New Year's Eve: How to Have an Instagram-Worthy Night Out in L.A.

Westbound - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Alan Lin

Before and after the ball drops, it's still all about the gram.

On New Year's Day before you start your New Year's resolution (possibly a gym membership or a vegan diet), you're sure to be scrolling through your Instagram feed. You'll see a slew of moving boomerang photos of your friends popping champagne, donning party hats or showing off that they went to a Masquerade ball that you weren't invited to. It will be all about what you missed or didn't because you had more fun staying in, ordering Chinese food and playing Cards Against Humanity with your closest pals. 

But while your friends are taking credit for their glamorous photos from the night before or you post your own pic, keep in mind there's a story behind what made the photo so Instagram worthy. 

Design agency Studio Collective knows a thing or two about the demand to make Hollywood's hot spots picture-perfect. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Studio Collective's Christian Schulz to find out more about the demand for photo-friendly areas when designing some of the hottest spots in Los Angeles.

Schulz, along with partners Adam Goldstein and Leslie Kale, is responsible for designing such night out favorites like Westbound in downtown L.A. (300 S. Santa Fe Ave.), Estrella and Mother's Auxiliary (8800 Sunset Blvd.), No Name (432 N. Fairfax Ave.), The Spare Room (7000 Hollywood Blvd.), The Bungalow in Santa Monica (101 Wilshire Blvd.) and in Huntington Beach (21058 Pacific Coast Hwy.).

A lot of bars are focusing on Instagram-friendly spots in their designs such as The Bungalow. Can you elaborate on other places that you've considered making Instagram friendly?

Brent [Bolthouse] really drove that home to my partners and I as we were handling the styling and final decorating with the first Bungalow project. He mentioned how many people were standing in front of the "AMOR" sign and how that shot was heating up online. Getting "the piano shot" sort of became a thing for a while. So we started thinking about that more as to how the various environments could lend themselves to a more styled look and feel. But this had to be realized overall holistically, otherwise it becomes like a little stage-set look that falls short and is generally weak. We definitely thought about this idea where great framed moments could be shot and/or celebrated with the second incarnation of The Bungalow in Huntington Beach. 

However, it's important to realize when designing new spaces, it can't just be a bunch of cute, cool looking zones, like five to 10 feet of linear coolness and then everything around it is banal. People are just too design savvy these days, and it would appear like a gimmick. We are aware of the whole Instagrammable nature that our bars, restaurants and hotel spaces offer, but that's just a byproduct of creating very layered, very warm and rich interiors that are more residential in nature — places that have a personality all their own and a soul. If we can give every project a visual story and point of view without it becoming overly thematic, then we win. 

How much do you consider VIP entrances and secret rooms when designing a space? 

We consider them carefully when they are necessary and required by the client's program. Obviously they might be warranted in some instances like at No Name or Mother's Auxiliary, [where] there's a premium on space and some clientele need to be protected from the media [and] cameras and in others like The Bungalow, where they are not needed — everyone's welcome: young or old, old-school or hipster, loafers or vans.  

Is there a bar in L.A. that you wish you designed? 

I would have to say the original Whisky Bar at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. Although a rather small series space, holding say only around 50 people, it always remained one of the warmest and sexiest authentically "L.A." cocktail-lounge type bars to me. 

Is there a bar and space you've designed that you wish you could redo?

If forced to pick, I'd have to say for me personally it would be really cool to reimagine the initial music space we did with Sonos on La Brea but this time on a grander level for a larger, new L.A. showroom — to reimagine what Sonos means for both experimental and retail purposes, and as a place to continue its music programming through special events and performances. 

Some places in L.A. go quickly from cool to drool. With that in mind, how does that affect your approach?

This happens often in L.A. and generally without much of our control or guidance. This has everything to do with how the operator strategically positions the project and its life ahead. Obviously, we always aspire to work with clients and operators that are in it for the long haul, to create a brand, an institution, to create memorable places that will ultimately last for decades. It's compelling to take new clients and potential hoteliers to projects that we have designed that have made it past the first three to five years and are still making money! It's a way of saying design is important too, and if done right it still looks good. 

Looking ahead to 2017, what do you have planned? What are you looking forward to most?

Things are just in overdrive right now. Most notable will be the long awaited debut of our first full hotel design here in L.A. with the major renovation of the famed Hotel Figueroa in DTLA sometime in the spring of 2017. We are completely overhauling this aging beauty, stripping back the many years of faux-Moroccan plaster makeup to highlight its beautiful and original Spanish colonial architecture and detailing. Similarly, we are working on a new ground-up 150-key hotel in Culver City with Two Roads Hospitality, near the elevated subway. This will be more contemporary in its design and direction but still warm and approachable, offering something the west side and Culver City [are] currently lacking. Exciting times in 2017, no doubt.