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LUXURY RESORTS: THE GARLAND, LA, CALIFORNIA 

Style: A boho/retro take on 60s Hollywood
Scene:  The entertainment capital of LA
Seen in the lobby: Mingled with families and movie lovers are LA's movers and shakers

SET IN NORTH Hollywood, just minutes from where movie magic happens at Universal Studios, the 245-room boutique hotel, The Garland, epitomises everything that Los Angeles is famous for - celebrity connections, oodles of A-list style and a totally relaxed vibe that connects people to place.

Since re-opening in 2014, readers of American travel bible Conde Naste Traveler have voted it one of LA's top hotels.

 Its renewed fame owes much to a super cool new US$20 million fit out that pays homage to the bold and bohemian design styles of the 1960s. 

Garland lobby
Garland lobby
James Suite
garland pool
garland Picnic Patio
lobby lounge Garland
garland store

It was close to midnight when we checked-in. The fire in the lobby was a particularly welcome sight on this unusual cold December night, but it was the vibrant orange colour scheme and eclectic decor my eyes were next drawn to, that suggested this was no run-of-the-mill hotel.

It's playful vibe was further confirmed in the room when I was confronted by a posse of paparazzi hiding in the closet. It turned out to be a wallpapered scene from Fellini's classic 1960s film La Dolce Vita.

Built in the 1970s, the hotel's original mix of 'mission' and modern 'West Coast Californian' architectural heritage has been largely retained, while celebrated hotel design-team Forchielli Glynn has added a fun Bohemian/folk art twist to the tired interiors in the public areas. Macramé, ironwork and pottery all feature. My favourite of the original artworks was a wall sculpture made entirely out of vintage wooden tennis rackets. 

Quirky but elegant, the open-plan design, abundance of natural light and wide use of natural materials like wood, stone and leather now add a splash of rustic charm while the Spanish roof tiles, separate ranch-style accommodation buildings, and adobe brick and tiled fireplaces in the lobby and  outdoor restaurant patio also reflects the history of the hotel's San Fernando Valley location.

Divided into a mix of rooms and suites to suit couples, business travellers and families, the 60s-themed accommodation is refreshing and totally inviting. Snow-white bed linens (on super comfy beds) contrast spectacularly against signature splashes of orange, plus spiced nutmeg and cinnamon tones woven into the accessories, floral curtains and geometric carpets.

In the deluxe and premium rooms guests have a choice of king or queen beds, even bunk beds for the kids in a separate nook. Pets (of a certain size) are also welcome here.

For those who like to spread out, there is a choice of larger suites all named after the hotel's owners. As well as the usual luxury amenities, including complimentary access to Wi-Fi and sustainable, locally-made LATHER bathroom products, the hotel ticks all the boxes for convenient design. Facilities include a heated pool, sun deck,  hot tubs and fitness centre but it's the wide range of complimentary services that makes this hotel a class act. As well as access to a personal trainer, activities include Tai Chi Yoga, board games at the courtyard, wine tasting and sunset dive-in movie nights throughout the week.

Behind the modern overhaul is James Crank, who took over the property in 2000 following the death of his father, real estate developer and contractor Fillmore Crank. Crank Sr. was married to actress Beverly Garland (1926-2008), who the former Holiday Inn resort was named after and whose tastes in fashion and art inspired much of the interior design.

Besides a string of notable B-grade feature films including cult 50s classics Swamp Women and Not of this Earth, Garland is best known for her starring roles in the television series My Three Sons and Scarecrow and Mrs King. Her star can be found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a short distance from the hotel.

The hotel's famous connections don't stop there. The Garland has appeared on-screen (Parks and Recreation, Knight Rider and The Guilt Trip starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand) and hosted many a famous guest including young lovebirds Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.

Crank Sr. partnered with John Kells Houssels, Jr. of Las Vegas' hotel Tropicana fame, to build the resort on land once owned by country singer Gene Autry. Around the corner you'll find the original Brady Bunch house.

Garland's daughter, Santa Barbara soapie actress Carrington Garland, also happens to be the curator of the hotel's store/tour booking office, which supplies a range of hotel-branded souvenirs, clothing, home wares and locally-made gourmet snacks.

Dining in-house for breakfast, lunch or dinner is a real treat. While LA's food scene offers a tempting array of culinary choices (if you know where to go), we think The Front Yard serves relaxed  California food (think tacos, burgers, steak and pasta) at its finest. After exploring the city by day, we chose to return to the hotel each night because it was that good! You won't find a salt and pepper shaker (or any other condiment) on the table with good reason. Executive chef Chris Turano seasons every meal  to (my version of) perfection. Particular standouts include melt-in-your-mouth NY cut steak served with adobe fries and the Duck Confit with Gargenelle pasta featuring red wine braised mushrooms, truffle butter, black kale and parmesan (so good I went back for seconds). If you have a busy day ahead, the restaurant also has a food-to-go menu. Sit at the bar, in a booth or outside by the fire under the stars and sycamore trees - the setting also makes this one of the most 'happening' places in LA to simply hang out with a cocktail to match one of California's famous sunsets. 

Check in: 4222 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, California 91602 
Ultimate Luxury: The James Suite, featuring 1000sq/ft (92sq/m) of living area with master bedroom, wet bar kitchenette and balconies overlooking Universal Studios.
Most Indulgent Moment: Dining out every night in The Front Yard. 
Insider Secrets: Guests can enjoy the services of a complimentary shuttle to Universal Studios.
The Little Things: In-room coffee machines! Lots of storage keep sunglasses, maps and keys handy. Even the shower taps have been thoughtfully positioned to avoid accidental burns.
Junior Luxies:  The little ones get their own bunk beds, TVs and DVD players.
Luxury Resorts Link: www.thegarland.com 
 Debbie Neilson-Hunter  4/3/16
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