Home Studios transforms historic Bay Area cult property into the modern Lodge at Marconi

Cult Classic

Inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi built a sprawling hotel in Northern California’s Marconi State Historic Park in 1914. Things went off the rails in the 1960s, when it went on to become a drug and rehabilitation center, Synanon—and the breeding ground for a notoriously violent cult. The ‘80s saw the 62-acre site converted into a conference center. Now, it begins anew as a coastal retreat, Lodge at Marconi, designed by New York–based firm Home Studios.

A series of freestanding buildings make up the hotel, like an elevated adult summer camp (Brian W. Ferry)

A 17-month-long renovation has turned the storied site into a 45-guest room destination that preserves some of the historic interiors while showing deference to the area’s landscape. Some of the guest bathrooms feature the original tiles used in its 1960s iteration when the hotel was Synanon. The architects paired the past with Third Bay Tradition, referencing the midcentury modernism of Sonoma’s Sea Ranch Lodge, to tie the new property into the area. Updating the facade to an all-black paneling, Home Studios balances preserving aspects of the building while bringing it into the modern age.

Ample millwork covers the check-in area, nodding to midcentury motifs and local nature (Brian W. Ferry)

Visually, the hotel looks right at home within the land’s rolling hills, courtesy of the design’s many allusions to the local environment. This stems from the focus on locally made additions and materials, like cedar paneling and tiles from the Bay Area’s Heath ceramics. The color and material palette furthers this alignment as wood and earth-toned textiles set a cozy and unpretentious style. Handcrafted details and a plethora of windows imparting views onto the landscape make the hotel elevated yet still connected to the space. It’s in line with the hotel’s function as a refuge, which avoids including televisions to allow guests to better connect to the environment.

The reception and retail space features a long rectilinear window with a playful wood frame (Brian W. Ferry)

The conference room is differentiated by its warm, orange tones (Brian W. Ferry)

A wall tapestry by Lookout and Wonderland and plenty of greenery welcome the reception lounge (Brian W. Ferry)

The nature-inspired interior fits with the studio’s references to camps. The exterior, which reads as a collection of connected and freestanding volumes that tower over pathways, helps organize the hotel as a collection of rooms that eschew a formal hotel lobby. Instead, the reception building hosts various seating areas, communal spaces, and a retail space.

A variety of tiles make up the project, including this colorful addition in the bathroom (Brian W. Ferry)

The interior blends neutral, minimalist designs with touches of color and surprise (Brian W. Ferry)

In the rooms, a sloped, paneled roof and neutral colors draws on the Bay Area’s woodsy, farm vernacular (Brian W. Ferry)

In some ways, the Lodge at Marconi is camp in the other sense of the word, too. Whimsical, idiosyncratic surprises are tucked into the nooks and crannies of the hotel. Wood cube wall art by California-based artist Lukas Geronimas Giniotis in the dining hall, waving wooden chairs, colorful tiled backsplashes, geometric headboards, and more playful touches enliven the space with charm.

Tucked under the stairs, a desk and wavy chair add whimsy (Brian W. Ferry)

Natural oak and canvas are used throughout the guest rooms (Brian W. Ferry)

Underneath an earthy wood ceiling, colorful tiles from Heath ceramics falls alongside custom lighting, dining chairs, and tables (Brian W. Ferry)

The rooms’ sloped, paneled roof and ample millwork draws on the Bay Area’s woodsy, ranch vernacular while crafting a relaxed travel destination. It combines the narrative of the space as well as the hotel’s function as a retreat. Much like the unexpected history of the property, the whimsical touches paired with an unfussy interior are part of the hotel’s cohesive and contemporary transformation.