree views, and we’ve partnered with the legendary Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne who are L.A. royalty in the food and beverage world.
And what about the new Hotel June in Malibu?
First, let’s talk about the Hotel June brand. Basically, it’s a more affordable hotel than a Proper Hotel, but it still has the same kind of vibe and energy and style and programming that people love with Proper. We found that there are a lot of really great neighborhoods and great places where we wanted to create a hotel, but it wasn’t right for the Proper brand. So, we opened our first June last year and the second June is opening on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
The Malibu June is in the former Native Hotel space. It was originally a motel that was created by this couple, the Wilcoxs, back in the 1950s. They built this motel while living in a tent for years in Point Dume, and they owned it and ran it for decades. They were art-loving, and a bunch of artists and musicians and writers would stay there. Bob Dylan was there when he when he wrote Blood on the Tracks in one of the bungalows, and so we pay homage to him from that. Now, we’re taking it to the next level from what was still a very kind of simple roadside motel and we’ve elevated it and enhanced the guestrooms, we’ve added a pool, and we’ve added some food and beverage. Malibu is such an iconic getaway for all of us in Southern California, as well as visitors coming to L.A., and I think there’s maybe only 100 hotel guestrooms total in all of Malibu. Also, the price points are outrageously high. So, we’ve taken the June concept, which is to offer all that we think our guests are looking for, but kind of stripped down some of the excesses that would turn this into $1,000-plus a night hotel, and offer this really cool property to the local community and to travelers that’s fresh and designed and feels very much a part of the soul and spirit of Southern California at a reasonable price.