Monarch Beach Resort

Nora Zelevansky • Photography by Jill Paider • May 10, 2017

Photos: Monarch Beach Resort

Rodrigo Vargas and Danielle Fox of Los Angeles-based Rodrigo Vargas Design applied the “a little bit goes a long way” philosophy in refreshing the 400 guestrooms, public spaces, and the Miraval Life In Balance Spa at what is now the Monarch Beach Resort.

From the onset, the design team was charged by new owner KSL with translating a dark vineyard theme of the former St. Regis property into something beachy and light, offering a more appropriate sense of place for the Orange County, California property. To conceive the look, Fox studied the clientele, seeing well-to-do, fashionable families offered a “very different vibe than, say, Downtown LA or San Diego,” she describes. The sartorial choices of the local women inspired “a palette that is fresh and airy: preppy, pink, bluish—Tory Burch but with a kind of a barefoot elegance,” says Vargas.

To evoke that signature relaxed California charm, a kind of well-traveled aesthetic pervades, with eclectic pieces in public spaces that appeared as if they were collected over time. “It’s about using textures and materials that feel good to the touch but are not flashy,” says Vargas. The designers changed out stone floors for walnut, and incorporated the color blue in single accent walls and custom carpets. “We didn’t want to fight with or distract from the natural beauty of the location, but instead chose to frame it and draw attention to it,” says firm designer Heather Soliday. Mixed materials add personality: rattan chairs beside lucite tables; custom sconces and chandeliers; furnishings dressed in woven leather, rope, marble, and bronze; existing Mediterranean-style moldings; locally made raw frames; and handpainted chests designed by Santa Monica artist Jacqueline Moore. The standout, however, is a fireplace redone in sandstone and surrounded by a beveled antique mirror. “We like to keep things spare: white walls, no gilding, nothing shiny except a hint in the mirrors,” says Fox. “Everything is well-made and proportioned but in natural fabrics and soft muted colors. There’s a lack of artifice.”

The natural surroundings were incorporated throughout by opening up the lobby space to reveal the beach and by even placing monitors behind the reception desk that play footage of the shore. “The previous lobby doors blocked your entry, so just by changing to big doors that open up, we changed the whole feel,” says Fox. “Just a few, uncomplicated gestures transformed
the space.”

That holds true for the guestrooms as well. A luxe yet residential refresh came courtesy of new grasscloth wallcoverings, patterned carpet, accent furniture like benches and upholstered lounge seating, locally inspired accessories, and headboards reupholstered in a faux raffia fabric. For a touch of whimsy, artwork reflects the hotel’s seaside setting in a playful manner.

The one-with-the-location feel continues into the calming Miraval spa (the brand’s California debut), clad in a painterly wallpaper, quartzite, woven rattan, natural teak, onyx, marble, and textured fabrics. Natural light spills into the spa café thanks to a wall of windows, highlighting engineered white oak flooring finished with a gray stain and white, airy globe light fixtures that hang over a wood communal table. It reinforces the overall design concept of “handmade sophistication mixed with a beach-like feeling,” says Soliday.

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