San Francisco’s Scarlet Huntington Hotel has a secret that is well kept by its stately, ivy covered brick façade. The new moniker is a hint. Walk past the top-hatted doorman and through the original carved wooden doors and the secret is revealed.
Gone is the former conservative and genteel character that was highlighted by a muted palette and antique furnishings. In its place is something fun, flirty and a little racy.
After a recent $15 million interior renovation by its new owner, Singapore-based Grace International, visitors to the Scarlet Huntington are now greeted with a vibrant blast of color. Dynamic red walls mix with jewel toned furnishings to create a Technicolor ‘Wizard of Oz’ aura. Dorothy and Toto are definitely not in the old Huntington anymore.
The lobby is merely a hint at what is found in each and every spacious room. Using the lobby display of ornate Peranakan ceramics as inspiration, the interior re-design includes a mix of pattern, texture and color that echoes the hybrid Peranakan culture (descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago and British Malaya – now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore – between the 15th and 17th centuries) and is modeled after Grace International’s flagship Singapore Scarlet property.
Designed to kindle the imagination, rooms at the Scarlet feature furnishings and textiles in bold gemstone hues that are meant to convey luxury and glamour. Gold, purple, emerald green and of course deep scarlet red – the mix of color is playfully scandalous.
Those who might miss the former formality of the original Huntington will continue to find hints of its past, such as the illuminated rooftop sign, the lobby’s original crystal chandelier, brass balustrades, and an original brass mail chute. Most importantly for the traditionalists, the hotel’s esteemed restaurant, The Big Four, remains largely untouched by the remodel.
The juxtaposition of the Asian-influenced Scarlet décor with the clubby, old school atmosphere of The Big Four is amusing, but somehow it works. The restaurant opened in 1976 and was named for San Francisco magnates C.P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Leland Stanford. Classically styled with wood paneling, low lighting, and green leather banquettes, The Big Four (site of a recent Million Dollar Listing San Francisco scene) is a San Francisco original that continues to draw a loyal following as well as visitors seeking a true San Francisco experience.
Within The Big Four is another San Francisco original – waiter Ron Henggeler. Guests lucky to be seated in Henggeler’s section not only receive great service, they might get a few history lessons as well. As a 20-year employee of the restaurant, Henggeler has intel on nearly every piece of memorabilia lining the walls. As a photographer and historian, he has chronicled happenings at The Big Four for two decades, which he compiles on his own website. He’s also an expert on general San Francisco history.
Opposite The Big Four on the other side of the Scarlet lobby is the tony Nob Hill Spa, to which Scarlet guests have access. Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as ‘one of the most luxurious spaces in the city,’ the central spa area features an indoor relaxation pool and outdoor patio with skyline views. And while Union Square stores are just blocks away, guests seeking a shopping fix need look no further than the spa’s shop to find an array of beauty products, designer candles and luxurious cashmere sweaters.
From colorful rooms with San Francisco skyline views, to classic cocktails at a revered restaurant, to pampering spa treatments – a stay atop Nob Hill at the Scarlet Huntington is fun, and a very entertaining study in contrasts.
The Scarlet Huntington: 1075 California St., San Francisco