THE NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR OF NEW WEST SYMPHONY BRINGS HIS GRAMMY AWARD–WINNING TALENT TO THE VENTURA COUNTY ENSEMBLE’S 25TH SEASON.
After winning the 2019 Best Opera Recording Grammy Award for The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, New West Symphony’s (newwestsymphony.org) new music director Michael Christie is bringing his own kind of (r)evolution to the West Coast.
“We threw a lot at the audience,” Christie says of his first concerts in his new role with the Thousand Oaks–based symphony this past October. “Our concert format is slightly tweaked,” he says, “and we had our new venue [Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo], so people had a fair amount to take in.”
Patrons were treated to a Gershwin concerto, Corigliano’s “Salute” with kazoos, and a “Scheherazade” performance that Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed praised as, “supplying far and away the most spectacular playing from what should no longer be considered a regional symphony.”
“The biggest difference,” says Christie, “is that we are using intermission as an opportunity for people to experience some new things if they choose.” This includes a question-and-answer session with the guest artist and an entr’acte. Up next is the global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday on January 25 and 26, featuring the Eroica Trio, whom Christie calls, “three very vibrant, genius women who are just amazing [with] the energy that they bring.”
Christie has led top orchestras all over the world and served as music director for Minnesota Opera, The Phoenix Symphony, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (now defunct). He now lives part-time in Ventura County, while his wife, Alexis, who is a physician, and their two children are in Minneapolis.
Much of the life of a musician-conductor is spent on the road, says Christie, a trumpeter, who first conducted when his middle school band director let him give it a try back in Buffalo, New York. “I was never sure how one became a conductor,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to know more about it. People were very generous with their time and always willing to answer questions.”
In February he’ll pay it forward with a one-month teaching and conducting stint at Indiana University. Christie is eager to communicate with students about the duties of an American music director, which he says, “are very specific to our particular situation of creating artistic vision and raising lots of money. It’s very particular to our country. I feel a great sense of responsibility for helping to convey that information, having lived it for the last 25 years. It’s fun to be asked to help the next generation start to figure that out.
“We [music directors] are the face of the organization in many ways,” Christie says. “We should be viewed by our audience as open, friendly, fun, and adventurous but also sensible, engaging, and concerned for our community, what it’s going through, and what it’s aspiring to be. And none of those words really say Mozart or Gershwin,” he says, laughing. “It’s all kind of wrapped together.”
Free Tuition Program Covers School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management
Aspiring chefs whirl around the industrial-size kitchen classroom in clean white threads, cooking up a mouth-watering array of Northern African and Moroccan dishes like Mtuzi Wa Samaki (fish in coconut curry), homemade merguez sausage, and Ghanaian chicken-and-peanut stew.
This intricate dance of chopping, stirring, sautéing, and learning is conducted by Chef Charlie Fredericks, who is clearly delighted to be orchestrating the SBCC class called “Modern Food: Style, Design, Theory, and Production.” Students create dishes from a different country every week — and once the global-themed feast is complete, they all share a meal together.
“It’s so much fun,” said Fredericks, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at restaurants in San Francisco, the Caribbean, Europe, and Napa before returning home to open bouchon in Santa Barbara in 1998. “This is definitely my favorite time,” he said. “It’s pretty much a Disneyland class.”
Indeed, it’s a small world after all, and the Culinary Arts students seem to be enjoying the ride. “I really enjoy learning about the different countries and their different ways of cooking and different spices and how they have a connection to their culture,” said Claudia Garcia, a returning student who also has a son and a daughter enrolled at SBCC.
The Chinese cooking lesson had a special resonance for Ava Engle, who grew up in Carpinteria and is attending the culinary school as part of the SBCC Promise Program, which provides the region’s high school graduates with the opportunity to attend for two years, free of charge. “I was actually adopted in China,” explained Engle, “and we made the Chinese food on my adoption day, just coincidentally, so that was great. I was kind of unfamiliar with the dishes we made, so it was fun to learn about them.”
