In the 1930s, when Palm Springs visitors might have rolled into town humming “In the Mood” or “Cheek to Cheek,” the white Spanish-eclectic bungalows at La Serena Villas were a popular hideout for those seeking a leisurely romantic getaway.
The musical score of our lives has changed, but romance is alive and well again at this property on South Belardo Road in the neighborhood of Spencer’s Restaurant and The Tennis Club. Eighteen bungalows, recently restored and upgraded with luxury features, awaits a new generation of lovebirds.
“I grew up in Los Angeles and trips to Palm Springs were a big part of my childhood,” says Lars Viklund, who with his wife, Kelly, owns La Serena and the Del Marcos Hotel next door. “I always loved the architecture and charming feel of Palm Springs.”
VIDEO: View the restored and upgraded luxury features at La Serena Villas. (Video by Steven Salisbury)
Viklund says it’s been sad to see historic buildings torn down or left in states of disrepair in recent decades. “I feel lucky for the opportunity to rebuild this beautiful boutique hotel with [architect] May Sung.”
Sung, the co-founder of SUBU Design Architecture of Los Angeles, says Viklund and his wife Kelly brought her into the project after she worked on their home in L.A. The Viklunds also used her expertise on the restoration of the Del Marcos, originally built in 1947.
“What was fascinating to me was all the spaces between the bungalows,” Sung says of her first walk-through at La Serena. “I saw opportunities right away to create spaces and beautiful processions, so every time you turn a corner there’s something to surprise us.”
She calls the La Serena renovation “a dream project” thanks to “enlightened clients with great taste and a great general contractor.” It’s the first Class 1 historic property she has worked on. Avenue Interior Designs provided the furniture, materials, and finishes for the villas.
New amenities include a Mediterranean tapas restaurant, Azucar, with a rooftop deck that looks out upon Mount San Jacinto.
Situated at the western end of the pool is the on-site restaurant, Azucar.
Azucar is open to the public Friday through Sunday and will soon expand to serve breakfast and lunch to guests only. A quiet pool with a private massage pavilion is also new. Guests can soak in claw foot tubs and relax on private patios or around fire pits. Weddings of up to 100 people can be accommodated on the grounds.
“One of my inspirations was those small towns in Spain, where there are big public squares then intimate alleyways. There are different degrees of public, semi-private, and private spaces,” she says.
Along with the contractor, Sung set out to create those varying degrees of place. “You see this not only in the scale but also in the flooring,” she says. “We use concrete or cedar pebbles for different degrees of public and private spaces. We took advantage of a neighbor’s property, of the overhanging vines, so it has become a romantic walkway.”
Her goal, she says, was to create cohesion among what had originally been three different parcels. Sung wants people to feel warmth and to get lost and revel in romanticism. “I want them to be able to relax and feel transplanted to another era, another place,” she says. “It’s a world within a world; somewhere you go to forget your monthly bills.”
La Serena Villas, 339 S. Belardo Road, Palm Springs. 760-832-8044; laserenavillas.com.