the making of an iconic American spa hotel

To me, a hotel should be a kind of cultural embassy, a doorway to the local world it’s based in. Creating magical and magnetic atmospheres is just like the story-craft of mythic drama, it involves all the same elements as making an epic film, play or novel only your guests get to immerse themselves - to sleep, dream, awaken and play- within the story for as long as you’re hosting them...I see it as an amazing opportunity to affect people’s lives in transformative ways. If offering that kind of transformative level of “service” to make a positive difference in the world is really what’s in your heart then there’s no better medium than hospitality in my mind. My dream that lead me to Andre was to create a life-changing water playground, a place where people could really change their lives for the better so the minute I had the chance to work with Andre Balazs I was totally hooked and never wanted to do anything else.
— Jason Harler

There wasn't much space at The Standard Hollywood for a spa but Andre Balazs wanted to see what could be done with no cash investment on his part, instead offering a gracious opportunity and personal invitation to come use a small space he had on site.

Jason jumped at the invitation and after a period of initial fundraising in Seattle, packed his life into a gold Volkswagen Vanagon and road tripped to Los Angeles to open a tiny-spa test version of his grander wellness vision called NestSpa, in the Hollywood Standard Hotel in late 2000.

The space Andre gave them was a little bit bigger than broom closet on the 3rd floor which Jason designed and hand built out himself with help from Tom Ackerman. The aesthetic was clean modern and bright white with pops of bright NestSpa green.

The full service tiny-spa offered skincare and esthetic services with a curated retail area while the fully stocked "apothecarts" he designed delivered holistic and all natural body work to the guest's rooms as room services.

Next, Jason's brothers Jared Lovejoy and Zachary Crocker joined NestSpa in LA and together worked to expand the "big experience + tiny foot print" spa concept into The Standard Downtown, LA.


Creating a spa relies on good energy and a basic goodness of the soul. These guys have that in abundance. They have a very fresh and realistic idea of what will make people feel good.
— Andre Balazs

The NestSpa "Apothecarts" and the "tiny-spa" test projects were huge successes, getting global press and sealing the creative bond between Jason Harler and Andre Balazs.

After long creative talks about developing the original fully immersive spa-as-adult-playground-healing-center and baths which was Jason's original NestSpa business plan, the idea to create a Standard Spa Hotel was born. 

In those days most hotel spas in the US were relegated to the world of luxury and pampering, compartmentalized and sequestered away in a "B" or "C" location somewhere out of site within the hotel.

Jason's vision had intuitively incorporated the phenomenon of Yoga (which was fast becoming the largest fitness movement in the US since running), global bathing culture as the sybaritic connector of all people and the "green", "holistic" and "conscious" lifestyles movements and business practices that would integrate to become the wave of the future, reshaping global healthcare systems, the beauty industry, business as usual, agriculture, food culture and our daily lives for the better.

Hoping to protect and shepherd the transformational mission of the project long after opening, Jason wrote a short private letter to Andre asking to be given the opportunity to be promoted to the role of GM for the hotel. Knowing the depth of Jason's commitment, passion and willingness Andre agreed. 

The original spa team that Jason and Tanya hired and trained, many of whom are still working there over a decade later, were an incredible collection of truly dedicated healers. It was a special place and a special time for everyone - a bit like the inmates running the asylum as well - and that's what made it an epic experience for the guests.

In the first couple years the fledgling hotel had it's share of seasonal struggles but managed to surmount them all due to innovative marketing programs put in place by Jason and his creative team.

The Standard became something new in hotels - a de facto cultural emabassy, healing center and epicenter of holistic culture for the entire area. The Standard hotel won the award for Best Spa Hotel in The Americas and Caribbean by Conde Naste readers in 2008.

At the end of 2008, after getting his street level PhD in visionary business and Cultural Alchemy while developing and running The Standard Miami with Andre Balazs and his brilliant team for almost a decade, Jason felt the eternal call towards a more independent and artistic life again and decided to make the tough decision to leave the project, taking a year off to dream up his next vision of "The Medicinal Arts" while touring the hot springs, forests and deserts (and consulting for some of his other favorite hotels along the way) of America and beyond...

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