On Santa Fe, just south of 7th Street in the downtown LA Arts District, a firehouse built in 1927 has freshly painted red doors that now open each day to reveal the Firehouse Hotel. The team behind the DTLA newcomer—including Hotel Covell‘s Dustin Lancaster, along with designers Sally Breer and Jake Rodehuth-Harrison of ETC.etera and Evan Raabe from Creative Space—found themselves exploring, upgrading and adding to the architectural interior design elements within the space; ultimately creating a bright and charming hotel.
Just past the entry doors, round velvet chairs in jewel tones surround a bold white oak table topped with art books. Right here, a Counter Culture coffee bar welcomes locals just as much as visitors.
“Downstairs, we removed the original ceiling, added a layer of acoustic separation, and re-attached the original tin ceiling in the lobby to accomplish both our performance and historic restoration goals,” Raabe tells us. “We also were able to maintain the original windows by adding in a layer of acoustic glass. Nearly all of the floors are original, with minimal intervention.”
As for the exterior, all those walls were left “untouched and exposed to express the age of the structure,” he continues. The result is a space that’s full of delightful contrasts, rich textures and colors.
At the hotel bar, a pale green pipe lighting fixture dotted with round bulbs curves its way over the bench—its shape contrasting the sharp angles of much of the original firehouse architecture. This custom lighting fixture by Simon LeComte was inspired by a vintage ’60s wall-mounted light fixture that Breer saw during her research. “Everything downstairs—the windows, the doors—is so severe. Every corner, a clearly visible 90 degrees,” she says. “I just wanted some looseness and something that softened the edges a bit and maybe made someone laugh.” LeComte translated her simple drawing of a curving pipe dotted with lightbulbs into the sculptural light that now sets the tone for the bar space.
The restaurant’s covered patio gives diners a secluded but airy space with warm lighting and soft, homely touches. “I love a tablecloth!” Breer tells us. “I want to lean into some of these older traditions. I am sick of cold and sterile. Give us some warmth and heaviness. Give us some home.”
Upstairs are the hotel’s nine guest rooms—each with its own distinct design and decor. Each door is painted with its corresponding color and name (for example, Indigo Room) in lieu of traditional room numbers.
This approach meant that Breer didn’t have to worry about matching elements in every room—rather she aimed for an overarching style and mood. Her design choices offer up surprising and satisfying combinations, like the massive gold chain lighting fixture by Jason Koharik that hangs over a printed sectional couch and organic-shaped chrome coffee table in the White Room.
Breer previously collaborated with Lancaster on Hotel Covell, for which she based the room design on chapters of a fictitious book. Now Firehouse Hotel also tells a story—this one of a mother and daughter and their relationship to the building and connection to colors. “It is about Mabel and Marta—a mother and daughter. Mabel took it over in the 1940s as a boarding house. She was this eccentric lady who had this idea to make them ROYGBIV, so each room is a different color of the spectrum,” explains Breer. “Her daughter Marta grew up here and in the ’70s took it over. She added some rock’n’roll elements.” There’s plenty of personality in every element, which reflects Breer’s detailed narrative. “There is a soul that is in the space,” she says. “My hope is by having these stories in my brain I make decisions for the spaces that give more depth to the decisions.”
Breer’s color-themed rooms are not dull, monochromatic studies, rather a jumping-off point to play with various hues. The Orange Room features rusts, pinks and camels. While the vanity in the Yellow Room is painted a raspberry torte color. “It is an exercise in color. What works with each other, what doesn’t. There is a lot of risk in this project, getting outside a comfort zone of what colors you think work together,” she says.
Much of the furniture is custom, made by Breer and her partner Rodehuth-Harrison’s company ETC.etera. Several other items (from the sectional in the Green Room, to the chair in Blue Room, and the sofa in Indigo Room) were sourced from Amsterdam Modern. While Atelier de Troupe and Brendan Ravenhill designed various other pieces.
From wood trays by Annabel Inganni for Wolfum (custom-designed with room color themes in mind) to Block Shop‘s rich bolster pillows, many homeware products are also available in the hotel store, located downstairs. “We like the idea that the shop will allow people to take a piece of the hotel home with them,” Rodehuth- Harrison tells us.
The hotel shop is packed with items by local and international designers—many of which are exclusive to the Firehouse. Tassel keychains by Clare Vivier are available in exclusive colorways created especially for the hotel, along with her striped robes and catchalls. Also for sale are books (all LA- and California-centric), Neenineen’s Tobogan pipes, Winford candles, Glad Hours sleep masks and fragrances, New Made LA’s wall hooks, Maya Brenner’s birthstone earrings and much more. ETC.etera’s coffee tables and chairs are also available to bring home and create a little Firehouse in your own space.
Cozy and comfortable, but sophisticated and surprising, the Firehouse Hotel has been lovingly restored and transformed. The sunny, colorful space offers up a magical and ultimately welcoming option in the ever-evolving downtown scene.
Images courtesy of Firehouse Hotel