This New California hotel is housed in a Mediterranean-inspired villa

A stone staircase surrounded by rose bushes, lavender plants and splashes of hydrangeas faces a traditional whitewashed Californian home at 2408 Bay View Ave in the upscale beachfront enclave of Carmel-by -the-Sea. Flanked by cypress trees, the sprawling property feels like another private residence on this quiet street lined with elegant homes and their manicured gardens. And that was exactly the intention behind the new Villa Mara, an idyllic 16-room luxury boutique hotel that opened its doors this summer. By Dobrina Zhekova

“Every time I walked into our designer’s office, the first thing I said was, if this looks like a hotel, then we’re failing,” says Villa Mara owner Dev Patel. “We’re in this beautiful neighborhood, and we just wanted it [Villa Mara] feeling like home, like going to a really rich friend’s house.

The story of the new Mediterranean-inspired California Hotel

Patel looked to the exquisite villas of Italy and the Mediterranean for inspiration, but he made sure the property was an ode to Carmel-by-the-Sea and its beautiful natural surroundings. As a result, Villa Mara embodies a sophisticated California coastal lifestyle with a touch of historic elegance. The hotel was originally built in 1929 by a Filipino immigrant who was the head housekeeper at Carmel’s first hotel, The Pine Inn. She opened an 11-room property here called The Holiday Inn, which was later transformed into the Sandpiper Inn. After a complete renovation, Patel transformed it into Villa Mara. To honor the property’s long history, he named some of the 16 rooms after local historical figures, such as famous poet Robinson Jeffers.

Image credit: Stephanie Russo

But that doesn’t mean Villa Mara feels dated or rooted in nostalgia. Quite the contrary. Patel hired a local residential contractor instead of a commercial contractor to rebuild the property as a home and commissioned famed Los Angeles designer Lisa Koch to make sure the place looked like a modern residence, where guests could settle in and hang out and not just drop their bags and leave.

“We were inspired by Villa Mara’s sweeping views of Carmel Beach and the memories of picture-perfect weekends spent at family resorts on the coast,” Koch said. T+L. “Drawing inspiration from the estates of the Hamptons, our favorite European boutique hotels and getaways to the Greek Isles, we sought to imbue the property with a sophisticated and timeless elegance, layering bespoke and vintage furnishings to create a oasis of calm.”

Hotel Mediterranean California
Image credit: Stephanie Russo

Koch opted for four color palettes in dusty pink, sage green and a mix of blue tones to evoke Carmel’s natural surroundings for his Mediterranean-inspired California hotel. The rooms have been designed with oversized windows that let in plenty of natural light, while the balconies allow guests to take in the beautiful ocean views (Carmel Beach is just a hundred yards away).

Spread over two floors, the rooms, which range in size from 250 to 425 square feet, feature king beds, heated bathroom floors, rainfall showers, Le Labo toiletries, a free minibar stocked with local snacks and beverages and a mix of custom-designed furniture by Koch that incorporated varying patterns, wicker, leather, and natural wood elements. Jeffers Cottage, the hotel’s suite, is located in a free-standing structure and features a small sitting area, soaking tub, and private fire pit.

Villa Mara
Image credit: Stephanie Russo

True to its residential-inspired concept “with all the amenities of a luxury hotel,” Patel forgoes classic features such as a reception desk, lobby or even a hotel sign (“We’ll never have a sign outside,” he says). Instead, check-in takes place in a living room-like space anchored by a lovely fireplace with a sleek seating area and exposed beams. The room also houses the hotel’s cafe and cocktail bar and has a dining banquette. White Venetian plaster walls and ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the coast, a collection of artwork, and bespoke lighting create a tranquil, sophisticated ambience.

The outdoor spaces are also reminiscent of a friend’s backyard or garden and were designed with privacy and gathering in mind. Five distinct sitting areas, water features, three fire pits, and intimate vignettes cater to a variety of occasions, from romantic weekend getaways to group celebrations.

Villa Mara
Image credit: Stephanie Russo

Although Villa Mara doesn’t have an on-site restaurant (after all, your friend’s house probably doesn’t have its own restaurant), a light fare menu – caviar included – is available to choose from.

And if guests do end up wanting to leave the property, downtown Carmel, known for its art galleries, restaurants and independent shops, is just a mile away, while Pebble Beach Golf Link is a short hop away. 10 minutes by car. The hotel concierge can also suggest a list of local activities and hidden gems to visit. Patel has handpicked his team – or as he calls them, Villa Mara “hosts” – to be as knowledgeable as possible about the Carmel-by-the-sea neighborhood and region.

“We know all the hikes, all the restaurants […] We make sure you see the sunset in the right place at the right time,” he explains.

Villa Mara is open to guests 21 years and older. You can book your stay here.

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Main and Feature Image Credit: Stephanie Russo

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