If you’re looking for a special hideaway to staycation — or a sweet, stylish spot to place your influx of summer visitors — the new Palihouse Santa Barbara ticks all the right boxes.
Palihouse opened this spring in the 915 Garden Street location that was formerly Inn of the Spanish Garden. Discreetly tucked on the outer border of the historic Presidio District, the 1920 complex was originally built as the Santa Barbara School of the Arts and has truly lovely bones. It’s quintessential Santa Barbara with its paseo-like layout, fountains, mature bougainvillea, and wood-beam terraces. And the Palisociety hotel group brilliantly infused its signature playful aesthetic and boutique hospitality sensibility with the spot-on reinvention of the 24-room property.
Having stayed at its sister locations in Santa Monica, Melrose, and Silver Lake, I can attest to the fact that Palihouse Santa Barbara is in very good company. Palisociety’s growing collection of independent properties in desirable destinations also includes Culver City, San Francisco, and Seattle. Avi Brosh, founder of Palisociety, said he chose Santa Barbara because, “As a brand based in Los Angeles, we know that Santa Barbara has infinite allure for weekend travel and quick getaways for people up and down the coast and beyond. We’re excited to bring something to the market that feels very welcome and new.”
Brosh and his design team nailed that distinctively fresh quality while adeptly paying homage to the essence of the neighborhood and American Riviera spirit of Santa Barbara. Over nine months, they transformed the guest rooms and public spaces into rich visual feasts that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson film. That cinematic quality comes through especially strong upon arrival in the cozy lobby, where I felt a fun, Chateau Marmont–esque vibe.
Preppy is the prominent trait of the beachy Palihouse Santa Barbara persona — with a wink and a nod, as evidenced by the decorative bowls cheekily filled with fresh tennis balls (in lieu of fruit) and playfully chic “do not disturb” signs in the form of retro equestrian badges. Think rattan furniture, seagrass rugs, checkered tiles, and an eclectic mix of floral, plaid, and striped prints. The front desk staff are even outfitted in Breton striped shirts.
The preppy theme carried over into my second-level Deluxe Studio nestled in the back of the property. The pink bathroom sparked instant joy with its soaring ceilings, a skylight, and the most ridiculously photogenic floral accent wall above the soaking tub. My spacious guest room was also outfitted with a SMEG refrigerator, dining table, fireplace, and the most delightful terrace. Tall glass doors opened to a palm-lined view of red tiled rooftops and the swimming pool below.
The meandering layout of the small property lends itself to a sense of personal space, peace, and quiet. The central yet tranquil location is a huge selling point — the evening of my stay, I walked down to the Funk Zone for dinner and enjoyed a moonlit stroll back up State Street. In the morning, I sipped coffee at Handlebar while taking in the view of the Presidio.
It’s very much the type of place where guests can get that living-like-a-local feeling and would pair particularly well with a concert at the Bowl or taking in a performance in the historic theatre district. The café and bar also present a compelling option for locals who simply want to drop by for a bite or cocktail and feel like you’re on vacation for a spell, whether you grab a perch inside or take advantage of the picturesque courtyard. I’ll definitely be back for a sip of that transportive ambiance.
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