More than in any other state in the US, California is where you’ll find the most hotels in buildings that demonstrate a remarkable range of design (and history). These classics have been kept alive for you to enjoy. You’ll notice a heaping helping of Revivalism—a major movement of the early 1900s—but also a few trends more modest in nature. Stay a night or two at these 20 hotels across California, all housed in historic buildings.
The Paramour Estate — LAThis 1920s estate in LA’s hip Silver Lake began its life as a Mediterranean Revival mansion for a now-forgotten silent-film star. Later it was a girls’ school, and still later a convent for Franciscan nuns. And when interior designer Dana Hollister bought it, it became something arguably more unique: part film set, part event venue, part dream house for Hollister herself, and — most relevant for our purposes — home to nine of the most unforgettably stylish rooms, suites, and cottages in LA.
Hotel Figueroa — LAThe hotel originally opened in 1926 as the first hotel funded and founded by women, and was later in life a Moroccan-themed events space. After a massive renovation, it’s back to its original Spanish Colonial glory. The rooms are equal parts Twenties throwback and contemporary luxury boutique style, all of them decorated with original works by local artists, most of them women, in keeping with the hotel’s female-dominated art collection, which includes a mural by Bella Gomez.
Chateau Marmont — LAOpened in 1929, first as apartments, and then almost immediately converted into a hotel, Chateau Marmont was built to mimic the Chateau D’Amboise, a castle in France’s Loire Valley. Mission accomplished. Scattered throughout the building are reminders of the French late Gothic Flamboyant style, including fluted pillars, vaulted ceilings, and the perfect amount of heavy, dark wood. The drama of the building more than matches the drama that has taken place within its walls.
Casa del Mar — LACasa del Mar shares something more than ownership with its sister hotel, the neighboring Shutters on the Beach — as surprising as it may sound, they’re the only two hotels in the Los Angeles area that open directly onto the beach. But while Shutters is clean-lined and contemporary, Casa del Mar is a period piece, an authentic 1920s Italianate palace that’s played host to Hollywood royalty for as long as there’s been such a thing.
The Charlie — LABack when Charlie Chaplin owned this jumble of English Tudor bungalows, they fit right in to the pastoral landscape. Chaplin left LA over sixty years ago, of course, and it’s a minor miracle that these houses still stand — but thanks to an enterprising hotelier, they do, in the form of the Charlie. The cottages, though restored and refurbished, remain true to their original English countryside style. And the Anglo vibe doesn’t stop there; the buildings are surrounded by lush English garden landscaping.
Colony Palms Hotel — Palm SpringsIt’s been a journey for the Spanish Colonial gem that is the Colony Palms Hotel. Founded in 1936 by the (alleged) mobster Al Wertheimer, it became a favorite of the Hollywood in-crowd before they eventually decamped for more distant destinations. But now, a couple of name changes later, the refurbished and redesigned Colony Palms is once again a luxe and stylish destination, one that consciously recalls the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood — and Palm Springs — even as it attracts a new generation of boutique-hotel travelers.
Korakia Pensione — Palm SpringsThere’s more to Palm Springs than Fifties and Sixties modernism. Here at the edge of town, at the foot of the San Jacinto mountains, Korakia is a highly eclectic blend, with nary a kidney-shaped pool to be found. The original 1924 Moroccan-style villa, the home of a Scottish painter, was given a Greek makeover sometime in the 90s, with the two houses next door, a Mediterranean villa and a Spanish-style adobe house, added soon after.
Venice V Hotel — Venice BeachThe landmarked Waldorf Building is steeped in a century of SoCal history; former residents include Charlie Chaplin and the legendary Z-Boys skateboard team. Today it’s been put to new use as Venice V Hotel, a boutique-style property that opens directly onto the famous boardwalk. It feels effortlessly modern, despite retaining many of the building’s original period details, like exposed steel beams, a grand staircase, a restored elevator filled with brass, bronze, and mahogany, and, a favorite feature of A-list guests: the penthouse bungalows.
Granada Hotel & Bistro — San Luis ObispoThis nearly century-old brick structure is an authentic part of San Luis Obispo history. It was built in 1922 to house vaudeville performers from the Elmo Theatre, located right next door (it was probably also a brothel). Nowadays, of course, the Granada is a classic luxury boutique, after a renovation that’s left it looking closer than ever to its Twenties roots, and at the same time closer than ever to the well-aged industrial-chic style that goes down so well with a contemporary audience.
Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa — CalistogaCalifornia’s Napa Valley hasn’t exactly had trouble attracting travelers, thanks to its phenomenal food and wine scene and its incredibly pleasant climate and landscape. It’s been a touch late, however, to embrace the boutique motel trend, tending rather toward ultra-luxe wineries and resorts. With the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa, however, that’s all changed; the old Sunburst motor lodge, built in the 1940s, has been reimagined in a retro-influenced contemporary style that celebrates westbound road trips from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Graduate Berkeley — BerkeleyIn hospitality, concept is only part of the package—the delight is often in the details, and in the execution, and it’s there that the Graduate hotels distinguish themselves. This one, a block from the University of California’s Berkeley campus, has plenty of fun with its concept, though; the fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones was a professor as well, and the Graduate Berkeley imagines what he might have done with a 1928-vintage, 144-room hotel designed by W.H. Weeks in Spanish Colonial style.
Proper Hotel San Francisco - San FranciscoHere, in what’s often described as America’s most European city, designer Kelly Wearstler has drawn inspiration from a number of European design movements, combining the expected Victorian and Art Deco currents with everything from Cubism to Bauhaus and beyond, paying special attention to the graphic arts, with bold patterns and vibrant illustrations adorning the walls. She’s done all this within a landmarked 1904 flatiron-style building that’s one of the most striking examples of the form.
The Marker — San FranciscoThe Marker is fun, funky, colorful, comfortable, and set within walking distance of most of what’s worth seeing in downtown San Francisco. It’s set on Geary Street, just two blocks from Union Square, and not much farther from the Financial District. And while from the outside it’s an attractive enough, if relatively unassuming, Victorian-style building built in 1910, what’s inside is pure fantasy, like a particularly colorful dream of Belle Époque Paris assembled with the keen eye of a contemporary designer.
Inn at the Presidio — San FranciscoThe Presidio is a vast expanse of wooded hills and wild coastline at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, with twenty-four miles of scenic hiking and biking trails criss-crossing every which way. And at the heart of it all is the Inn at the Presidio, an elegant 1903 Georgian Revival building turned into an intimate new hotel. The renovation was well-conceived, with comfortable contemporary furnishings offsetting the historic architecture of this one-time U.S. Army building.
Ojai Valley Inn — OjaiDon’t let the word ‘inn’ fool you—the Ojai Valley Inn isn’t some rustic little bed and breakfast, but a secluded and spectacular resort, a 1920s Spanish Colonial revival and Mission-style compound sprawling across several hundred acres of a wooded mountain valley. It’s long been a favorite getaway for refugees from the bright lights of Hollywood, as well as anyone who appreciates the laid-back charm of the Santa Barbara area.
Hero image: The Prospect Hollywood. Photo by Jaime Kowal Photography/Tablet