Alejandro Hernandez, a 2019 graduate of the SBCC School of Extended Learning Bilingual GED Program, is another one of 19 students enrolled in the Promise who’s attending the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Program this semester. Hernandez has supported himself and his family by working full-time at a Vietnamese restaurant for many years. He says the Promise — which covers enrollment costs and all required fees, books, and supplies for two years — is a great opportunity for him to bring a global perspective to combine with his family culinary roots from Guerrero, Mexico. “Hopefully, I’ll open my own restaurant in the future,” Hernandez said.
“I’d love to work in a hotel and travel internationally,” said Miriam Martinez, another aspiring chef. “The Modern Foods is definitely my favorite class. I love the opportunity to taste — and cook — food from every country.”
During the fall, roses in warm earthy colors are in high demand. Among the newest additions to this palette are Macchiato roses. The color of blushing cheeks, these beauties are available locally at Florabundance (florabundance.com), a wholesale flower supplier in Carpinteria.
“Growers in the flower world are working on new varieties all the time,” says Florabundance buyer Debbie Kline, who suggests a few options to consider in an arrangement of Macchiato roses for the Thanksgiving table. “I personally like to see the brown tones mixed with burgundies and even blushes or peach; natural elements with texture always bring interest, too, like bronze Amaranthus, burgundy Scabiosa, and chocolate lace flowers.
“The process for creating new, natural varieties is actually quite fascinating,” Kline says, “and anticipating future trends is tricky. [Growers] also work on producing new colors and varieties that are stronger and more productive to grow.” —Leslie Dinaberg
So, I had the honor of writing up the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa winners this year. It was a huge, fun project. People were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing (203 winners at last count) by clicking here, or on the PDF below.
Interns at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum earn academic credit and valuable experience
By Leslie Dinaberg
Wednesday, August 28, 2019 – 06:00 Santa Barbara, CA
When this year’s cohort of interns take their place at UC Santa Barbara’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum (AD&A Museum), they’ll have the opportunity not only to add valuable skills to their own resumes, but also serve to the University and the broader Santa Barbara community.
“We are contributing to the development of the museum field by fostering future professionals,” said Elyse Gonzales, AD&A Museum’s acting director. “I also see the internship program, and all of our efforts really, as a means of developing future museum visitors, members, and donors for our museum and all museums in general. Our goals for the undergraduate internship program at the AD&A Museum are quite ambitious.”
Internships for academic credit are offered in the curatorial, collections management, archival management, programs/events, education outreach and public relations departments of the AD&A Museum. The museum also offers collaborative internships with the University Library’s special collections department; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where interns serve as gallery guides for students in grades six through 12; and with online platform impactmania — in collaboration with the Neuroscience Research Institute, Department of Religious Studies and global partners — where interns work to deliver a suite of interviews, interactive presentations, and events related to the topic “Human Mind and Migration.”
“I approach all of our UCSB students — really all students — who come to the museum the same way, with a warm welcome, emphasizing that the museum is for them,” Gonzales said. “If we can get them to visit while they are at UCSB, give them a positive experience and help them understand that the museum is not an intimidating place — this is not a place that is about exclusion, it’s about inclusion — then you’ve hooked a museum-goer for the rest of their life.
The more we can reach out to and engage younger generations, the better we are going to be in the long run. And when I say ‘we’ I mean the AD&A Museum, but also museums in general.”
Gonzales credits much of the vision for the internship program to Bruce Robertson, the recently retired museum director. “Studies reveal that most museum professionals and others in the arts became interested in these fields because they had a pivotal moment with an object or a formative creative experience. Knowing that, and with education as the imperative of the entire university, we immediately understood that we could make a significant contribution to our field,” Gonzales said. “But, also the reality of our situation is that we have a lot of tasks, projects, and events that need to be executed and managed and loads of ambitions to do even more. Knowing this, it became clear that working with students would not only help them but help us achieve our goals and mission.”
Focused on professional development, the resulting program pairs students with employees at the museum.
