Charles Gruwell designs everything from sumptuous hotel rooms to upscale restaurants to tranquil courtyards to private high-end residences, all with an artist’s eye. The Pacific Grove native, who has returned home after decades of honing his craft both locally and in major cities, bases his designs on the principles he learned as an apprentice to prominent Bay Area designer Marlene Grant.
“There is a whole set of rules involving scale and color and the use of black, and a whole perspective on art and accessories and lighting,” Gruwell says. “I have emulated a timeless, classical and artistic style my whole life. Most of [Grant’s] principles come from nature colors, the texture stems from nature, and the way she looked through any space was through natural eyes. She was an absolutely genius interior designer and way ahead of her time.”
Recently, Gruwell had a touching reunion with Grant, who is now retired, bringing her photos of past projects and thanking her for her training.
“Her principles were the foundation of my entire career, and I have been taking it to a whole new level for the past 40 years,” he says.
Gruwell’s work has appeared in Architectural Digest, and his local client list and award-winning design projects include The Spindrift Inn and The Hotel Pacific in Monterey, The Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Tradewinds Carmel hotel. A major project of Gruwell’s 35 years ago, to redesign the Carmel Sands Lodge (now known as the Carmel Lodge), did not receive funding to move forward after he was originally hired. However, the story does not end there.
“Now, as luck would have it, Susan and Mark Stilwell, who bought the Carmel Lodge seven years ago, called on me for a total renovation,” Gruwell says. “I’m back doing the same project now with the approval of the City of Carmel and all the funding is a go.”
Gruwell previously worked with the Stilwells on the Tradewinds Carmel hotel, which Susan’s father built.
“I was living in Las Vegas and designed the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and several other hotels and homes there, in collaboration with designer Anita Brooks,” he says. “Susan flew me over to Carmel and said, ‘I want you to pay homage to my father and renovate the Tradewinds from ship to stern. My mission is to revive and breathe new life into the Tradewinds.’ Susan’s father had been stationed in Japan for a number of years and he wanted to bring Asian style and nuances to Carmel.”
Influenced by his many trips to Bali and his collection of Japanese-style tansu chests, Gruwell says the partnership with Susan resulted in “one of the most spiritual and inspirational projects I’ve ever had.” The hotel’s Buddha-centered meditation garden with a cascading water feature surrounded by Asian-style ferns and a garden lend a truly tranquil narrative to the property set in the heart of Carmel.
Stillwell and Gruwell’s newest project will also be focusing on adding natural elements to the 70-year-old Carmel Lodge.
“The theme is a guest experience that focuses on natural beauty, the ocean, and the artist community of Carmel,” Gruwell says. “We will be using natural tone stucco, new plant life and a fresh, renewed hip and chic interior and exterior design statement.”
More synchronicities have occurred for Gruwell, as he worked with architect Paul Davis for both The Spindrift Inn and Hotel Pacific properties, which Gruwell provided the design for, and Davis’ son, Paul Davis Jr., is now the architect for the Carmel Lodge renovation.
“We are going full circle,” Gruwell says. “The whole project is an amazing thing to work on and I can’t wait to see the end result in a year. I am able to use my artistic talents in ways I never could at the beginning of my career.”
While his design influences and experience stem from around the world, Gruwell says there’s no place like home.
“The most incredible thing we have with this property is location,
location, location. I have lived in Los Angles, Las Vegas, Sedona and traveled all over the world, and there is no place like this. We live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth with the oceans, the forests and unsurpassed natural beauty—we live in heaven.”
For more information, please visit charlesgruwelldesign.com.