Acting as a quiet retreat outside of Los Angeles, the Nobu Ryokan Malibu has debuted within the former Casa Malibu, a 1950s beach motel on the shores of California. Spanning two stories and 16 rooms, the boutique concept was inspired by omotenashi (the Japanese art of hospitality) and owner Larry Ellison’s passion for Japanese culture, mirroring the minimalist inn-style aesthetic of ryokans and translated with a contemporary eye.
The redesign was spearheaded by Montalba Architects along with Studio PCH for construction design and Todd-Avery Lenahan’s TAL Studio for the interior guestroom, lobby, circulation areas, and ocean deck design. Shawmut Design and Construction, C.W. Eisner, and Nikita Khan also contributed to the project. “The word renovation doesn’t speak to the magnitude of what this was,” explains the Las Vegas-based firm’s founder Lenahan. Indeed, none of the architectural features from the original hotel is present in the update, he adds.
The open layout conveys simple lines that allow the understated materials, including limestone, bronze, and teak, to accentuate the golden sand and blue skies of the location. Natural materials and an organic palette of ivory, honey, and blond is injected at points with moss green and hints of olive to contrast the environment. “With the interiors, I really wanted guests to feel an incredible sense of serenity and one of decompression,” says Lenahan. “I want them to feel a lightness in their state of mind.”
Along with custom bedding, traditional Japanese elements like sand-hued limestone walls and custom tatami mats that Lenahan had created for the project in guestrooms honor the origin of the lodging style without sacrificing modern luxury. “We had an interesting challenge in that in a traditional Japanese ryokan the sleeping actually occurs on the floor on tatami mats,” he explains, “but we certainly had to accommodate the Western sensibilities for the sleep experience.”
Bathrooms boast handcrafted teak soaking tubs as well as Jerusalem Gold bath chambers and oversized skylights to maximize the setting’s boundless sunshine. Private balconies attached to each guestroom offer respite from the street, while Douglas fir ceiling beams and walls wrapped in custom Thai silk create “nuanced moments and experiences throughout the design,” he says. “The things that speak the most loudly here are subtlety, restraint, quiet elegance, and reserve.”
The property’s tranquil ambiance creates “a beautiful sense of removal from the larger dynamic qualities of the Los Angeles area,” Lenahan points out. “It is located on a magical edge, where land and sea meet, in a wonderful serene cocoon that creates a complete private and discrete getaway.”