A 100-Year-Old Fire Station Is Now a Stunning Japanese-Style Hotel in LA

Kodō Hotel is the coolest new hotel in LA, with beautiful rooms and minimalist style in a maximalist world.

kodo hotel in the arts district in downtown la
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel

What really matters in a hotel? Is it location, comfort, style, facilities, or is it just the price? Do you want four walls with a bed and a bathroom because you’ll only be there to sleep, or are you looking for an escape from the city to help you unwind? Your priorities for where to stay in LA depend on your trip, but they also say a lot about you as a traveler. What is style worth to you? If the answer is something real, then look to kodō hotel, a striking new hotel in downtown LA’s Arts District that may be the most beautiful place to stay in LA.

The new boutique hotel has just eight rooms, lining a hallway up a half-hidden staircase attached to kodō the restaurant—one of the best restaurants in the Arts District—and the lovely adjoining cafe. Each hotel room, like the restaurant and the cafe, was gorgeously designed by M Royce Architecture and gry space in immaculate Japanese minimalist style, with a moody slate and black color palette accented by ash wood, rounded stones, and occasional flourishes of foliage.

It is a thoroughly modern space, and if it weren’t for the brick facade with “Engine Co. No. 7” carved into it you’d hardly know the building is a 100-year-old firehouse. And yet the space also runs directly opposite the modern trend towards maximalism: the rooms are stark and almost spartan, soothing in their austerity; where so many new places shout, kodō hotel whispers.

interior room at kodo hotel in the arts district downtown la
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel

That hush doesn’t mean it’s bland, though—it’s anything but. Each room is themed around a natural element, things like maple, moss, stone, and the moon, and the minimalist room decor incorporates the themes with subtle touches, a slight color accent here, a small vase there.

There are also more practical design features that are unusual in this part of the world. The first of these is the concrete floor, built over the hardwood underneath so that you step up into the room, and also so that the king size futon-style bed on its box springs stays low to the ground, a nod to the hotel’s Japanese ryokan inspiration.

interior room at kodo hotel in the arts district in downtown la
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel

But perhaps the first thing you will notice when you enter your room is the bathroom—or rather the sink and the shower, which are true statement pieces. They are done up in striking black, and the sink itself is a deep inky stone pedestal with a custom-built floating stone mirror in front of it illuminated by a gentle circular light. The sink and shower are also, you will note, open to the space at large, with only a small dividing wall and the varying floor texture to separate them. It is an unorthodox choice, maybe even unique in LA, and if nothing else it is a bold and lovely visual statement. It keeps the entire room open in one airy space, working with the high ceilings and the minimal decor to keep things flowing—energy-wise, though hopefully not water-wise. It has some of the vaguely risque pleasure of an outdoor shower, while keeping you comfortable within the four walls of your hotel room. It does, however, mean that if you’re traveling with family or not-so-intimate friends this may not be the hotel for you.

floating mirror at kodo hotel in downtown la
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel

It is a great hotel for a staycation, though, as a serene and peaceful escape for one or two people in a fun part of town. There are great restaurants and cafes all around, including one of each attached to the hotel itself, several cool bars that range from divey to luxe, and lots of places to shop and galleries to explore.

It is also likely to be popular among stylish vacationers and high-end business travelers to the Arts District and downtown in general. In particular, Warner Music Group’s headquarters are directly across the street, and there are fancy startups scattered throughout the Arts District these days, at ROW DTLA, At Mateo, and other high-end office complexes that dot the area. It’s a far cry from what the Arts District was in the old days, but it is perhaps the perfect symbol of what it is now: a trendy, rapidly maturing neighborhood built inside the reanimated skeleton of 20th century industry. Against the odds these warehouses, factories, and fire stations have become startups and restaurants, cafes and studios, galleries and hotels, a hub for luxury visitors, and now there's a place for those luxury visitors to sleep and shower in high style.

foliage inside a room at kodo hotel in the arts district
Photo courtesy of kodō hotel

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Ben Mesirow is Thrillist's LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.