Making a Mark in the Sand
By Martha McCully
Before Santa Monica was a destination for global travelers, before GQ dubbed Abbot Kinney “the coolest block in America,” and long before the title “Silicon Beach” was coined, there was a quiet ribbon- cutting ceremony for a new luxury hotel where Pico Boulevard meets the Pacific Ocean. On June 8, 1993, Shutters on the Beach welcomed its first overnight guests.
What was always there is so intrinsic to the property that it is actually part of the hotel’s name: the beach. Shutters on the Beach is one of two hotels in Santa Monica that are literally situated on the sand, a few magical steps from the awe-inspiring Pacific Ocean. “You are either on the ocean or you are not,” says Klaus Mennekes, Vice President and Managing Director of Edward Thomas Collection Hotels.
Growing up in the hotel business and knowing the importance of location, hotel owners Thomas and Edward Slatkin, jumped at the chance to acquire the beachfront property. Their family owned the Beverly Hills Hotel for three generations. Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar (across the cul-de-sac) are still family- owned and operated, a rare occurrence in the hotel business today.
“Shutters is the quintessential beachfront home,” explains Mennekes. That’s exactly what gives this jewel its unique brand of comfort. The Slatkins brought in Mennekes and a small team to create the feeling of that upscale home, perhaps located on the shore Nantucket or in the Hamptons.
Food and interior design consultant Jim Smith, was another part of the opening creative team and still oversees “anything that has to do with the five senses,” he says. From the nametag-less non-uniform staff uniforms, to the Old Man and the Sea on each bedside table, there are so many original touches that add up to the unique Shutters experience, from then till now.
The lobby features a low ceiling and intimate seating arrangements of overstuffed sofas, cozy fireplaces, a museum quality contemporary fine art collection and vintage photos of classic California beach scenes courtesy of the Santa Monica Historical Society.
In the guest rooms, white washed walls are complemented with high thread count white linens and duvets on the bed (a new concept 25 years ago). The hotel’s boutique sold, and still sells, beachy items more in line with a fashionable Santa Monica store than a hotel gift shop. And the restaurants, 1 Pico and Coast (known at opening as Pedals) compete with the top restaurants in Los Angeles.
Over the years, Shutters has continued to enhance the upscale beach house feeling. The Slatkins selected interior designer Michael S. Smith and his penchant for relaxed residential luxe that translated into even more homey comforts.
Hardwood floors are now showcased by elegant area rugs with a relaxed feel instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. And, of course, every room has sliding shutters on the windows inside, most of which open onto balconies. There are even two tickets to ride the iconic Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier in every room.
A fluffy beach towel rests at the end of every tub, rolled and ready for the quick trip to the sand. The iconic small rubber whale mascot, originally placed in rooms as an ode to the seasonal whale-watching that occurs from the hotel’s deck, is still there and available to take home as a reminder of your stay.
The exterior looks more like a beach house, with its East Coast cedar-style shingles and painted white pergolas. There is a Beach Activities Center stocked with bikes, and guests ride the bike path south to the Venice boardwalk or north to the Bel Air Bay Club.
The Pier and Ferris Wheel, with their kaleidoscope lights, serve as a focal point of the view from Shutters. The rest of the view is taken up by the infinite expanse of ocean. Shutters’ uniqueness has everything to do with its location. “Being by the ocean just creates a calm, relaxing environment,” says Mennekes.
So how do you celebrate a luxury hotel’s 25th birthday? By giving guests even more of what they love. A custom chocolate bar made exclusively for Shutters by local chocolatier Compartes as an ode to the famous Shutters Sundae, is full of salted caramel corn, brownie chunks, caramel and hot fudge. A new al fresco Rosé and Champagne Bar for afternoon sipping of a private label Shutters Rosé, created by Champagne House of Pommery will welcome guests. ONE, the Spa at Shutters, is introducing nail polishes in Shutters iconic yellow and blue are being created by Lauren B. Even the Shutters logo will say ‘Happy Birthday’ with a soft yellow balloon tied to the iconic hand- drawn Adirondack chair originally conceived by San Francisco fine artist Mauricio Arias.
“It’s the soul of Shutters that draws people back,” explains Laura McIver, Shutters General Manager., “We are constantly doing our best to remain relevant and evolve as people’s needs change.”
The low-key comfort of Shutters on the Beach — from the touch of the sheets to the warm welcome by the staff, many who have been opening the door there since 1993 — is what brings that soul to life every day. More than the feeling of being a guest in someone’s great beach home, it’s the feeling actually being home that pulls you back.
The first photo released to announce the first hotel in LA on the sand.
Shutters 25th Birthday Special Edition Logo.