A little Paris chic and Manhattan cool descend upon a downtown landmark.
Gather with friends around this secluded lobby room with unique artwork adorning the walls.
Born and raised in San Diego, Alvin Mansour grew up playing hoops and hanging out at the YMCA. He ended up on a fast track to success, becoming a power broker in commercial real estate with a Forbes 30 under 30 nod along the way. After some serious travel time in Europe and moving downtown, he developed a strong passion for urban real estate—favoring buildings with character and stories behind them. “I used to walk by the YMCA building on my way to work in Little Italy and it reminded me a lot of the old historic buildings in Europe and my childhood,” reflects Mansour. So when he found out the dilapidated 1924 armed services YMCA landmark was for sale, he made it his mission, he says, to “bring it back to life and create the crown jewel of downtown San Diego.” And while it was an incredible undertaking of time, effort and funds to restore and transform The Guild Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio into an upscale boutique hotel, Mansour didn’t mind, as he was in it for the long haul, wanting to create a legacy for his family and give back to the community. Mansour’s next slam-dunk was hiring designer Sormeh Rienne, the Swedish-born L.A. talent who dove deep into the building’s past, spending hours at the San Diego Historical Society. There, she discovered old black-and-white photos of the YMCA that now grace the freshly painted walls, offering a nostalgic glimpse of the storied building’s bygone days. Her time in Scandinavia molded her into an “experiential designer” who likes to create spaces that are sensory and celebrate the moments where people come together while also delivering “a sense of pause.” The subtle red, white and blue color schemes (and that of the reception area) are a soft nod to the YMCA’s armed services connection. A framed tattered blueprint of the building, discovered during demolition, hangs next to an alcove with protruding ceramic hands and hanging greenery. A handsome Brazilian leathered quartzite bar anchors the lobby—a lovely spot for a Guild Old-Fashioned with blood orange liquor. The bar’s homey backdrop, which feels more like a bookcase than bottle display, ushers in the former era with old books, vintage vases and historic photos.
The reception area is the perfect entertaining hot spot with a long bar and ample seating areas.
Rienne also succeeds in evoking her desired “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere in Europe” feeling in both the bar and magical dining scene at Luca, cleverly named for the patron saint of artists. An homage to Mansour’s favorite, Hôtel Costes, the hipster hangout in Paris’ first arrondissement where celebs and glitterati fill its umbrella-clad courtyard to enjoy dinner, DJs and decadence, Luca reflects this sexy Paris-chic-meets-Riviera vibe with its black-and-white umbrellas, lounge-y sofas, rose gold gooseneck lights and house beats. Here, chef Justin Vaiciunas serves up unpretentious modern Mediterranean cuisine with flair, and the flash Euro vibe carries on with Veuve Thursdays with DJs and Champagne carts, Rosé All Day Saturdays and Sultry Sangria Sundays for brunch.
Enjoy a refreshing cocktail and the San Diego sun in the black-and-white-hued outdoor courtyard.
Mansour’s former basketball court has been reimagined as the Grace Ballroom, with the mezzanine-level running track and original bricks intact, now painted white as a serene slate for weddings, yoga classes or celebrations. It spills out to the Grace Gardens, where guests can enjoy warm nights under the market lights and skyscrapers. Original ceramic blue stairway tile leads downstairs to the modern gym and Society Ballroom that was once the Y’s pool—its carpet echoing the movement of water and its walls dotted with historic photos. The 161 minimalist guest rooms, named for guilds like Society, Apprentice and Journeyman, are soothing shades of army green and navy blue with New York City-style black-and-white tiled bathrooms. Riffing further on the artisan guilds concept, Rienne discovered some of San Diego’s lost artists from the ’20s and ’30s and dedicated wall space to tell their stories in the guest rooms. Her two-suited penthouse feels like a design-forward NYC pad with its custom olive green sofa, gorgeous built-in bar with vintage glassware, green-fringed gold light fixture, vintage leather dining chairs and rad Renaissance feast wallpaper in the bathroom.
The penthouse living room features vintage-inspired light fixtures as well as blue- and green- hued furniture.
The suites’ bathrooms boast New York City-style black-and-white tiling.
And while Mansour entrusted Rienne to singlehandedly design the hotel, the two worked tirelessly together to preserve and elevate this piece of San Diego’s history. “I am honored to think that I have staked my claim in the lineage of designers and architects that have had their hand in an iteration of this building,” says Rienne, who now makes San Diego her home. “The building itself is a piece of art,” adds Mansour. 500 W. Broadway, theguildhotel.com
A nook in the lobby with an all-velvet custom seating area is ideal for settling in with a glass of wine and great book in hand.
Designer Sormeh Rienne’s Favorite Elements
• The hotel’s natural stone tops sourced from far and near
• The lobby’s all-velvet custom seating, “which I was fortunate to design, as it afforded me full artistic control of color and texture.”
• Merging the old with the new and celebrating the history by highlighting the arches and ceilings, and creating contrast with the historic columns, as well integrating the tile and track of the Grace Ballroom.
Alvin Mansour’s Favorite Elements
• The Guild Bar, which is the heartbeat of the property
• Italian Renaissance architecture of the exterior and restored terra-cotta stone
• The seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces
Photography by: Dylan + Jeni; Patio photo by Haley Hill Photography