“The students have been great to work with — they are excited to learn new things, go ‘behind the scenes’ at the museum, and are able to explore possible career paths,” said Architecture and Design Collection Reference Archivist Julia Larson. “The students are eager to come in for their intern shifts because they are working on concrete projects — putting materials in folders, organizing and labelling collections, assisting with cataloging which they can cite as examples of work projects for future jobs or grad school. They also ask a lot of good questions and force me to think through my work and how best to explain things.
“The students learn how to process archival collections,” she added, “which is very hands-on work.”
Said Susan Lucke, collections manager and registrar, “We rely on our interns so much. They’re just not doing entry-level work. They actually get to do work that I would do. We need the help, and they gain a lot of experience and that’s so useful when they start to look for a job.
“I think it’s helpful for kids to look at all their options in school and this is a really a good program,” Lucke continued. “It’s not like sitting in a classroom with 300 other kids. It’s more of an intimate experience, and students get a lot of one-on-one attention plus it enables them to look at another side of life.”
AD&A Museum interns have gone on to graduate school; the Peace Corps; and to careers at many different kinds of museums, including the Smithsonian, the Peterson Automotive Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara and the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara, among others.
For-credit internships are open to undergraduates in all majors. “We find that many of our interns love art and architecture but also feel like they need to have a degree in something else, something they perceive as being more stable,” said Gonzales.
“The impetus behind this internship program is primarily to help give students professional experiences but also to help alleviate student and parental concerns about future career opportunities,” she added. “In addition, one of my goals is to help reflect the diversity of our campus and to create opportunities to diversify the field for future museum leadership.”
What she feels most proud about the internship program is that when students leave, they have concrete real- world experiences they can put on a resume and several individuals willing to give them a great reference. “A really smart and committed intern can do wonders,” Gonzales noted. “We should know, our museum wouldn’t function half so well without their terrific help.”
Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on August 28, 2019.
By Leslie Dinaberg
Like its Irish mythological legend, The Silver Bough—the entry into the Celtic otherworld, believed to offer everlasting youth, beauty, health and joy, and a rich paradise of delights, where food was ever abundant and where travelers were treated as kings and queens—is an impressive bounty of elegantly prepared food and dramatic culinary theatrics. This intimate, eight-seat tasting menu fine dining experience is one of the most ambitious restaurant endeavors I’ve ever experienced.
From the moment you enter the Montecito Inn, the new home of The Silver Bough, you are transported into an exquisite, magical world of high-class indulgence. The evening starts in the lobby lounge, where a personal concierge offers you specialty libations or champagne from a custom-made bar cart.
Promptly at 7 p.m. (there’s only one seating per night, Thursdays-Sundays), you are escorted in a dark, theatrically anointed room, with an intricately designed Silver Bough-themed table as the focal point. Handcrafted and modeled after a voluminous Ginkgo tree, completed with painted brass butterflies and a glass top, the table—as well as the dishes, silverware, candelabras and serving pieces—was custom designed by award-winning American artist Michael Aram. Here the overture for the journey officially begins, with the host acting as narrator, guiding guests through the story of The Silver Bough and correspondingly gorgeous canapes that are almost too beautiful to eat—but I force myself, to the delight of my taste buds.
At the end of the canape courses, a curtain I didn’t notice before is dramatically opened, revealing the main stage, a 16-foot, kitchen-facing Brazilian Quartzite chef’s counter, with Owner/Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee and his team of chefs there to greet us. There are from three to five executive-level chefs at your service on any given night.
Each chapter in the main room starts out with an introduction of the ingredients. Act 1, the seafood chapter, previews a platter of moving King Crab legs, live spiny lobster, sea urchin, caviar and more.
The theme—that guests are to be treated royally—is impressively executed, as we watch Chef Lee and his team prepare each dish as if it were a precious work of art. Indeed, this meal is probably museum worthy. With the precision of a jeweler, Chef Lee adds gold leaf to the Sturgeon Caviar, which sits atop a gorgeous concoction of Lobster Gelee, Hazelnut Cream and Smoked Eel.
