Five Close-to-home Travel Destinations with an Eye for Design

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    Jennie Nunn

With so many unknowns about the immediate future of travel, a California road trip just might be your spring/summer sure bet. And if your weekend aspirations include incredible ambience, you’re in for a treat. We caught up with three creative geniuses who reimagined hotels within a 3½-hour drive from the South Bay. Pack your bags (and face masks) for a look at these new properties worth checking into now.

Hotel Ynez

(Pictured Above)

Where: Santa Barbara Wine Country

The breakdown: A secluded, 2-acre property with 18 rooms surrounded by oak and madrone trees; communal firepits; a wellness pavilion; and a rustic outdoor seating area

Design Mastermind: Kimberly Walker, managing partner of Nomada Hotel Group

The Look: Modern west meets Santa Barbara. Think gaucho hats hung on whitewashed walls, arched Spanish doorways and crisp linens paired with hand-loomed, woven pillows by Moroccan–based company Maison Blaoui. 

In Three Words: thoughtful, sophisticated, relaxing

Coveted Spot: “The Garden Suite with a large backyard with private firepit, hammock and an outdoor bathtub,” says Kimberly. “The space is spacious and ideal for stays with dogs.”

Hotel Hack: BBQ room service. “We bring a Weber grill, preseasoned ribs and all the fixings to your private patio so you can grill with a glass of wine overlooking the courtyard,” shares Kimberly. “Then we come back and clean it all up for you.”

Property Perks: Daily coffee and pastry breakfast service and a fleet of bikes for complimentary guest use

Starting Rate: $179, including breakfast,

Hotel Ynez
Photographed by The Ingalls

Hotel June

Where: Los Angeles 

Design Mastermind: Christian Schulz, partner and design director, Studio Collective, Venice, California

The Look: “Based on Proper Hospitality’s vision for Hotel June, we drew inspiration from a California road trip from Ensenada, Mexico, up Highway 1, winding through Southern California, rounding out in Big Sur,” says Christian. “We were also inspired by colorful and relaxing outdoor gathering spaces found throughout Tulum and Escondido, Mexico, as well as the casual beach casitas of northern Baja and laid-back oceanfront, wood-clad bungalows of Cambria, California.”

In Three Words: coastal, cheerful, calming

 Design Highlights: A 1950s vintage mid-century sofa that was stripped and rebuilt for comfort with a playful fabric by Kravet. “Road Trip” themed accessories (postcards, thermos, vintage mugs) that adorn the back bar areas at the indoor restaurant, Scenic Route. Other key elements include a large, colorful, artistic installation in the lobby and custom area rug crafted in collaboration with Brooklyn–based artist Alex Proba.

Linger Here: “I love lounging on one of the oversized custom daybeds in the poolside area,” says Christian. “The setting offers a great view of the lushly planted poolside area and the second level of the outdoor restaurant, Caravan Swim Club.”

Shape Up: Break a sweat in the 24-hour fitness center complete with Peloton bikes, Octane AirDyneX bikes and a WaterRower M1 HiRise. 

Starting Rate: $179

Above  | San Luis Creek Lodge  |  Photographs by Jonny Valiant 


San Luis Creek Lodge

Where: San Luis Obispo

Design Mastermind: Nina Freudenberger, founder of Freudenberger Design Studio

The Look: “We wanted to capture the vibe of the sophisticated traveler visiting San Luis Obispo, with a nod to the modern Californian lifestyle,” says Nina.

In Three Words: modern California style

San Luis Creek Lodge
Photograph by Jonny Valiant

Design Highlights: The lobby layered with vintage and modern pieces in natural materials such as rattan, rope and wood. “We added a pop of color with the vintage Moroccan rug and pops of black using straw hats on the wall,” adds Nina.

Room Redux: “In the rooms, we had very specific needs for the SLO traveler, who might need the space to work during the day,” explains Nina. “We custom-designed the desks to be simple but super functional while still feeling aesthetically unique. We also worked with a California-based, female-run company, Block Shop, for all of the artwork throughout the hotel.”

Property Perks: Aesop bath products, complimentary local Honeyco coffee and freshly baked pastries

Starting Rate: $249

Above  | San Luis Creek Lodge  |  Photograph by Jonny Valiant 


White Water

Where: Cambria

Design Mastermind: Also Nina Freudenberger

The Look: “We really pulled from the incredible surrounding landscape, particularly Moonstone Beach,” says Nina. “The colors and textures greatly affected all of the design decisions we made for the hotel.”

In Three Words: fresh, modern, design-forward

White Water
Photographed by Jessica Alexander

Design Highlights: Fun lobby lined with vintage wall hangings to complement a 1970s sofa. The team also sourced vintage fabrics for each of the daybeds in the guest rooms.

Design Timeline: “Approximately 18 months for both projects,” says Nina, who designed both White Water and San Luis Creek Lodge simultaneously.

Linger Here: The lobby. “It is just the most wonderful spot to order a cocktail and watch the sunset,” says Nina.

Above & Below  |  White Water  |  Photographed by Jessica Alexander 


Property Perks: Linus bikes for complimentary guest use, and guest rooms replete with gas fireplaces, Smeg mini fridges stocked with local wines and gourmet snacks from Erewhon

Starting Rate: $329

The Winston

Where: Solvang

Focal Point: The Winston

Design Mastermind: The in-house design team at Highway West Vacations

The Look: The hotel is built within Solvang’s clock tower, an iconic structure and one of the most photographed buildings in town. “We wanted our clock tower to maintain a cohesiveness with the Solvang center and community while creating a complete surprise when a guest enters our lobby,” shares Jacque Raffaele, director of hospitality at Highway West Vacations.

In Three Words: vibrant, playful, artisan

Design Highlights:

The team kept the architecture fairly traditional and allowed the spaces to inform their own design vision. Color, unique furnishings and textures bring in the feeling of a newer age in Solvang.

Linger Here: “While each room has its own feel, one with a sense of Hollywood glamour, another a New York studio and yet another with Asian artistic influences, my favorite space is the library,” says Jacque. “During the day it’s a perfect place to sit with a magazine or connect with friends, and in the evening, a warm place to share a nightcap.”

Starting Rate: $305

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