Located in Santa Barbara, California the opulent Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel is nestled in a quiet, residential neighborhood facing the Pacific Ocean. For eight decades, the 207 room Spanish Colonial hotel, distinguished by its mastery of style and attention to detail, has been the jewel of the American Riviera. In 1925 the site was acquired by the Santa Barbara Biltmore Corporation and after a six-month construction period the hotel opened in December of 1927. During an era in which architects made every effort to establish a regional identity, acclaimed residential architect, Reginald D. Johnson executed the design, helping to define the unique Southern Californian architectural character. The Biltmore harmoniously blends the historic Spanish tradition, the climatic feeling of the area, and the appropriateness of modern needs.
The hotel has most recently been purchased by Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts and operated by Four Seasons. With the new owner came a renewed desire to restore the fading grandeur of this historic hotel. Subsequently, the goal set forth by ownership was to attain a Five-Star rating. After proposals by several top hotel design firms, all came to the same ultimate conclusion that the hotel needed to be gutted in order to satisfy ownership’s goal. Maintaining much or any of the existing historic room configurations would not be possible to achieve Five-Star status as luxury standards have changed drastically since 1927 with more emphasis put on amount of space rather than quality of the space.
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My involvement in this project began while working on another job for Mr. Warner. When asked for my thoughts on the proposed interior demolition of the guest rooms I insisted that there was a better, more historically sensitive solution. Mr. Warner challenged my team to then create a plan that would meet Five-Star criteria while following my historic preservation sensibilities. Relying on my twenty-five years experience of remodeling and recreating Spanish and Mediterranean Revival homes from this Romantic Period, I was able to propose a new bathroom layout within the existing bathroom core, preserving all of the existing rooms and corridors. This scheme was then successfully completed in a model room fully furnished with custom furniture, fixture, and fabric designs, from concept to model room in four weeks time!
We were awarded the project and proceeded with the goal set forth by ownership as well as my focus to preserve the beloved historic elements of the grand hotel while deftly modernizing its amenities and function. The new work faithfully follows traditional detailing, while incorporating the latest conveniences. The result is a luxury hotel that offers contemporary amenities in the elegant style of an earlier era.
The program was a comprehensive interior restoration of every guest room, suite, and cottage on the property. Renovating and upgrading the historic interiors was done in the spirit of maintaining and enriching the hotel’s residential sensibility. In addition to the complete interior overhaul was the application of specific improvements to exterior spaces of the hotel, particularly the design and careful placement of hand crafted Spanish inspired fountains and benches.
The renovation of the Four Seasons Biltmore’s guest rooms and cottages has been a labor of love that has taken more than four years and over 500,000 subcontractor hours to execute. Renovations began in February 2003 and were part of the overall multi-phase Biltmore renovation program of 130,000 square feet and $180 million completed in May 2006. It has been accomplished with a high regard for historical accuracy and meticulous attention to detail in order to restore the Biltmore to its heyday as one of the world’s grand hotels.
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