And, in a dramatic dance that takes place for each of the 18 courses, the chefs have mastered impressive choreography to ensure that each dish gets to each patron (along with thoughtfully selected wine or nonalcoholic beverage pairings) at precisely the same moment. Additional seafood dishes, each more incredible than the next, include Live Spiny Lobster Tartare, topped with local Sea Urchin and puffed quinoa; Pommes Souffle stuffed with Lobster innards whipped with Crème Fraiche, and topped with Sea Urchin and Carnations; and Vermillion Crudo. The Act 1 finale, which includes almost every ingredient used in the seafood chapter, is a delicious preparation of lightly grilled King Crab in sea urchin emulsion, with sourdough bread crumbs and caviar.
Act 2, an equally impressive series of land-based courses, is again introduced with a peek at the ingredients, including Kings Pigeon from Flying H Ranch in Carpinteria, Olive Wagyu Ribeye, pasture-raised venison, caviar and an abundance of truffles.
Dishes include Kings Pigeon Breast with Pistachio Crust; a Liver Tartlette with a tasty Mini-Parker House Roll; a Kings Pigeon Leg. Both the Aged Venison Saddle with brown butter Roasted Chestnuts and the Venison Tenderloin with butter roasted Chantrelles smell every bit as terrific as they taste. In fact, the whole dining room is designed for amazing aromatics. Despite the huge number of courses, each one continued to dazzle both my eyes and my nose.
While I hesitate to choose a favorite in a menu so filled with delights, perhaps with most memorable dishes were the two made with Legendary Olive Wagyu Ribeye. According to Chef Lee, the Silver Bough is only restaurant in the world to have this beef, and it’s no wonder. Billed as “the rarest steak on the planet,” it currently retails for more than $200 a pound and is sourced via Santa Barbara resident Ethan Lowry, co-owner of the online meat seller Crowd Cow.
A mouthwatering cheese course of Andazul Goat’s Milk Blue with Fried Sourdough, Warm honey and Black Truffle bridges the savory and the sweet worlds with amazing flavors.
The Act 3 finale, the domain of talented Pastry Chef Margarita Kallas-Lee, who is married to Chef Frankland Lee, begins with a Citrus vanilla Tea emulsion combining blood orange sorbet with basil blossoms and black lime. Additional jewel box-worthy dessert courses include the Strawberry Duck Liver Mousse, a Chamomile Custard with Shaved Truffles, Candied Bee Pollen and 24k Gold Leaf, and literally, a jewel box of Mignardises, comprised of a Kalamansi Pate de Fruit, a Blood Orange Pate de Fruit, a Strawberry-Creme Fraiche Bon Bon and a Tarragon-Buttermilk Bon Bon.
Not quite ready to end such an enchanted evening, the chefs invite us to continue to imbibe and enjoy after-dinner drinks and aperitifs with the team, which was quite fun and the perfect capper to an amazing culinary experience.
The all-inclusive tasting menu has a ticket price of $550/person, with a non-alcoholic specialty pairing available for $450/person (both inclusive of tax and gratuity). Obviously, this price point isn’t something most of us can indulge in every day, but I’m hopeful that a one-of-a-kind, gastronomic, theatrical experience like this will find its audience.
For more information, visit silverboughmontecito.com.
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 1, 2019.
Ma’s visit to Santa Barbara — which includes a free, open-to-the-public, master class with UC Santa Barbara students, and the above-mentioned lecture, “Culture, Understanding and Survival” — marks a high point for the program.
“Our relationship with Yo-Yo is very special,” said Celesta M. Billeci, A&L’s Miller McCune Executive Director. “I think it’s unique to any program in the country, and I can say with confidence he has a very special relationship with us.” That relationship, she added, extends to Chancellor Henry T. Yang and his wife, Dilling.
