Byline: Marcy Medina
HOLLYWOOD — Only an hour after getting off the plane from New York, Claire Darrow looks utterly fresh and at home on the blue Astroturf terrace of the Standard Hotel.
As well she should. Darrow lived and worked here for a year, making sure everything in Andre Balasz’s hotel — from the landscaping to the restaurant menus — was just right.
“We made this the kind of place where you’d feel comfortable coming down to the front desk in bare feet and pajamas,” she says. “It’s not a fashion show.”
This week, Darrow’s in town to check on a few details before heading to her summer post at the Sunset Beach Hotel — also owned by Balasz — on New York’s Shelter Island. Indeed, like the edgy artwork and hip amenities, Darrow is a familiar sight at all of Andre Balasz’s hotels, as is her chihuahua, Jacques.
Of her vaguely defined but crucial function in this famous hospitality empire, she says, “It’s easy for anyone to put a really cool couch or a beautiful bedspread in a room, but it takes a whole other way of thinking to make it work.”
Balasz himself agrees.
“Claire has a very good eye,” he says, “but more importantly, she has a good sense of what the life of a hotel should be. She is focused on the accessories — and I’m not talking about shampoo bottles — but all aspects affecting the tone of the place.”
It was Darrow who demanded that the sinks at the Sunset Beach be painted orange for the season. She approves the lobby music at the Standard and also developed a 24-hour video art installation there (with the help of friend Yvonne Force) featuring works by John Baldessari and Vanessa Beecroft.
At 26, Darrow can boast a CV that reads a bit like a history of chic, modern hotels. On summer breaks from art school, she tended the pool bar at the newly opened Delano. When she graduated and moved to Manhattan, she worked at 44 three nights a week (putting in some time at a graphic design firm by day), then did the door when Mercer Kitchen premiered. Finally, she was summoned to lend her design talents to the Sunset Beach.
There she met Balasz, who offered her a job opening the restaurant at a retro boutique hotel in Los Angeles called the Standard. So she hopped a plane to the West Coast and moved into a corner suite. A year later, the hotel seems to lose its silver bean bag chairs and signature blue blankets — Darrow touches, of course — nearly every time a guest checks out.
She returns every few months to “update the mood and keep it fresh,” and when Sunset Beach closes its doors for the season, Darrow will be back in Los Angeles to open the Standard’s new bar — and back again to New York to open a bar underneath the Mercer Kitchen. Meanwhile, the Standard Los Angeles, a new hotel slated to open next spring, is slowly coming to life in once-desolate downtown.
“When Andre bought that property, I finally decided to get an apartment here,” she says. “But thank God, I kept my place in New York.”