One of America’s most influential and successful hoteliers, Sean MacPherson is perhaps best known for bringing his California sensibility to some of New York’s most renowned boutique hotels — Maritime Hotel, Bowery Hotel, and The Jane, to name a few. MacPherson’s latest Manhattan venture is a new hotel, called The Marlton, set in a historical building in Greenwich Village and reportedly scheduled to open in September.
Here in Los Angeles, where MacPherson grew up (raised in Malibu, college at USC), he has yet to open a hotel, but he has made an indelible mark on the city’s restaurant and nightlife scene with such popular spots as Jones, Swingers and Good Luck Bar.
The Agency’s Jeff Kohl recently caught up with MacPherson to discuss everything from his California roots, to the differences in LA and New York architecture, to surfing Israel. And Jeff asks the question we’ve been wondering for sometime now: When is he opening a hotel in LA?
As someone who you grew up and went to college in Los Angeles, you’ve always embodied the Southern California lifestyle, yet you now live in New York City. Were you a fish out of water when you first made the move?
Over the years NY and LA have become increasing culturally and socially connected. I’ve always been lucky enough to have friends in both cities which made the move relatively easy.
What are your thoughts on the differences between the architecture of Los Angeles and New York. What do you find most compelling about the architecture in LA?
The density of NY real estate does not allow much elbow room for inventive residential architecture. By design, New York residential architects have historically tended to work within the confines of apartments, lofts and/or townhouses.
Because LA has always had much more space and a great tradition of invention, LA architects have had a much broader canvas to work on which helped nurture the ideas of people like Frank Lloyd Wright, R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Charles Eames, A. Quincy Jones, Frank Gehry and the more fanciful John Woolf. One can visit these homes and feel the invention as it was happening. It’s truly exciting.
What are your favorite LA neighborhoods?
I grew up in Malibu and will always be partial to the beach. I love the grandeur of Bel Air, the modernity of Trousdale, the funkiness of Laurel and Topanga canyons, and the history of places like Whitley Heights.
LA is always evolving and reviving itself, and right now the renaissance seems to be happening in Downtown LA. What are your thoughts on what’s happening there?
I went to USC and was close with Ira Yellin, the owner of the Bradbury Building and Grand Central Market in the 1980s. I have watched DTLA evolve at what seems to have been a glacial pace and it seems it has finally attained critical mass. What’s interesting to me is that DTLA seems to attract a “freeway audience,” people who can quickly make a freeway commute from North, South and East, with the Westside being a bit underrepresented. Ultimately, the freeways, which have a history of being somewhat alienating (lest we forget Joan Didion’s “Play it as it Lays“), are finally bringing the city together in DTLA.
How would you say growing up in Los Angeles influenced your work?
LA, to me, is the new world and doesn’t bear the weight of ancient history as, say, Europe, or to some extent, New York does. Anything has always seemed possible in LA (and often has been) and that notion has always stayed with me.
What do you miss most about living in Los Angeles?
Driving in my 1971 Convertible Mercedes.
You’re a master of creating intimate social spaces for people, whether it be nightclubs, restaurants or hotels. What elements of all this do you bring to the design and decor of your home?
I always respond to homes that feel personal to the owner. I try to keep my home simple, livable and optimistic.
What’s your favorite room in your home?
I always love a sunny breakfast table in the kitchen.
Favorite piece of art? Favorite piece of furniture?
I have never been very interested in a single object. I am always interested in and seeking out an overall feeling or mood.
You have traveled the world and draw a lot of inspiration from the places you visit. Is there a country or city that you haven’t been to yet that you’re eager to visit?
I am eager to visit – and surf – Israel. I’ve been to Israel’s neighbors Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, but haven’t yet made it to Israel.
Your restaurants certainly run the gamut as far as cuisine and influences. Do you have a favorite cuisine?
At the moment, I’m partial to Middle Eastern food. It tends to be fresh, healthy and sensuous.
Besides your own restaurants, what are some of your favorites here in LA?
You started your career in LA then focused on NYC and really established yourself as one of the preeminent hoteliers there. Should we expect more from you in LA; perhaps a hotel project now?
I am exceedingly eager to return home and develop an exemplary hotel in LA. I haven’t yet been able to find the right location. Do you know a good real estate agent?
Featured Photo courtesy of KDHamptons.com