Los Angeles is awash with trendy crashpads where hip twenty-somethings sip cocktails around the pool and historic hideaways dripping with old-school charm and celebristocracy. Not surprisingly for a city that trades on swank and glamour, upmarket options without the hefty price tag are few and far between, while budget options are bland and mostly dated.
Enter the new Palihotel, well located for the funky Fairfax District and West Hollywood, which might help fill the gap between the clichés. It's a revamp of a seen-better-days hostel, and so new that on my visit last week, room service wasn't available, and the onsite café, Palikitchen, had yet to offer a full menu (which will focus on soups, salads, sandwiches and shakes). Everything should be operational by the end of March.
The smaller brother of the Palihouse, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood, the Palihotel comes from hip hotelier Avi Brosh, whose vision for Palihotel is a "European neighbourhood inn for creative travellers". It certainly channels the neighbourhood vibe: work desks are sourced from nearby modern furniture store Blue Dot, while the complimentary denim bags are made by Nudie, which has a store just around the corner.
However, the diminutive bathrooms and Dean & Deluca minibar snacks are more Manhattan than Europe. Also, the dimly lit corridors, corkboard walls, moss-green carpets and exposed ceiling lights won't be to everyone's taste.
The Palihotel is on the border of West Hollywood and the Fairfax District, within walking distance – yes, there is such a concept in LA – of shops, restaurants, cafés and entertainment. If you want to unload the cash you've saved on your room, Melrose Avenue's independent stores and designer flagships are right on your doorstep; to the south-east are the open-air Grove mall and attached Farmers Market (which, perhaps misleadingly given the name, is really a conglomeration of food stands). You'll need a car to explore further, but within a few minutes' drive are popular hiking spot Runyon Canyon, with its breathtaking views as far as the ocean, and the sights, sounds and smells of Hollywood. Alternatively, if you want to take your life in your hands (LA isn't especially bike-friendly), the hotel will soon have two retro-styled Dutchi bicycles available for rent ($25/£16.70 for two hours).
Of the 32 rooms, there are two types: queens, some of which have balconies, and the cheaper doubles, which come with oversized twin beds. (If your room overlooks busy Melrose Avenue, invest in some earplugs.) Most rooms are similar in look and feel, with only mismatched paintings and piles of obscure, dusty hardback books to distinguish them.
If you're looking for a super-luxe experience, look elsewhere. The Palihotel may have been given a hefty makeover since it was a hostel, but it does feel like a no-frills hotel. Indeed, the bare-bones ethos has been taken to the extreme: the rooms have no temperature control and, instead of a wardrobe, there's a wooden ladder with hangers attached. And although Wi-Fi is free, I can't see too many business folk taking their conference calls at the functional desks – there are no phones, for starters.
On the other hand, you will find fluffy bathrobes, comfy beds, flat-screen TV on the wall, organic own-brand toiletries and powerful rain-head showers. That said, if it's not obvious from the 11am checkout time, this isn't a place to linger. There is no pool, no bar and no spa. Aside from Vanity, a blow-dry salon, and Thai Thai, a six-bed massage room (run by skilled knot-despatcher Kit), there are few opportunities for pampering.
Expect a beach-style hangout and you'll be disappointed. Come prepared for a shabby-chic LA base without emptying your wallet and you won't be.
Palihotel, 7950 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California, US (001 323 272 4588; pali-hotel.com).
Double rooms start at $170 (£113), room only.