Renovating a Historic Landmark Hotel
Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa

Photo Courtesy of Casa Madrona
The task, to those of us who are not architects or interior designers, seems so daunting: to renovate a National Historic Register landmark hotel built in Sausalito on a hillside in 1886; the goal being to maintain its Victorian, yet seafaring essence, while carrying that essence into the 21st century. But that is what Kim Deetjen, ASID, Lead Designer, and her design partner, Matt Bushey, AIA, LEED AP, both of TruexCullins Architecture/Interior Design Firm, did in the redesign, renovation and restoration of the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, in Sausalito, California.

"We had to understand the original vision first, and add to it. And to do that we had to understand the hotel’s history, from 1886 to today," said Kim. "This was a fascinating task, as Casa Madrona was built originally as a Victorian mansion. The architectural vision then was to build a grand home, where the original owner William Barrett, Secretary-Treasurer for the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company and his wife Clara, could live well and entertain lavishly."

"It was atop an almost 90-degree hill, overlooking Richardson Bay, and farther out, San Francisco Bay. What we had to do, 126 years later, was create a unifying renovation vision from that blueprint, that combined three very diverse architectural languages, all of which were and are part of the Sausalito culture: the original Victorian, with the nautical, with the artisan/bohemian."

And, as Matt Bushey, also explains, "We have completed two of three phases. The last phase, the renovation and restoration of the original Victorian mansion, is to start after the first of the year. Right now, the first phases, that of the lobby area, the new spa, 22 hillside cottages and many guest rooms are completed."

"We are very proud of the lobby," Kim explains, "as it is the space that first defines the hotel’s street presence, showing how we combined the diverse design elements of our vision: the first thing you see as you walk into Casa Madrona, is the stone fireplace, with a large antique mirror over the mantel that reflects the harbor and the Casa Madrona logo. Near the fireplace are two ladders, very like ship’s ladders, on either side of two high bookcases. The books are specific to the history and culture of Sausalito and San Francisco. In addition, are comfortable wing back chairs, a nod to the Victorian style."

"In the lobby area also," Matt adds, "are white wall panels whose design form textured waves, looking like rippling sand after the tide ebbs. In the lobby registration area, we have sail material whose function is both signage and art, as nautical reminders of the culture of sailing and the sea."

The Spa is a new space that also carries materials and colors of the sea into its rooms. Matt explains, "One of the materials we used in the Spa, as we did in many of the guest cottages and guest rooms, was recycled sea glass. Bathrooms in the guest cottages have shelves running behind the vanity created from this material. In the Spa, the steam room bench is also made from this material, allowing Want a complete Travel Quote including airfare, special hotel rates and FREE upgrades? Contact our Travel Specialist today!for a kind of translucent glow - another touch that becomes a remembrance of Casa Madrona’s sense of place, near the sea."

However, as Kim adds, with the redesign of the cottages, they dealt with very different things. "The Cottages located on the hillside above the lobby and above the town of Sausalito face the water and many have balconies offering bay views. So, our focal point for all the cottages was the view. With business travelers and others, the focal point is no longer the TV. The focal experiences are often the comfort of the bed, the multi-use aspect of the cottage, and the view. We have done this by having Victorian style bed frames, clean, crisp nautical colors, mainly crème/white and azure/navy blue colors, and sea glass shelf motifs, to name just a few."

"Yet," says Matt, "As with most major renovations, what we wanted to do was to compliment the hotel’s already existing sense of place, so from the sailcloth in the Lobby, to the colors in both the guest rooms and cottages to the sea glass, and the subtle light blue LED pathway lighting, we wanted the guests to feel a sense of retreat from everything, without them being really aware of why they feel that way. In addition, we were always aware of the unique legacy of Casa Madrona, that defines the moving evolution of history, not only of Sausalito, but of San Francisco, Richardson Bay, and the sea beyond."

"Yes, and finally," said Kim, "we wanted to bridge the gap for all eras, and create a space that speaks to the Victorian, the nautical and the artistic in a design language of lasting value."
Casa Madrona

Casa Madrona Reception Area
Casa Madrona

Casa Madrona Walkway
Casa Madrona

Casa Madrona Reception Detail
Casa Madrona

Casa Madrona Guest Room
Casa Madrona

Kim Deetjen & Matt Bushey, Lead Designers, Casa Madrona

Susan Kime

Susan Kime's career combines publishing, journalism and editing. She was the Destination Club/Fractional Update Editor for Elite Traveler, and senior club news correspondent for The Robb Report's Vacation Homes. Her work has been published in Stratos, Luxury Living, European CEO, The London Telegraph, Caviar Affair, ARDA Developments, and Luxist/AOL. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Travel Conno...(Read More)

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