Even though Joyce Downing Pickens —one of T. Boone Pickens‘s 12 grandchildren—is an up-and-coming interior designer in L.A., the University of Texas grad still finds ways to feel close to her home state, even on the West Coast, where she has lived for seven years. In her design work, which has earned coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Domino, among others, she creates modern white spaces with hip accents and touches of earth-toned accessories. “My work is inspired by my roots in Texas and the West Texas landscape,” she says. “I am alway looking for soft leathers, a sandy stone, or a rustic piece of wood with just the right amount of wear and tear.” In our summer travel series (see Larry McGuire’s guide to Aspen here), we ask native Texans to give us a tour around their favorite city outside of their home state. For our second edition, Joyce shares the scoop on where to stay, dine (there’s only one place for an acceptable bowl of queso), and shop.
I vote for a smaller boutique hotel like Palihouse or Petit Ermitage. Both hotels exude a cozy neighborhood feel, and the staff are super inviting. In such a big city that can sometimes feel impersonal if you’re not from here, having a home base that feels intimate can make or break your stay.
EAT / DRINK
Gracias Madre for lunch is a must. The restaurant was designed by Wendy Hayworth, and she knocked it out of the park. The food is vegan Mexican, and it’s my ‘home away from home’ when I need a Mexican food fix. I promise that you won’t even notice the lack of cheese. Order the Quinceañera cocktail—it’s not too sweet, but it looks like a snow cone. Or, head to Abbot Kinney in Venice and walk all up and down the shop-filled streets before lunch at the Butcher’s Daughter. Be sure to order the flight of fresh-squeezed juices. It’s vegetarian though, so beware to all the Texas barbecue lovers.
Dinner at The Eveleigh is a great choice especially for cocktails and ambience. The design at this restaurant is also right on cue, with a comfortable and nature-infused take on industrial design. It feels like you are sitting in a cool back garden, instead of a downtown warehouse. A drink at the Tower Bar at Sunset Tower will give you a true insider’s glimpse of L.A. You’re bound to see “someone” here.
My brunch go-to spot is Cecconi’s. It’s traditional Italian fare best enjoyed in their beautiful courtyard. The tartare is made right in front of you, and you can’t go wrong with a pizza or pasta.
Homestate is the only acceptable queso I have found in L.A. I love the counter service and the whole neighborhood feel of Los Feliz, where it is.
Hitting up a few design shops is a must. I love the La Cienega Design Quarter, especially Peter Dunham’s Hollywood at Home. It’s the epitome of relaxed California design. This shop is one of my favorites, especially the way they use textiles and patterns while somehow remaining uncluttered and classic. Nickey Kehoe is one of my all-time favorite stores. Its organic design and vintage furniture is infused with this special touch of modernity. Walk across the street for total eye candy at Garde. This shop is expertly curated with a nod to seventies Parisian design, mixed with modern takes on woven materials like jute and raffia.
The Now in Santa Monica is next best place to relax and get a spa treatment. What started as one small alternative to the pricey and linear spa experience has blown up to include a ton of locations around L.A. It’s a designer’s dream and feels like the Coqui Coqui hotel in Tulum. Plus, the prices are competitive.
You can see everything from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica and the ocean from atop Runyon Canyon. But, my personal favorite is heading up the secret route behind Wattles Mansion, an old Spanish revival mansion that was gifted to the city. It’s less of a a scene, and not many people know about it. You get all the same views. Just ask a local where the entrance is.