Haute Hospitality

We visit four head-turning designer hotels worthy of your next weekend getaway.

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  • Written by
    Jennie Nunn


THE LOOK: Spanish Colonial Revival meets Morocco meets California glam

BY THE NUMBERS: This 121-room, pet-friendly hotel initially opened in 1925. It features a 2,500-square-foot Moroccan spa, a rooftop deck and pool, two dining options and a fitness center.

CREATIVE GENIUS: Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

“I came up with the design as a blend of Santa Barbara’s heritage and a more modern European vibe, exemplified by the mix of midcentury furnishings and Italian design classics,” says Martyn. “All edged up with modern art, capturing the essence of what the city represents today. A passion for tradition and a thirst for modern inspiration and innovation. I love the roof terrace with its pool and upper-level event terrace and bar. The space was hard to get approved, but now it is the best viewpoint in the whole of Santa Barbara and has such a sexy, lounge-y atmosphere. It’s the hidden gem of the hotel. A close second is the Moroccan spa. Its domed ceiling and Majorelle blue tile work is unexpected, tranquil and stunning all at the same time.”

CALIFORNIA COOL: “The property captures the Californian spirit in every way. A casual yet stylish place that caters for all its guests’ needs … offering luxury—not in the old definition but in a modern version where comfort is key, service is everything and a smile is chosen as its first expression. I love the artwork we had custom-designed for the hotel. In partnership with Voila Gallery in L.A., we created one-off art that captures the spirit of Santa Barbara, the playful nature of a beach resort and the quintessential signature of the hotel’s style.”


THE LOOK: City chic

BY THE NUMBERS: A 22-story modern building with sweeping views of Hollywood, concierge services, group yoga and fitness classes, bicycles for guest use, a rooftop pool lined with cabanas and a rooftop bar and restaurant, Filifera

CREATIVE GENIUS: Kelly Wearstler

DESIGNER’S NOTEBOOK: “The Hollywood Proper concept combines a sophisticated, neutral color palette, richly burnished metals, custom wood flooring, fine wood cabinetry and infusions from local artisans and artists,” says Kelly. “It’s my idea of California right now: modern and relaxed. The suites feature contemporary furniture, art and sculpture, complemented by vintage pieces. The lobby is layered in rich, neutral tones and a few thoughtfully selected furniture and art pieces—evoking a sense of invitation and lounging.”

KELLY’S FAVORITES: “The penthouses, which are a mix of vintage finds and contemporary pieces. The custom designs, including my own furnishings and lighting, artwork from Chris DiVincente and ceramics by sculptor Bari Ziperstein, artisanal elements and rich natural materials—such as metals, woods and stone—are truly a reflection of a raw and refined vibe.”

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Stays are based on a one-week minimum. In San Francisco visit the Proper Hotel on Market Street in a historic flatiron building. The Proper Hotel Santa Monica opens next year.


THE LOOK: Fresh, coastal elegant

BY THE NUMBERS: 121 newly redesigned guestrooms and suites; a 5,000-square-foot spa; two restaurants; an outdoor pool and fitness center; pet-friendly

CREATIVE GENIUS: Barclay Butera, Barclay Butera Interiors

DESIGNER’S NOTEBOOK: “When I took over the initial project years ago, I knew I wanted to pay homage to a quintessential Del Mar lifestyle,” says Barclay. “The area is steeped in rich heritage with a classic Californian vibe, so we really wanted to just freshen up and update the look. Crisp, new textiles and carpets, new contemporary-chic artwork and modern bedding rounded out the mix.”

SOOTHING PALETTE: “For this refresh we stuck with a theme of soft celadon, washy blue, rich chocolate and soft sand. This soft, coastal color palette was a natural fit, and I hear the guests love it. It’s easy on the eye and pays homage to the beach; it does not compete with the natural surroundings. It sounds funny, but I am completely in love with the hallways.”

OLD MAKES NEW: “Updating the wallpaper and carpets and adding new sconces gives these common areas a whole new look. The bedding was totally custom and done in collaboration with my licensing partner Eastern Accents. I wanted to get rid of the old idea of the duvet, so we used comforters with top and bottom sheets instead, trimmed in sophisticated Greek key and topstitching—perfect for living on the coast.”


THE LOOK: Sophisticated desert mod

BY THE NUMBERS: The AAA Five Diamond, oasis-like property has undergone a three-year renovation including main lobby, guestrooms and suites; new restaurants; brand new three-story spa with 24 treatment rooms, a rooftop pool and Drybar; two-story Phoenician Athletic Club debuting in mid-April; and a newly redesigned and rerouted golf course opening late fall.

CREATIVE GENIUS: Public Spaces: Ellen Bourque Johnson, Associate Principal, Director of Design at Parker-Torres Design; accommodations: Beverly Hills–based Wimberly Interiors

DESIGNER’S NOTEBOOK: “We looked to the Sonoran Desert for our inspiration,” says Ellen. “From the Hohokam and Pima Indian tribes to the Spanish conquistadors to the pioneering ranchers, the Sonoran Desert has always enriched all who have settled here. The very land itself is breathtakingly peaceful and profoundly spiritual.”

DESERT OASIS: “The Phoenician is majestically perched along the base of the southeastern face of the beloved and iconic Camelback Mountain. The line between resort architecture and mountain face is purposely blurred, mutually elevating the presence of each respective entity. One of the major renovation strategies involved opening up the lobby, eliminating any and all unnecessary obstructions to the magnificent view out into the valley. Another key strategy was to move the bar into the center of the lobby and replace the center window, allowing guests to enjoy a drink while taking in the fantastic views beyond.”

NATURAL ELEMENTS: A custom chandelier above the concierge desk is inspired by the seedpods of the agave plant. “The layering of this chandelier against a craggy textured plaster wallcovering [that is reminiscent of the scorched desert floor] speaks to the land in a modern way,” says Ellen. “The concierge desk itself has a custom leather art panel that is inspired by the topography of the land. Fabricated in cowhide, this panel also represents the ranching history of this area. Indigenous materials were also celebrated; namely, the large handsome slabs of Black Canyon Onyx in our Afternoon Tea Room were quarried only a couple of hours away from the resort.”

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