THE Sunset Tower Hotel, the 1929 Sunset Strip landmark formerly known as the Argyle, makes a fine first impression. The Art Deco facade still looks handsome. The lobby, now paneled in walnut inlaid with brass, feels more grown-up than the Standard, less affected than the Mondrian. From the moment a valet opens your car door, the staff proves to be the hotel's best asset: exceptionally friendly, efficient and attentive.
Unfortunately, it's mostly downhill from there.
Bunking down: The travel press has been heaping praise on Sunset Tower, but clearly some of those writers haven't actually spent the night -- or even much time inside. A hotel news release says all 74 rooms have received head-to-toe makeovers, but the reality is that several lower floors still await renovation, as do some public spaces, including the fitness room.
My standard accommodations on the eighth floor were small but smartly laid out, with furniture that echoed the lobby's walnut and brass. The goal -- to replace the garish old Art Deco decor with furnishings that subtly evoke the hotel's heyday -- is admirable.
But for a distinctive landmark on a famed boulevard, the interiors are surprisingly restrained, almost to a fault. Lots of mauve.
Hanging around: The former Phoenix restaurant is being converted into a banquet hall. For dining, the hotel has the full-service Tower Bar. I was planning to have lunch there -- until it closed without warning for an event. Furniture was cleared out or pushed into corners while workers tromped through -- hardly an invitation to sit and hang out. I had a nice lunch at the Standard.
Going out: All the bars, clubs and restaurants of the Sunset Strip are within walking distance. Feel the need to ride a mechanical bull? It's across the street at the Saddle Ranch Chop House.
Perks & peeves: Rooms have great views, flat-panel TVs and alarm clocks with an iPod dock. Pets are welcome (for a fee).
The hotel didn't warn me, however, that standard services and amenities (fitness room, pool, restaurant) wouldn't be available. My mattress was mediocre.
The Tower Bar is lined with old black-and-white head shots and movie stills inexplicably scribbled with idiotic jokes. One implies an actress must be a lesbian because of her close-cropped hair. Whose idea of sophistication is this?
Sunset Tower Hotel, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069; (323) 654-7100; www.sunsettowerhotel.com. Winter rates from $199. Valet parking, $25 a night. Pets, $100-per-stay cleaning fee.