First look at California's Hotel San Luis Obispo

Hotel San Luis Obispo, Piazza Hospitality’s newest hotel, has opened in California’s Central Coast enclave of San Luis Obispo.

Located among historic buildings near the restored Mission, Hotel San Luis Obispo reflects Central Coast’s rugged ranch and relaxed coastal influences throughout its architecture and interior design, created by Gensler. (Chris Harrelson served as the lead architect for the hotel.)

Hotel San Luis Obispo’s bohemian-chic lobby has a wood ceiling over the S.low Bar fireplace lounge. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a custom-made three-dimensional cut paper piece by artist and anthropologist Matthew Picton. The art presents the history of San Luis Obispo, incorporating several findings from the hotel’s own site excavations.

A parade of steel columns divides the ground floor into a reception area on one side and a bar lounge on the other. The lobby has concrete floors, a blackened steel reception desk and fireplace, and a granite topped bar. Live-edge walnut slab coffee tables with brass “SLO” inlaid letters are a signature feature of the arrival space. Moroccan-inspired rugs, and leather lounge chairs are also available at the ground floor spaces. Above it all, a ceiling of floating, triangular oak panels reference the ridgeline of the Seven Sisters Peaks to the west of town.

Incorporating History

Chinese influences are fused into the design to pay homage to the hotel’s original Chinatown location that served California’s largest Chinese community beginning in 1870. The property’s entrance sign represents a Chinese Moon Gate passage and features a living wall by Cal Poly alumnus and living wall artist David Brenner of Habitat Horticulture. An original, recently restored Chop Suey neon sign from the Shanghai Low restaurant that occupied part of the historic site for decades, adds a pop of color to the facade. 

When guests arrive on Morro Street, they are greeted by a cobble-and flagstone-paved motor court landscaped with olive trees, native grasses and succulents. Exterior materials include stucco, Chinese-inspired terra cotta baguette tiles, and Corten steel that has been fabricated in a traditional Chinese cracked glass motif encasing the glass bridge between hotel wings.  

Hotel San Luis Obispo has numerous outdoor areas, including a public courtyard highlighted by outdoor couches, teak chaise lounges and firepits by Harbor Outdoors. A public terrace adjacent to the meeting and event spaces overlooks the courtyard and includes Kettal lounge furnishing. Walking pathways and San Luis Obispo’s paseos bisect the property’s garden courtyard and connect the hotel to shopping and dining destinations on Monterey Street.

Inspired by the surrounding beaches, vineyards, ranch lands and volcanic mountains, Gensler incorporated a palette of natural colors and materials throughout Hotel San Luis Obispo. The property’s 78 rooms and suites include furnishings and artwork from regional artists inspired by the area’s ranch and beach lifestyle. The balconies have views of the downtown buildings, hotel gardens, and surrounding Seven Sisters Peaks. Sliding glass doors grant access to the suites’ outdoor terraces.  

Hotel San Luis Obispo’s guestrooms have white oak floors and headboards, leather and brass sconces by Lostine, mustard-colored throw blankets upcycled from t-shirt trimmings, hand-woven Nani Marquina rugs, and pouffe ottomans by Donna Wilson for SCP. Bathrooms have glass walk-in showers, with select rooms offering freestanding soaking tubs. Several pieces of custom art adorning the rooms include molded wood sculptural knots and squiggles above each bed by Bay Area artist Katie Gong, and a variety of original artwork from Cal Poly Professor of Art, Sara Frantz capturing some of the city’s iconic sites.


Two onsite restaurants, Piadina and Ox + Anchor, are located on either side of the hotel’s entrance. 

Piadina’s design draws inspiration from California’s beach bonfires with interior shades of light ash wood and terra cotta colors intermixed. The restaurant has seating for up to 112, comprised of a combination of wooden booths and banquettes upholstered in Colorfield Textile by Hella Jongerius from Maharam, and four tables joined into one communal table in the entrance. Circuit Board, a large woven and knotted rope piece by Windy Chien ornaments the main dining wall, while a sculptural light fixture, Palindrome, designed by Rich Brilliant Willing emits a warm glow over the banquette seating. 

Ox + Anchor is an updated interpretation on the classic steakhouse, providing a relaxed fine-dining experience for up to 124 guests. The main dining area has earth tones and textures including brick, white oak tables with brass inlay, chairs and booths upholstered in saddle leather, hints of muted teal and lighting in polished brass.  For patrons that enjoy al fresco seating, Ox + Anchor has teak furnishings by Andreu World. The Wine Library adjacent to the main dining area provides an intimate space for private dining featuring a custom white oak table designed to seat 14.  A custom iron wine storage displays the unique collection of wine, while the Forchette 12 ceramic and brass chandelier by Materia provides lighting in the space.

Fence Post cacti line a pedestrian walkway leading from the courtyard to Hotel San Luis Obispo’s Sol Spa. The spa, named after the Latin (and Spanish) word for sun, is adjacent to the garden courtyard. There are private treatment rooms, salt saunas, and a relaxation space.  Inspired by the nearby sea, the entrance of SOL Spa has encaustic sea portals made by local artist Julie Brookman.  The Relaxation Lounge is adorned with an installation of custom glass vessels in pale hues, a hand-woven rug from ABC Carpet & Home and Vitis 7, a draped modular chandelier by Rich Brilliant Willing. The spa also has an outdoor space surrounded by sheer curtains, seating by Kettal and Harbour Outdoors, and an outdoor woven rug by Perennials.

For events, Hotel San Luis Obispo has nearly 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event spaces. Options range from board rooms and the Wine Library for smaller gatherings, to the grand ballroom and the Rooftop Terrace for groups of up to 240 people for meetings and up to 300 for events. The main event hall, The Seven Sisters Ballroom, has tall French doors that open to an outdoor terrace with views of Mission-style rooftops, native pines and San Luis Mountain. The ballroom has a pre-function space that opens onto the hotel’s garden courtyard with a variety of leather and fabric lounge seating from Herman Miller Collection and Patricia Urquiola for Sancal. Hung at different heights are a grouping of white Flamingo Pendant lights by Vibia. A nine-foot original painting by Sarah Winkler featuring the surrounding Seven Sisters mountains is at one end of the room.

For sustainability, the property has refill stations throughout the hotel, and charging stations for electric vehicles. 

Photo credit: Tanveer Badal