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In most bars, you’ll find walls lined with mirrors so you can double-check for rogue flyaways or make an impromptu outfit adjustment. This isn’t the case at Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel’s new cocktail lounge, Dahlia. Here, you automatically look good—and you can thank Kelly Wearstler for that. “The saturated hues and dramatic lighting will make everyone look fantastic, whether they are on a date or out with friends,” says the designer and longtime Proper Hotels collaborator.

When you walk through the golden-hued stained-glass doors crafted by Judson Studios (the same local maker behind the creations in the ground-floor restaurant, Caldo Verde), you’re greeted by a monochromatic scene of shimmering pink cement tile and roman clay walls. When the designer began working on Dahlia, she referenced many of the same Mexican, Spanish, and Moroccan influences that can be found throughout the 147-room hotel, which was constructed in the 1920s by architecture firm Curlett & Beelman and subsequently served as a YWCA in the 1960s. “Zellige tile is a great partner to plaster,” Wearstler notes.

How did she create a space where everyone and everything appears at its best? Ahead, the pro reveals all. 

Pretty in Pink

Wearstler decorated from the ground up: The dark rose vintage rug in the center of the space served as the literal launch pad for the blush color of the walls (it’s a custom shade she made with Portola Paints’ Roman Clay), banquette upholstery, and even the artwork. With its peach undertones and rich texture, the walls in particular emit a radiance that bounces off and complements all skin tones. 

Tricks of the Light

Lighting is as crucial to Wearstler’s work as it is to Hollywood’s many cinematographers. Recessed fixtures can result in awkward spotlights and shadowy corners, but a layered arrangement of table lamps, sconces, and chandeliers—as found in Dahlia—only spread good vibes. “It’s important to stay away from downlights,” Wearstler attests. Her one exception: An oversize ceiling pendant lamp by Ruemmler that presides over the scene. Wrapped in light-filtering silk, it casts a warm glow. 

Sweet Visual Treats

The one thing Wearstler never styles a bar without? Natural elements. “Sculptural fruit in muted tones and florals always look chic,” she says. Bonus points if those accents are still on the branch and corralled in a statement vessel, pulling double duty as a dramatic arrangement while guests wait for their beverages. (Pro tip: Pair your cocktail with bites by James Beard Award–winning chef Suzanne Goin—cheesy stack, anyone?)

The Big Picture

Epic gallery walls are a given at any of the Proper Hotels that Wearstler has a hand in, and the designer is strategic about her process. First, she lays everything out, to scale, in Photoshop so she can easily try different configurations. Step two: Making sure there is a wide range of silhouettes. “Incorporating art that is diverse in shape and size will ensure it does not look staged,” says Wearstler. At Dahlia, a large piece by artist Lou Fink hangs near a gesso work by Jonathan Todryk and two petite ceramic mirrors by Mithe Espelt. You’ll find yourself peering at the reflective pieces for an entirely different reason here: admiration of their beauty.