A collaboration between the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows of Santa Monica, Calif., and Robb Report Home & Style magazine, the new Bungalow One connects four bungalows to create a 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom retreat that melds modern-day amenities with classic and casual beach elegance.
The Southern California–based designer Michael Berman—known for his laid-back, locally influenced interiors—led the renovation of the bungalow, which debuted in June. Utilizing new and vintage furniture, original art, nonmatching textiles, and high-tech appliances from a variety of sponsors, as well as items from his own licensed product lines, Berman created a sophisticated and contemporary getaway.
With on-site luxury-hotel services and a poolside terrace, Bungalow One can serve as an exclusive retreat for overnight guests or a VIP event space that simultaneously satisfies the needs for publicity and privacy.
BY ALEXANDRIA ABRAMIAN
THE ARRESTING VIEW inside the recently unveiled Bungalow One by Robb Report Home & Style at the Fairmont Miramar hotel owes, in part, to what is not there: no ornate drapery, no high-gloss dining table for 12, no gilt-framed oil paintings. Rather than include such trappings, the Los Angeles–based interior designer Michael Berman—who was tasked with converting four of the Santa Monica, Calif., property’s bungalows into one presidential suite in collaboration with the Fairmont Miramar and Home & Style—took a low-key tack with the high-end lodging’s design.
“I wanted this to be more like staying in a personal guest home of a really great beach house,” says Berman of the comfortably appointed bungalow, where the nightly rate starts at $4,000. “Yes, I wanted it to feel luxurious, but not necessarily formal or opulent. This is Santa Monica, not Los Angeles, so things are a little more relaxed. But I get that this is an anomaly in terms of what you’d typically expect from a presidential suite.”
If his treatment of the accommodation is unique, it is in keeping with the Fairmont’s history as a one-of-a-kind coastal hideaway for high-profile guests. Thirty-two bungalows scattered throughout the 4.5-acre property perched above Santa Monica Bay were built in the 1930s and 1940s and have housed such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Charles Lindbergh. Today, the 10-story Ocean Tower, built in the 1950s, anchors the hotel (owned since 2006 by the computer tycoon Michael Dell), while the bungalows remain in demand for their homelike ambience amid the poolside bustle.
Bungalow One, however, stands apart from the other cottages for one attribute in particular: space. The unit’s indoor and outdoor areas total 2,500 square feet, which is more than twice the size of any other suite at the hotel. To imbue the larger dwelling with a feeling of home and style, Berman had to contend with the extant architecture. “One of the major challenges here was to provide a sense of flow to what was essentially a linear row of four suites,” says Berman, whose own furniture designs appear in the bungalow and in other hotels, such as the Peninsula Beverly Hills, Wynn Las Vegas, and various Four Seasons properties.
Though major construction was not an option, Berman was able to create a core living room and sleeping quarters within the building’s rectangular layout using the center two rooms as the main design event. “The center rooms include a living area and the master suite, which are soft and opulent but in a casual way,” says Berman. (Some of the wall between the living area and the master suite was taken down, to connect the spaces via double doors.) Both stay within a similar palette of dove gray, charcoal, blues, and whites, with punches of greens—not exactly warm and cozy tones, but the designer purposefully chose cooler colors to interact with the sunlight. “Everything gets so warmed up in here by the sun,” he explains. “The clear, cool palette plays off of that.”
Flanking the bungalow’s central core are two additional bedrooms, whose colors and textures Berman intentionally dialed down. “The adjoining rooms are deliberately underdone,” he says. “I wanted them to be minimal, uncluttered, and have a quiet simplicity that allows the eyes to rest. What connects all of these rooms is a use of organic materials and various nods to classic, midcentury design. To me, it’s all about barefoot elegance.”
