Now Playing

Visual Feast

Designer Michael S. Smith whips up a fresh look for Hotel Casa del Mar’s new restaurant, Terrazza.

Renowned decorator Michael S. Smith­ with his dog, Jasper, in one of his interiors

When a designer turns your hotel into one of the most iconic destinations in the state, it only makes sense to ask him back for the next project. So it was for ETC Hotels, which first enlisted Michael S. Smith for the 2005 redesign of Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. The group also owns neighboring Hotel Casa del Mar and recently asked Smith to re-envision one of the historic property’s dining rooms. Smith couldn’t say no. Aside from a friendly rapport with the hoteliers, “My office is only five blocks away!” he delights.

The space, being rechristened as Terrazza, is just one of a handful of restaurant designs by Smith, a California native, who studied interior design at Otis and worked with icons like Gep Durenberger and John Saladino before launching his own firm in 1990. Aside from myriad international projects, numerous awards and four books (his latest, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design, was published by Rizzoli last spring), there’s that other well-known commission, the White House, which he designed for the Obama family in 2009. For a designer who logs an awful lot of airline miles, going local was a refreshing prospect.

“The owners have a great family tradition of being invested in their work,” explains Smith. This time around, they wanted a “beachy, more romantic” look and took their cues from renowned hotels like Il Pellicano in Italy. The resulting design is Californian in spirit but Mediterranean in feel: trestle tables, tiles, Venetian-style sconces—all in a palette of sea and sand. “It’s the Italian Riviera cousin of Shutters,” Smith says with a laugh. See—and taste—for yourself this February, when Terrazza swings open its doors. 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica

No. 8 Lighting; Siemon & Salazar handblown glass objects; Concha Buika; Savant home automation; Torres Grans Muralles, 2009

Being super-negative and doing a list of nots!