Carmel’s La Playa Hotel Stages a Hollywood-Worthy Remodel Debut

Carmel’s La Playa Hotel recently debuted its $15 million makeover during a weekend long celebration of red carpet events attended by notable locals and some of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces. The spirited fête began with a Friday night champagne reception overlooking the Pacific, hosted in partnership with Visit Carmel, followed by a seated sunset farm-to-table supper prepared by James Beard Award-winner and New York Times bestselling author and chef Andy Baraghani. Saturday night’s festivities found the 75 room hotel as a backdrop for Los Angeles’ IAMA Theatre Company and its original production of “The Last Bohemian,” written expressly for the event by IAMA ensemble artist Christian Durso and directed by Eli Gonda.

Los Angeles’ IAMA Theatre Company Ensemble readies for their La Playa Hotel immersive production of “The Last Bohemian.”
Erin Cahill, Erin Cardillo, Lara Myrene, Amy Rosoff Davis, Victoria Lerner, Cara Greene Epstein, Cymbre Sklar, Jason Sklar, Eduardo Penteado, Katie Lowes, and Adam Shapiro enjoy Saturday night’s black tie revelry.

Marc & Rose Hospitality, owner of La Playa, joined forces with IAMA to transform the hotel into an interactive stage, curating a brand new immersive theater experience to resurrect the offbeat, halcyon days of Carmel’s founding. Guests witnessed a night of theatrical intrigue and romance during the extravagant black tie, seaside soirée that allowed attendees to turn back the clock with a visit to 20th century Carmel. Featuring a series of five immersive scenes performed throughout the hotel, the production celebrated the property’s roots as a Bohemian paradise in telling the story of two young lovers’ unconventional wedding celebration one winter’s evening in 1907.

Sonal Shah, Parvesh Cheena, and Christian Durso perform the final wedding scene in “The Last Bohemian.”
“The Last Bohemian” playwright Christian Durso and director Eli Gonda

IAMA Theatre Company was founded 16 years ago by a group of friends including actress Katie Lowes (Scandal and Inventing Anna), her husband, actor Adam Shapiro (Never Have I Ever, The Affair, The Bear, and The Continental), and Stefanie Black who serves as the ensemble’s artistic director. In 2016, Shonda Rhimes came on board as their Patron of the Arts. Described as “a small theater company that does big things,” IAMA and its award-winning ensemble of Los Angeles based artists are committed to cultivating new voices, creating new work that pushes boundaries and takes risks, and building an inclusive community that inspires and supports a new generation of theatre-makers and audiences. Designated by Playbill as “one of 20 regional houses every theater lover must know,” IAMA has produced more than 28 World Premieres of new plays as well as numerous West Coast and Los Angeles premieres.

IAMA Theatre Company founders Adam Shapiro and wife Katie Lowes with IAMA’s executive director Cara Greene Epstein

This was IAMA’s second commissioned immersive piece with Marc & Rose Hospitality. The first, contracted by Marc & Rose president John Grossman, was performed at the hospitality company’s High Country Motor Lodge in Flagstaff, AZ. So taken was Grossman with the performance, he invited the theatre company once again to create a bespoke play, original to La Playa’s founding story. IAMA’s Durso utilized as his muses the “King of Bohemia” George Sterling, poets Nora May French, Mary Austin, and writer Jack London, among many others, in penning his original tale.

Chef Andy Baraghani, executive director of Visit Carmel Amy Herzog, Marc & Rose president John Grossman, Ginna Grossman, and Anthony DeWitt enjoy the Friday night festivities.
Adam Shapiro and Patrick J. Adams celebrate Laila Ayad’s performance in “The Last Bohemian.” 

Additional notable guests attending the weekend’s events included Lewis Pullman (actor, Lessons in Chemistry and Top Gun: Maverick), Brooks Atwood (architect, interior designer, and TV personality), Guillermo Díaz (actor, Scandal), Patrick J. Adams (actor, Suits), Daniel Sunjata (actor, Rescue Me and Graceland), Evan Ross Katz (writer, editor, and podcast host), Sean Santiago (deputy editor, Elle Décor), Elise Taylor (lifestyle writer, Vogue), and Harrison Vail (director of communications, AIRMAIL).

Lewis Pullman and Katie Lowes catch up over dinner prepared by Chef Andy Baraghani
Jason Sklar, Jamie Davis, Amy Rosoff Davis, Margaux Susi, Cymbre Sklar, and Guillermo Díaz strike a pose upon Saturday night’s red carpet.
Chef Andy Baraghani, Evan Ross Katz, and Billy Jacobson 

Known as the Grand Dame of Carmel, La Playa Hotel has embraced the generous designation throughout its 100+ year history by celebrating its colorful past. Originally built in 1905 by artist Christian Jorgensen as a luxurious mansion for his chocolate heiress wife Angela Ghirardelli, La Playa once served as an artist studio for the couple and their Bohemian friends. Within just a few years, it was converted to a hotel, and has seen only five owners since its founding. Marc & Rose purchased the property shortly after its centennial in 2011, and led a renovation and reopening in 2012 prior to today’s vision as reimagined by award-winning design studio Post Company.

La Playa Hotel Lobby. Photo courtesy of Marc & Rose Hospitality
La Playa Hotel pool and grounds. Photo courtesy of Marc & Rose Hospitality

Today, the hotel stands as a testament to its storied past, artfully blending high-design and historical architectural details to continue its legacy as a sanctuary for new-age intellectuals and literati. Post Company reenergized the historic structure with current design, resulting in a warm and convivial environment where guests are welcome to celebrate and mingle as did the hotel’s past kindred spirits.

“Respecting the history and heritage of a place is at the heart of what we most value at Marc & Rose,” said Grossman. “Being the stewards of La Playa Hotel is an honor and a privilege that we don’t take lightly. With this remodel, we focused on letting the building lead us to a design that supports the stories of the past, while infusing thoughtful amenities to meet the expectations of the modern traveler.”

All photos by Jason Sean Weiss / unless otherwise noted

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.