Palihouse Holloway flunks the long-weekend test

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

When your wanderlust, occupation or toxic remodeling project causes you to uproot, chances are you’re landing in limbo, a.k.a. temporary housing.

Southern California is full of rentals with Murphy beds, kitchenettes and inflexible and pricey monthly leases. The area overflows with beautiful hotels that will cater to you like an adoring grandmother. What it doesn’t have is a good selection of extended-stay hotels that blend the comfort of an inn and your home.

Developer Avi Brosh thought he could fill that niche with a new concept in hospitality -- a hybrid of boutique hotel and condominium complex. In January, Brosh opened Pali- house Holloway in West Hollywood.

He calls these places “boutique urban lodges.” I call them under-serviced hotels.

On a mid-February stay, I found an imaginatively decorated lobby, guest rooms with a residential but oppressively dark feel, helpful but skimpy staff and such limited hotel amenities that a motel seemed comparatively full service.

What kind of place charges $325 to $425 a night, plus about $50 in taxes and $26 for parking, and doesn’t include daily maid service? Check in for a week at the 36-unit hotel, and the maid shows up only twice. Order cleaning a la carte, and it’s $50 a pop.

And so it was. The valet, for instance, knew nothing of handling hotel guests, only how to park cars for the restaurant, a top-rate French brasserie called the Hall.

Winding through unmarked stairways and elevators, I found the check-in desk and a friendly “house master” who verified my reservation.

Though staff members were unfailingly courteous, they were distracted by other duties, so I couldn’t always find what I needed.

The hotel, or urban lodge, or whatever, isn’t particularly Californian either. I loved the lobby lounge’s odd collision of elements: a long, communal table; headless dog statues embedded with speakers; stately couches.

The décor at Palihouse Holloway hits a solid residential note. Its lobby and courtyard offer enough segregated spaces to entertain privately and enough open areas to encourage friendly interactions.

Upstairs, my 600-square-foot guest room was like a whimsical loft: edgy artwork, marble countertops, a raw brick wall. The carpeting, cabinetry, window shades, bathroom tile, TV and more were black or dark gray. Living for weeks amid such bleak colors must get depressing. I was bummed after three days.

The duvet-adorned queen-size bed (white!) occupied a 10-foot-wide nook set off from the living room by a built-in dresser and TV console. The TV remote, however, couldn’t penetrate the wood and stainless-steel cabinet.

The longer I stayed, the greater my disappointments. I had envisaged a groovy downsized condo complex with top service and cutting-edge kitchenettes -- a hipster’s version of the places that populate Palm Springs. Not here, buddy.

I searched for and didn’t find: instructions for the many appliances, a guide to the available cable TV channels, a map of the hotel and its parking garages, a room service menu. In the kitchen, the marble counter and the stainless-steel shelf have been outfitted as much for décor as for practicality. There was no oven or drip coffee maker, only a flimsy stove-top espresso pot.

Still, you can get along well with the cookware, knives, blender, a two-slot toaster and a two-burner range.

As perhaps the room’s first guest, I got the place up to speed. I charged the hand vacuum, programmed the microwave clock and tried to sync the TV remote. I summoned the resident manager, and together we learned how to operate the DVD player, run the washer-dryer and set the wall clock.

Future visitors to Room 206 can thank me.

As neither a helpful hotel nor a do-it-your-way apartment, Palihouse is a hybrid that undermines the best characteristics of each element.

And perhaps that is what is so aggravating about the hybrid condo-hotel concept. It’s nearly impossible to detach from the responsibilities of home.

If Palihouse can relieve its hotel guests of some of their domestic duties, it has a shot at getting its guests -- and its concept -- out of limbo.