This season, A&L has also co-commissioned a project with the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble, founded by Ma in 1998. The genre-defying global musicians will perform the world premiere of “Take Their Stands” Friday, April 26, at the Granada.
“This is really research in action in the arts,” Billeci said. “We gave the money to this ensemble to create new work. They’ve created five new pieces they will premiere and will tour all over the world. And we did this here at UCSB. So that’s a real testament to the quality of this program and to being a leader in the arts.”
During the week prior to their performance, the musicians will be on campus working with students in the music, dance and religious studies departments and in the Givertz School of Education.
For example, Silkroad members Haruka Fuji and Sandeep Das will conduct a lecture/demonstration and Kayhan Kalhor will conduct a Dastgah practicum in world music; Kojiro Umezaki and Cristina Pato will hold a workshop with Gevirtz School of Education student teachers; Ahmad Sadri and Wu Tong will lead a meet-the-artist conversation on Asian religious traditions; and Aparna Ramaswamy will share Bharatnatyam dance traditions with students in the theater and dance department.
Education, Billeci stressed, is at the heart of A&L’s programming. “Its purpose is to really be intertwined with the academic program and be a supplement for the academic experience of students on this campus,” she said. “It’s not peripheral; it’s definitely to the core of the academic mission.”
To that end, Billeci, Associate Director Roman Baratiak and their team, particularly program manager Heather Silva, work closely with academic departments and individual faculty members to set priorities for the types of lectures and performances they bring to campus. “The speakers and artists we bring are not just coming here and doing their public presentation,” explained Caitlin O’Hara, A&L writer and publicist. “They’re going to campus for class events or master classes. They’re very heavily enmeshed in the campus as part of their stay.”
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s recent visit is a prime example. Prior to her public lecture she met with honors students from the College of Letters and Science. “Frankly, I think some of our speakers are shocked at how much we expect them to do,” Baratiak quipped.
“We also present a lot of free events for students,” added Billeci, noting the recent concert with ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro in Storke Plaza. “This is the second time we’ve had him do that. He did it before and the students went nuts for him. They just love him. And he just loves them. He’s a great ambassador for our program and for music overall.”
Plans to bring performers to A&L are often in the works years ahead of time. With the dance series, for instance, Billeci meets with faculty members several times throughout the year to understand who they are interested in having come to campus. Professors and lecturers often build class visits into their curricula, and when these companies perform, hundreds of students are in the audience.
“On our lecture side, our education coordinator will reach out to academic departments and individual faculty members and say, ‘Here’s an opportunity,’” explained Baratiak. They can elect to send their students to an event or, if time can be spared in the performer’s or presenter’s schedule, he or she might meet with students. “We have collaborations with the College of Creative Studies, the writing program, pretty much most departments,” he added.
“I think we’ve got one of the most exciting and interesting public lecture programs in the country,” said Baratiak, whose 40-year tenure with the program began when he was a student at UC Santa Barbara. “So it’s obviously something that I think all of us are proud of here at A&L.”
Baratiak is particularly enthusiastic, he added, about the annual free summer film series presented at the Santa Barbara Courthouse in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture.
The truth is, over the last 60 years, A&L has enabled Santa Barbara audiences to spend time with some incredible individuals and performers: Upton Sinclair, Robert Oppenheimer, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Allen Ginsberg and The Dalai Lama (on three separate occasions), to name a few.
In addition to Yo-Yo Ma, A&L has more recently brought to the local stage Joan Baez, Trevor Noah, Laurie Anderson, Gloria Steinem, Bill T. Jones, the NYC Ballet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Sonny Rollins and Twyla Tharp.
A&L also presented talks by Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai (“We were the only university in the country that got that date,” Billeci pointed out) and comedian Jon Stewart (“We presented him to 5,000 students in the Thunderdome”), and a concert by alumnus Jack Johnson, who performed at Harder Stadium.
