Sean MacPherson is a bi-coastal creative director at the top of his game. His medium for expression is the commercial venture of restaurants, bars, and hotels. Los Angeles and New York are his turf. His latest restaurant to open in LA called Il Covo, from a creative's perspective, is nothing short of triumphant and undeniably raises the bar for dining rooms in Los Angeles. Dark and moody, bold with texture, vintage in feel, self-assured, the room and terrace are transportive to Northern Italy by way of the The Bowery. Behold a twenty-five-year career in the business of making intimate social spaces that inspire, stand out, and resonate.
Il Covo, located on W. Third St. between San Vicente Blvd and Robertson Blvd, was repurposed from the much beloved yet shuttered Orso restaurant, once upon a time among the best al fresco dining scenes in LA. After a meticulous renovation, MacPherson quietly opened Il Covo just a few weeks back and seems content having opened with a whisper. Having debuted a number of restaurants in his career, my guess is that he's confident that the tortoise beats the hare when creating what has the potential to become an institution in a town where so many flame out after thunderous openings and a considerable burst of glory. Having had the pleasure of dining there, I'm convinced that Il Covo is as much "art piece" as it is a fantastically satisfying restaurant experience.
Los Angeles is MacPherson's town and Il Covo signifies a homecoming of sorts. Having opened four hotels in Manhattan with his creative business partner Eric Goode (Maritime Hotel, Bowery Hotel, Lafayette House, Jane Hotel) as well as The Park restaurant and the instantly iconic Waverly Inn (Graydon Carter's West Village clubhouse), MacPherson has grown up and has come home to quietly re-plant his flag and claim his rightful place in the pantheon of outstanding creative directors. While an LA hotel still eludes him, MacPherson is responsible for having created an impressive collection of restaurants and bars: The Olive, Jones Hollywood, Swingers, Good Luck Bar, El Carmen, Bar Lubitsch, and the Roger Room.
Given MacPherson's West Coast roots, it's difficult not to draw comparison between Chateau Marmont and the Bowery Hotel from a creative perspective. Both hotels are maximal in design, celebrate European grandeur, and are case studies in imperfect perfection.
With a certain clientele, the Bowery Hotel resonates loudly. As evidence of MacPherson's reach, the hotel has become the defacto clubhouse for the downtown NY fashion crowd, MacPherson's most ardent fans. (A crowd that I recently dubbed The Bond Street Gang.)
Last summer MacPherson also acquired the Crow's Nest, a tired old fish shack that he will undoubtedly turn into the Gypset place to be in the surf-centric, sand between your toes, Ditch Plains neighborhood of Montauk. In many ways the Crow's Nest is emblematic of MacPherson's enviable position in life considering taking on a seasonal fish shack in Montauk is likely a marginal investment but my guess is profit is only a small part of the motivation here and undoubtedly why MacPherson is so exciting as a creative entrepreneur.
If there were a MacPherson retrospective, the evolution of his work would be a study in refining one's vision on a public canvas over the numerous establishments that he has created. Golden lighting, dark and moody rooms, aged materials, ample booth seating, painted cement tiles (vintage and new), plenty of texture, and an evolving vision and spirit for each establishment are all MacPherson trademarks that have inspired a next generation of creative directors and entrepreneurs in the hospitality space. Literally a career's worth of inspiration and evolution are on display at Il Covo. The dining room is reminiscent of the Bowery Hotel, Waverly Inn, and perhaps some borrowed influences from Chateau Marmont and Sant Ambroeus, a tony Milanese café located in NY's west Greenwich Village. While it would be convenient to say that I see evidence of Jones Hollywood in MacPherson's work these days, Jones is clearly an offering from a considerably younger, less evolved, more LA-centric man. Today MacPherson's work comes from a decidedly more worldly influence.
MacPherson lacks the glitzy profile of his contemporary, fellow hotelier Andre Balazs, but his influence and impact on the pop culture zeitgeist in Los Angeles and New York is every bit as great. His ability to taste-make and place-make are remarkable and have stood the test of time. Getting a table at Jones Hollywood is as difficult as ever and just as satisfying aesthetically as the day it opened. My bet is that Il Covo will have a similar run albeit with an older, more sophisticated audience, much like MacPherson, the creative director's current station in life.
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