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In California, a new day emerges at Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay. The AAA Four Diamond hotel has completed a revitalization worth more than $60 million, with recent touches to a new restaurant, lounge and lobby bar. The 379 elegantly appointed residential-style guestrooms and suites never looked better.

In a Q&A with InspireDesign, Puccini Group Partner and Chief Creative Officer Rob Polacek peels back the layers on the inspiration and influences for this property’s new look. 

Jack's Monterey Bar & Fireplace at Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.
Jack’s Monterey Bar & Fireplace at Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.

What was the inspiration for the hotel’s renovation? 

Our team sought to reimagine the picturesque hotel, maintaining its resort-like atmosphere throughout, while differentiating it from the adjacent and renovated Monterey Conference Center and other properties found in and around the area. Inspired by coastal Monterey, our design from the hotel’s new atrium and lobby design invokes a strong sense of place from the materials sourced to the color palette utilized throughout. Our team was struck by the way that the rugged coast, despite its increasing popularity as a tourist destination, has remained seemingly untouched and undeveloped. Instead of razing and developing old cannery sites, much of the city’s historic industry has remained in place. We wanted to bring that nostalgic sense of place to our design for the hotel, while highlighting the natural aura that still surrounds the shoreline’s rich palette.

We were also inspired by existing features within the hotel such as the live trees in the atrium space. We chose to enhance those trees with a collection of pierced metal lanterns and uplighting, taking special care to preserve their health and longevity. In order to bring those trees into the new food and beverage space, we positioned a lounge amongst them. Challenged by existing columns and structural walls that blocked sightlines to the bar behind the trees, we opened up the visual barriers in the floorplan, cohesively bringing the bar design and energy into the lobby.

Lobby at Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.
Lobby at Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.

How did you go about curating textiles, furnishings and art for the spaces? 

Weathered wood reminiscent of nearby docks and canneries were used to complement the clean, architectural lines of the existing columns and structural walls. Enhanced by an abundance of natural light and enchanting live trees in the atrium space, the color scheme is reflective of the Portola Hotel & Spa’s surroundings. The palette made up of blues found in the sea, sage green and fuschia reminiscent of flora, and grays that dress cypress trees and seal fur, recalls the beauty and wildlife found in the nearby waters and flourishing greenery spotted along the coast. 

In the lobby, we used the existing clean, architectural lines and mixed in modern furnishings and updated fabrics. The refreshed space showcases seating and other pieces finished in textured fabrics, locally sourced and inspired materials, and augmented lighting. Much of the materiality adds a sense of tactility to the interiors, seamlessly blending the soft textures of the white sand and pillowy rock moss found along the shore with more rigid materials reminiscent of the driftwood and craggy shoreline. These tangible materials transform the lobby into a distinctive and inviting space, beckoning guests to explore in order to take in the design scheme that pays homage to the hotel’s surroundings.

A canopy of trees inside the Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.
A canopy of trees inside the Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay.

In terms of design, what story did you want to tell?

When we were developing a narrative for the new lobby and restaurant, we knew we wanted guests to feel instantly connected to the rich history and stunning coastline of the Monterey Peninsula. Each design element was approached with authenticity and sincerity, encouraging guests from both near and far to find peace in their interaction with the nature that inspired the hotel’s interiors. Our thoughtful approach ensured that the surrounding landscape was woven into the ways we used color, textures, and attitude to design for a distinct sense of place.