The talk by former vice president Joe Biden at the Arlington Theater also stands out. “We were doing a free simulcast for students on the campus, and as soon as it ended he jumped in the car and came to campus to meet with the students who’d watched the simulcast,” recalled O’Hara. “He sat and talked with them. I’ve had so many students talk to me and say how impactful that was.”
Similarly, a recent — and free — lecture by Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, also was a high point for students, according to O’Hara. So many students wanted to hear her talk that simulcasts to overflow rooms were required to accommodate them.
“If you go back 60 years,” Billeci remarked, “this program is really really amazing.”
On the community outreach side, the A&L initiative dearest to Billeci’s heart is ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! The program offers free performances and educational activities to students, at-risk youth and families in Santa Barbara County. “We have made the long-term commitment to bring high quality arts — not average or mediocre — the very best in music and dance to these communities and to the folks who live there,” Billeci said.
Putting on more than 100 events every year is a team effort, and Billeci is quick to credit the contributions of A&L staff, which includes roughly 75 work-study students. “Often Roman and I get a lot of credit, but this does not work without the amazing group of people that make this machine move,” she said. “For the size of this program — a nationally respected, top-five program in the country — this group of people is so dedicated and so hard working and it’s my privilege and my pleasure to work with them every day.”
More information about A&L, including and a schedule of events, is available at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.
Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on April 19, 2019.
Photos by Jordan Duggan
Despite the global sophistication of its residents, the spirit of small town American is alive and well in Montecito’s low key, charming upper village. While last year’s twin disasters wrecked heartbreaking havoc both personally and professionally, they also helped create an appreciative climate of reflection and gratitude for the simple joys of greeting neighbors and supporting local businesses. What better time to pay them a visit than during the holiday season.
East Valley Road carves a graceful path through the heart of the village, where several clusters of retail businesses and service providers make their homes on both the mountain and ocean sides of the street. The porch of the Montecito Coffee Shop/San Ysidro Pharmacy and the fountain patio of Pierre Lafond Montecito Market are both great spots to catch up on the latest scuttlebutt or watch the world go by. Other fine eateries include Pane e Vino, Via Vai Trattoria Pizzeria and Montecito Wine Bistro, as well as food purveyors like Montecito Village Grocery and Village Cheese & Wine (which reportedly kept the doors open and locals who didn’t evacuate fed throughout the nearly three weeks that Montecito was clamped down in a post-flood mandatory evacuation).
Shopping for unique items is a pleasure at Imagine Artful Things, a beautiful gem of a store that defies categorization. Trust us, you’re sure to find distinctive gifts for the home as well as everyone on your list (including yourself). Other notable art, gifts and home good dealers in the area include Upstairs at Pierre Lafond (with everything from home dècor, to tabletop pieces and gorgeous local artwork), The Stationery Collection, Tecolote Book Shop (complete with a lovely grassy outdoor area to pull up a seat if you just can’t wait to dig into the latest bestseller), Village Frame & Gallery, Clare Swan Clothing & Travel and Jenni Kayne Home & Apparel.
An impressive number of antique stores are in the area, including Josephine’s Antiques, Davis & Taft Antiques, Country House Antiques, Carty & Carty Antiques, Brostrom Antiques, William Lahman Furniture (a charming mix of antiques, accessories and garden objects) and Haskell Antiques.
Stylish women’s fashions can be found at Juniper Women’s Boutique (the handmade belts are one-of-a-kind), Glamour House Intimate Apparel (which has beautiful nighties and PJs for holiday gifting), Giuliana Haute Couture, Julianne Boutique and two stores—Wendy Foster Clothing and Wendy Foster Sportswear—from Santa Barbara’s long-time doyenne of style.
Health and wellness salons include Skin Essentials, Dadiana, Beauty & Hair Salon and Mareva International. Jewelers in the village include Bryant & Sons Jewelers, Tresor Fine Jewelry & Collectibles, George Meta Jewelry and Oliver & Espig Gallery of Fine Arts.
