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Inspired by Addison Mizner

The Grand Del Mar in California channels the legendary resort architect’s style.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Steve Pike
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What would legendary architect Addison Mizner have done with a clean palate and $270 million? He might have created the Grand Del Mar resort. Located in a nature preserve north of San Diego, the 400-acre resort pays homage to the eccentric designer (Mizner had a pet monkey he called Johnnie Brown) best known for his Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style in South Florida.

One could call the Grand Del Mar’s interior, which features Renaissance-style doorways and columns, rotundas, wood-beamed ceilings, wrought iron accents and twisted columns, “Mizner Comes to California,” except for the fact that he was born in the San Francisco-bay area town of Benicia in 1872.

So let’s call it “Mizner Returns to California,” thanks to the input of resort President Tom Voss and San Francisco-based Warren Sheets Design Inc. Voss and Sheets spent a great deal of time researching and studying Mizner’s designs, including trips to Sea Island, Ga., where Mizner designed The Cloister in 1928, and the Boca Raton Resort & Club, Mizner’s masterpiece that opened in 1926.

“We know more about him now than four years ago,” Voss said. “The Grand Del Mar isn’t exactly like he would have designed it, but we were inspired by his exotic mix of Spanish and Italian and Moroccan design. So it’s really interesting and very different.”

Different indeed.

In addition to trekking to the southeast U.S., Voss and Sheets traveled the world in search of different design ideas and materials (Mizner basically relied on scrapbooks and a library devoted to elaborate Spanish Colonial palaces) that would help make the Grand Del Mar one of the country’s more opulent resorts, reminiscent in a way of the Mizner-designed La Ronda estate in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Sadly, the estate and its famous Great Hall were demolished on 2009, meaning that no Mizner Mediterranean Revival architecture exists north of the Mason-Dixon line.

But back to Southern California. More than 35 different wood finishes were used on 16 different wood species, including Pear Wood, Australian Cypress and African Walnut in the interior of the Grand Del Mar. More than 30 types of stone were installed, and all of the cubic stone was carved by a family of four generations in a small town south of Venice, Italy.

Twenty-four craftsmen hand-stenciled and painted the decorative ceilings throughout the property. Hand-painted frescoes, intricate custom chandeliers, detailed stairway railings accented by 23-karat gold leaf, polished Italian marble accents and hand trawled Venetian plastered walls help set the Grand Del Mar apart from most other luxury resorts.

“The first impression is the ‘wow’ factor,” Voss said. “People walk into the lobby and say ‘This is not what we expected.’ The first impression is really incredible.”

The “wow” factor is further enhanced with more than 2,000 pieces of custom designed furniture and artwork. According to Voss, approximately 85 percent of the Grand Del Mar’s furnishings were custom-designed, and most of the artwork throughout the resort was commissioned from around the world.

“The Italian designs, in particular, the frames and the furniture pieces, you see in Italian villas, southern France and Spain,” Voss said. “But that’s not even the best part of the hotel. What really balances the design and architecture is our staff. They’re the icing on the cake.

“The first impression is the ‘wow’ factor. Even though our guests say they’ve never seen anything like this, they also say the staff is amazing. Anyone can do something like this (well, almost anyone with $270 million) but if you don’t have a sincere people working for you, it wouldn’t work as well.”

That’s something not even Mizner could design.
Credit
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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