In 1919, William Wrigley Jr. (yep, of Wrigley Gum and Chicago Cubs fame) fell in love with Catalina Island off Los Angeles. He was so taken with the beautiful island that he bought it and immediately made improvements to the public utilities, added steamships, expanded the greenery, and built Hotel Atwater, which opened its doors in 1920. This year, the property is not only celebrating its recent renovation, it also is celebrating its 100th birthday.
Biscayne Hospitality was fortunate to be involved in the 2019 renovation of the hotel’s interior. Led by Erin Wallin, Interior Designer, the project also featured collaboration among Geoff and Alison Wrigley Rusack, the visionary owners of the Catalina Island Company, design director Hector Gonzalez, and interior designer Mari Peralez. The team wanted Hotel Atwater to evoke the spirit of its namesake Helen Atwater Wrigley, who was Alison’s grandmother and the daughter-in-law of William Wrigley, Jr.
The entire hotel is inspired by the Art Deco age from the ‘20s infused with a beachy, Catalina vibe. The design team incorporated this theme into all of the spaces. In the lobby is a large communal table with seating for eight. It has faux bamboo legs under rose and green marble sourced from France and is complemented by brushed cane-back chairs.
The property’s 95 rooms were built in the 1920s so they are similar in size to European or New York hotel rooms. The design team sought out those locations for ideas and were inspired by European hotels for the smallest room type, the standard queen. Previously, the most common complaint hotel staff received was about the inefficient bathrooms.
As part of the renovation, the team streamlined the construction to make more efficient use of the entire space of each bathroom. This meant moving part the vanity into the room, thus reducing the size of bathroom to a water closet. Biscayne Hospitality and the Catalina Island Company design team collaborated to construct a vanity with glass panels and floating mirrors that serve as decorative elements while visually opening up the entire room to make it feel more spacious. “We found a lot of creative ways to make better use of the space we had to work with,” said Gonzalez. “I think the results speak for themselves.”
To brighten the room, the design team focused on adding natural and artificial light. The vanity has built-in pendants plus an overhead spotlight. The back side of vanity has a mirror that reflects natural light. Guests will also notice that the rooms are loaded with other mirrors and electrical outlets. “Our design took into account how different guests will use the rooms, including bachelorette parties and wedding parties,” said Wallin, the project’s design manager.
Another new addition is the custom wardrobe, which doubles as a closet and kitchenette. Throughout the year, Hotel Atwater hosts everyone from island adventurers to guests of the Conservancy Ball, so the wardrobe had to accommodate everything from wet suits to ballgowns.
Even the desk has unique features and proportions that you won’t find on a stock piece. The Biscayne Hospitality team adjusted the size of the drawers, added a luggage rack, and built a nesting table on casters that can be pulled out for more table space.
In addition to the opportunity to design and construct furniture for unique spaces, Biscayne Hospitality was presented with the challenge of delivering furniture to an island property. Our team, including our manufacturing manager, visited the property on multiple occasions to ensure that we understood the field site. Then, we engineered our products around those challenges.
The small room types required that we further consider how to fit the furniture through small spaces, including moving pieces down narrow hallways, into elevators, and upstairs. Finally, the glass mirrors were a complicated item that had to be designed for on-site assembly.
Planning a getaway this year? Consider Hotel Atwater on beautiful Catalina Island in California. While every room offers an exceptional guest experience, Wallin recommends Suite 344, with its amazing views and stunning bathroom.