In addition, there’s a wealth of services available in the upper village, including Automotive & Repair, Montecito Village Hardware, Sotheby’s International Realty (Sandy Stahl and an additional office), Wells Fargo Bank & Trust, ACI Jet, Blake Ashley Design, Montecito Executive Services, Montecito Library, Montecito Associates, Union Bank, Santa Barbara Travel Bureau, Elder Studio, Northern Trust (two offices), Coldwell Banker, Hogue & Co. Florists, House of Honey, American Riviera Bank and Gazebo Gardens.
In keeping with the small town retail vibe, many of these retailers are entirely owner run and operated, ensuring a
personal touch. Please call individual stores for hours of operation, as they can vary.
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.
On the hilltop overlooking the quaint western town of Los Alamos sits a midcentury modern gem of a new hotel—the Skyview Los Alamos. This boutique, 33-room property—including two spacious suites and 16 deluxe rooms with private decks with outdoor showers and fire pits—opened last spring, somehow managing to maintain the historic 1950’s motel vibe, while infusing it with equal helpings of modern conveniences and hipster coolness.
“We were inspired by the western roots of Los Alamos, the midcentury architecture of the motel, and our love of travel,” explains Kimberly Walker, managing partner and co-owner of Skyview Los Alamos.
“Skyview was built in 1959 and changed hands quite a few times over the years,” says Walker. “At one point, locals used to be able to swim in the pool for 25 cents! We’ve heard many people say the Beatles stayed in room 33 at some point.”
Like many others (myself included), Walker had driven past the motel for years and wondered what it was. “We always saw the motel sign going, ‘oh, what is that on the hill?’ But we fell in love with Los Alamos, the food, the wine and the people. When the motel went up for sale, we moved on it quickly. We purchased the property in 2016 and spent two years renovating the motel, sprucing up the grounds, updating the design and restoring its midcentury architecture. We also turned the former asphalt car park into communal native gardens with fire pits to create space for guests to relax and gather,” she explains.
The attention to detail is incredible. Guests are greeted with a cup of locally sourced Dart Coffee or a glass of local wine (and soon the 2.5-acre onsite Skyview Vineyards will yield their own Pinot Noir, overseen by winemaker Mikey Guigni of Scar of the Sea Wines).
Each room is its own bespoke design, with thoughtfully sourced and unique décor, including flat panel televisions, down duvets, leather club chairs and marble-clad bathrooms with hand-painted tiles and farm sinks, as well as luxury amenities such as locally made Fable Soap products in the bathroom and Abba-Zabba candy, Good Zebra munchies and Casamigos Tequila in the mini-bar.
“We completely designed the property ourselves,” says Walker. “My partner, Mike Kyle, oversaw the architectural design and I oversaw the interior design. This is our second project together as a design team—the first was Granada Hotel & Bistro in San Luis Obispo. As with the property in SLO, we let the building’s location and heritage guide the process. We’re proud and excited to have brought it back to its 1950’s glory.”
A large part of that glory is the restoration of the original 1950’s era pool, with the iconic neon “Motel” sign casting its glow over water that changes color from green to silver to purple and two shades of blue, with the help of an app. The ownership group, known as Nomada Hotel Group, took care to retain many of the motel’s original elements, like the quirky cactus columns in the porte-cochere, and the actual room keys instead of key cards. A fleet of Linus bikes offers a nostalgic way to explore the downtown area of Los Alamos—which is rapidly becoming a haven for foodies—as well as the surrounding wineries
Forest green doors with a midcentury golden starburst beckon guests to pay a visit to Norman—the excellent full-service bar and restaurant named with a wink to Psycho’s Norman Bates. Norman is well worth the drive on its own, and serves local wines, herb-infused cocktails and farm-fresh fare (think shareable plates and lots of salads, fish and house-smoked meats) both poolside and in the retro-chic reinvented dining room.
The dog-friendly property is a great spot for a romantic getaway but would also be a fun place to gather with a group of friends for a special occasion or just a weekend hangout.
SKYVIEW LOS ALAMOS, 9150 US-101, LOS ALAMOS,
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.