How Interior Stylist Tiffany Howell Turned a Former Flophouse Into a Chic Hotel
You could say the property at 5632 Santa Monica Boulevard has had some interesting past lives. Most recently, it could (at best) be described as a dive bar, but prior to that the property — including its back studio — was a practice space for punk and metal bands, a sound stage for Ed Woods, and yes, even a flophouse. Under its new ownership with LA hospitality giant Dave Neupert — who has rebranded the space as an upgraded bar and music venue, boutique hotel, and recording studio — Gold Diggers has pulled much inspiration from its idiosyncratic past, including the decidedly chic decor designed by interior stylist Tiffany Howell.
For Howell, an admitted music junkie, being asked to take on this project was a literal dream. In addition to being influenced by the location’s rock-and-roll history, she and Neupert wanted the hotel to be modeled as a respite for musicians visiting Los Angeles to record or perform. That said, there needed to be creative inspiration in every room — from a curated vinyl selection (including the custom Gold Diggers LP gifted to each guest) to literature and art books to framed artworks and murals by local artists. It’s these details that makes each space Howell designed so special, and besides hiring her for your own decor needs, you can get a taste of her vibe-y, sexy aesthetic by shopping at her Silver Lake shop, Night Palm.
Now that the hotel has opened to the public for booking stylish staycations, we thought it was the ideal time to learn a bit more about Howell — who is still hard at work on Gold Diggers’ recording studio — including her immersive design process and expert shopping tips.
How did you first become connected with the project of Gold Diggers’ hotel?
Shortly after I opened my store in Silver Lake, I met Dave and helped him out with his home here in Los Angeles. My style resonated with him and we always talked about working on a bigger project together. When the GD project came about, he asked me to come on board to design the space. We started with the bar, then moved on to the hotel and we are currently working on the recording studios.
It sounds like a dream project! How did you start gathering inspiration for the overall concept?
I started this project like I start most of my projects: with a song! Music is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. It really helps me set the tone for each project. For GD, I researched a lot of the iconic rock and roll hotels from the 70s in NYC and Los Angeles, and Hotel Chelsea was a big inspiration for me. All the rooms have things in common, but they all have their idiosyncrasies and personalities — a bit like songs on an album. From a functionality standpoint, I wanted to give hotel guests the closest thing possible to a home away from home. Each room is like a small apartment and so I made sure to decorate them all with vintage objects, plenty of books, plush furnishings, etc.
You tried to keep a lot of integrity of Gold Diggers' super-interesting past. What are some ways you did that?
We spoke to a lot of people who were involved with the “old” GD and tried to find out as much as we could about the place and the times when it shone most. The architects (Wick Architecture) also did a lot to preserve the integrity of the building, and expose some of its most interesting characteristics. I then worked on textures, colors and prints to tie the space together and restore it to its former glory. To me the best compliment would be if someone thought the additions we made to the space are original! It’s all about subtle, beautiful changes.
Do you have a favorite part of the hotel?
This is like picking a favorite child! I love it all, obviously. But if I had to pick a room (or two), I would say Rooms 10 and 6. Room 10 has a really great view of Los Angeles and it feels like a mini loft, very 70s rock & roll. Room 6 is like a precious little gem and features a mural by local artist Kristi Head which is stunning.
We're not asking for your top-secret sources, but can you any share tips for finding really great — and perhaps affordable — pieces when designing a space?
I always turn to vintage pieces when I want affordable pieces that stand out. Visiting local flea markets is a good start, but also browsing sites like eBay can be very rewarding. Otherwise, CB2 and Urban Outfitters always have great affordable options.
You also have a shop where we can buy our own gorgeous pieces! Tell us a bit more about Night Palm.
I started thinking about having my own space in Silver Lake (which is where I live) years ago where I could curate a selection of beautiful furnishings, art and objects, and also offer a gathering spot for locals and friends — a place to also be creative with my interior styling. This is how Night Palm came to be really.
It took quite a while to find the right spot. The concept has evolved quite a bit since we first opened back in 2016 and we are now even more finely curated and with a high focus on art. I will be able to reveal more on this soon, but for now, this is all I can say! The store is currently by appointment only, but the website is shoppable all the time. I also often show new pieces and my work on my Instagram.
Do you have a go-to method of getting inspired when you're stuck?
Whenever I get stuck, I usually turn to my collection of art books. I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to those because I love referring back to them both for personal and professional use. A browse through my books can normally get me out of a rut pretty fast. If it fails, I know I can always rely on a trip to my favorite neighborhood art book store.
All photos by Laetitia Wajnapel