This aesthetic permeates the bungalow thanks to Berman’s choice of decor: a thoughtful mix of new and vintage items, original art, and one-off accessories. “A lot of the items used aren’t even necessarily ‘hotel proof.’ They’re the kind of materials I’d use for high-end home design,” he says, noting that the elongated and curved sofa he conceived for the living area is “made for kicking off your shoes and having a martini.” A pair of hand-cast, oversize seagull pendant lights, also designed by Berman, hover in the master bedroom and the living area and signify his desire to “channel beach style without getting into over-the-top surf-decor clichés. I didn’t want that feeling where you walk in and it’s all whitewashed surfaces and seashells everywhere.” (His general restraint means he gets away with the bubble vase full of seashells that rests on a circular table in the living room.)
Key to creating this subtle coastal vibe was the artwork: Berman selected vintage black-and-white photographs (not shown) taken in Santa Monica. One oversize image features the California Incline, the sloped road that connects Ocean Avenue (the Fairmont’s cross street at Wilshire Boulevard) with the Pacific Coast Highway; another is a shot of bodybuilders at the original Muscle Beach, just south of the Santa Monica pier. “These photos capture the essence of this area unlike anything else,” says Berman. “And they’re not in the public domain, so they’ll be new to people who stay here, whether they’re from Santa Monica or another part of the world.”
Guests at Bungalow One are also certain to appreciate the suite’s technological conveniences and creature comforts. The designer melded his informal interior design scheme with high-end equipment, including four 55-inch Samsung smart TVs and several wireless speakers, which are placed throughout the dwelling. A guest using the master suite can program the Rohl thermostatic valve to provide his or her preferred bath or shower water temperature, and, with the click of a switch on the wall, cause the window between the master bedroom and the bathroom to go from transparent to opaque. But perhaps the accommodation’s most crucial elements are its beds. “This is hands down the most important thing in any hotel room,” says Berman, who specified handmade, all-natural mattresses from the British company Vi-Spring for the sleeping quarters. “If you’re not going to have a restful night’s sleep,” he says, “nothing else matters.”
Michael Berman, 323.933.0220, www.michaelbermanlimited.com
Staying at Bungalow One by Robb Report Home & Style
SETTING: The spacious suite (1,800 square feet inside, 700 square feet outside) is located near the pool at the 4.5-acre, ocean-view Fairmont Miramar hotel in Santa Monica, Calif.
SLEEPING: The bedrooms—a master suite and two guest rooms, each with its own bathroom—have beds covered in Scandia down linens. Designer Michael Berman created shelves on the nightstands to hold the extra pillows, so that “you don’t end up throwing them on the floor like in so many hotels rooms.”
DIVERSIONS: Spa treatments or a private dinner for as many as 10 people can be enjoyed on the suite’s patio.
RATE: Starting at $4,000 per night.
CONTACT: 866.540.4470, www.fairmont.com/santa-monica
Renowned designer Michael Berman has completed interior projects from New York to Los Angeles for an enviable client list made up of the business and entertainment worlds’ elite. Berman’s products and interiors reflect the designer’s interest in history, art, architecture and nature. His work strikes an uncommon balance between timeless style and an of the moment relevance. Clearly inspired by the comfort and styling of American modernism and simplicity of form, Berman’s work resonates with design-industry colleagues. Berman is the founder and the principal creative visionary behind Michael Berman Limited, a multifaceted design firm focusing on interior, furniture, textile and product design, and the Los Angeles–based home furnishings showroom Bronze Studio.
Michael Berman Limited
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
MB Bronze Studio
Inspired by Berman’s vision of evoking the spirit and softness of the Southern California lifestyle, Bungalow One exudes a harmonious modern air, combining fresh color palettes with organic natural elements throughout. Berman’s inspiration stemmed from Santa Monica as he worked to create a “surf modern” environment and a comfortable atmosphere. As guests move through the suite, the soft sea-blue hues, natural patterns, modern textures, vintage local artwork, and lighting connect them with nature and the Santa Monica beach community.
The Robb Report Home & Style Experience
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Room Size:2,500 square feet/232 square meters
Bed Type: 1 California King and 2 King
View: Lush Miramar Garden
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