Exterior Entrada Hotel Californian MATT Construction Southwest Elevation


Santa Barbara


35 State Street Hotel Partners, LLC


Design ARC Architects

Interior Designer

Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

Project Size

247,953 SF


Grand Opening: Lavish Hotel Californian Anchors Santa Barbara’s El Pueblo Viejo

The historic Hotel Californian was transformed from a vacant building into a vital part of the conversation in Santa Barbara.

Exterior Entrada Hotel Californian MATT Construction Paseo Aerial View


The new Hotel Californian has four buildings on three sides of the corner of State and Mason. Adjacent to the Funk Zone’s tasting rooms, micro pubs, and foodie destinations, the hotel’s paseo fluidly connects the Zone to the harbor area. While the buildings may be new, architect Mark Shields of Design ARC stayed true to his vision of keeping the Mediterranean style of the original hotel to make sure, as Shields puts it, “it felt like Santa Barbara.”

Exterior Entrada Hotel Californian MATT Construction Rooftop Pool

The building on the site of the original hotel is the tallest building in the area, giving it a crystal-clear 360-degree view of the ocean, city and hills of Santa Barbara. On top, guests soak in the views from a stunning rooftop pool and expansive deck. The main hotel entrance has moved across State Street. Guests now pull up to valet and are swept into an ornately tiled lobby lined with gilded mirrors, opulent lighting and a Moroccan flair that flirts with excess. The Moroccan design continues into a ballroom that gives the impression that one is attending a party at Gatsby’s. The bold designs reach their apex inside a fresh-yet-opulent spa that rivals a moorish hammam.

Entrada de Santa Barbara Hotel Californian Exterior Corner Construction Progress MATT Construction


The original Hotel Californian was constructed in 1925 in the Spanish Revival architectural style. Built near the water’s edge on lower State Street in Santa Barbara, it was part of an effort to rebuild Santa Barbara in the Andalucian style after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed the historic center of the city.

By the early 2000’s, the hotel had fallen into disuse. When the owner, 35 State Street Hotel Partners, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment and development company, decided to revitalize this important corner, they wanted to build a new four-star property, but keep the famous façade because of its link to Santa Barbara’s history. They brought in MATT Construction to partner with them on the project. In order to keep the façade while demolishing the rest of the structure, the MATT team had to get creative and hold it in place with steel beams. It was then re-engineered, glued with epoxy and carbon fiber wrappings and reconnected to the new structure. Because of the façade’s status as a historical element, the team consulted with Alex Cole, private historian, as well as Nicole Hernandez, an urban historian for the city of Santa Barbara. Both were vital in sifting through state guidelines for historical preservation.

Exterior Entrada Hotel Californian MATT Construction Historic Building


The exteriors of the new property match the style of the original building. The white plaster walls fit in with the Santa Barbara aura, and clay tile roofs create a beautiful color scheme when paired with the clean, white walls of the building.

Hotel Californian Entrada de Santa Barbara ballroom under construction MATT Construction

Interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard believes that hotels as public spaces need to engage people. Bullard spiced up the Mediterranean architectural style by infusing it with Moroccan flavor and sex appeal. At the same time, the design team wanted to retain the classic Santa Barbara vibe and stay in harmony with the building’s Spanish exterior. To achieve this, the team used an elegant design approach that attacks the senses of the guests, tantalizing their sight, touch, and smell.


Hotel Californian Entrada de Santa Barbara bathroom MATT Construction

To make sure the interior was a conversation point for the hotel, Bullard had every piece of art and furniture in the building custom made. The furniture has the clean lines and sharp angles of Gio Ponti and the Italian furniture makers of the 1940s and 50s. This offsets the Morrocan-lounge flavor of the hardscape, keeping it hip. Bullard also included bold black and white tile designs throughout the interior to echo the awning of the original façade. This color and pattern scheme on the walls and ceiling immediately give the building drama, sparking conversation with its exotic yet elegant feel.

Hotel Californian Entrada de Santa Barbara hallway MATT Construction

The curated art in the hotel was custom made by the Los Angeles-based Voila Gallery. Although the pieces are linked to the history of Santa Barbara, they also draw color and design inspiration from modern art to add an interesting edge. But the design does not just attack a guest’s sense of sight. Custom-blended fragrances waft from the spa and throughout the building to engage the sense of smell as guests walk around.

Entrada de Santa Barbara Hotel Californian interior Spa lounge rendering MATT Construction

To Bullard, the elements of the hotel are special as they excite all age groups who may occupy the space and create a sense enjoyment that will make visitors want to come back. MATT Construction was happy to share in the challenge of transforming the new Hotel Californian from land that had been vacant for around a decade into a property with an exciting and quirky interior character and an exterior that embraces its Santa Barbara surroundings.

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