Restoring a 1910 Spanish Colonial Hotel in Santa Barbara

For decades the Spanish Colonial Revival structure in downtown Santa Barbara was an opaque headquarters for the Church of Scientology.

But now, the 1910 hotel is back in business as originally intended – with a transparent theme.

Drift Santa Barbara has been rebranded with a mixed-use purpose – con gusto. The keyless, 45-room hotel is also home to a street-front coffee shop call Dawn and a bar called Dusk.

And they celebrate their location on State Street in the heart of downtown. “It’s the most lively location in Santa Barbara and it’s surrounded by bars and activities and the most popular restaurants,” says Dan Weber, founder and principal at  Anacapa Architecture. “It’s even more lively after 11 P.M.”

The coffee shop and bar are open to the public as well as hotel guests. Nearby are 10 to 15 blocks of shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries. The beach is five blocks away, along with pier and harbor. “Everything in town is right there,” he says.

Weber founded Anacapa in 2010. It’s grown to a staff of 23, with offices in Santa Barbara and Portland. When the developers bought their downtown building, they called on the firm to study their options.

They looked at rental housing and condos, along with mixed use. “It could have been housing or offices above and retail below,” he says. “It could have been for one big tenant like Amazon, but we also looked at a coworking concept with shared amenities and small office suites.”

A hotel was the most attractive because of its location, its lack of parking requirements and its revenue potential. Besides, the owners already had a couple of hotels in other places like San Jose del Cabo, and Santa Barbara is a strong hospitality market. “There are high room rates, and this is in the heart of downtown,” he says.

The building survived a 1925 earthquake that destroyed much of Santa Barbara, so the architects were not just rehabbing a hotel – they were preserving a historic building with a character all its own.

“There are requirements from the city for architecture that enhances and preserves historic resources, and that does something positive for the community,” he says. “So we had a duty to enhance pedestrian street life, with the storefront design of the bar and coffee shop.”

Outside, it’s clad authentically in white stucco, traditional clay tiles, doors and windows of painted wood, with iron work for the balconies and copper for the gutters.

“Inside it had to be consistent and compatible but we wanted a more contemporary palette – more like their successful, hip entity down in Baja,” he says. “So there are raw concrete floors, reused redwood framing, natural fabrics and rattan light fixtures.”

Rooms are small – on average about 185 square feet – but designed with style and efficiency in mind. And there’s no lobby and no place to check in. “You get the key code on your phone and check yourself in,” he says. “The town itself create the amenities – the owners want you to get out and explore.”

Laid back and upscale, Drift Santa Barbara is the perfect home base to do that.

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