Meet the Manhattan Beach Couple Who Helped Revive Palm Springs Style

A desert design duo.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  • Written by
    Darren Elms
  • Photographed by
    Erica Mendenhall

Lars and Kelly Viklund both grew up in Los Angeles and the South Bay and frequently traveled to Palm Springs with their families and friends. Lars first noticed the Del Marcos Hotel as a diamond in the rough with great bones.

 

“Lars has always been a fan of mid-century architecture and was inspired to bring the hotel back to its original roots,” shares Kelly of their first hotel renovation project in the area. “This was William Cody’s first hotel, and it was important to Lars to pay tribute to the original vision. While the hotel had gone through several renditions and names over the years, it has been back to the Del Marcos for the past two decades, thanks to Lars’ ownership and passion for its restoration.”

Right next door, Lars and Kelly watched another property transform from a beautiful hotel to a shanty for the homeless and drug addicts. The nearby Viceroy tried to make these existing bungalows into condominiums, but the Historic Tennis Club Neighborhood Organization fought the project and eventually blocked them from completing. “We decided to buy this property not exactly knowing what we were going to do with it,” admits Kelly.

After meeting with different architects and having focus groups with several small boutique hotels throughout the Valley, the Viklunds decided that it really should be its own property. “It did not make sense to combine the properties, as both were classified historic,” explains Kelly. “La Serena Villas was also the original name of the property, and it is classified a 1933 Spanish Colonial Hotel.”

The couple originally thought they could do a mass renovation of the bungalows, but as they embarked on their journey they had to take the 27-room footprint of the bungalows down to 18. “We really had to start from scratch, as the condition was just too far gone,” recalls Kelly. “We kept the original footprint of the property and paid homage to its roots while infusing it with Palm Springs color and a Spanish boho vibe.”

As Lars and Kelly also love to travel, they placed elements of their favorite places and countries that inspired them into every detail of La Serena Villas. They were intrinsically involved in every stage—from concept to build to design.

“Not having any investors in this project meant that this really was our baby and an extension of us,” says Kelly. “It is our biggest compliment when our friends and family say they see ‘us’ everywhere.”

They hired architect May Sung of SUBU Design, who also built their Manhattan Beach home. “We knew we worked well together and enjoyed a similar aesthetic, and that was very important to us,” says Kelly. They also collaborated with Avenue Interior Design to help realize their vision book and create the specific design aesthetic and goals.

Walking distance to Palm Canyon Drive and blessed with a gorgeous mountain backdrop, the brand new La Serena Villas and its in-house restaurant Azúcar offer guests the perfect desert oasis.

“There is so very much to enjoy about Palm Springs,” says Kelly. “We love the weather and warm, balmy nights. We love the community of hotel and restaurant owners. We are very active and are in awe of all the beautiful hikes we can go on that are just a stone’s throw from the hotel. But mostly we enjoy making people happy and going that little extra mile to make a someone’s stay magical and share our little slice of heaven.”


LARS AND KELLY’S PALM SPRINGS


Things to Do:
Architecture Tours | Palm Springs Mod Squad, PS Architecture Tours and many others.
Palm Springs Windmill Tours | Take a two-hour break from the pool and learn about the windmills you have been driving by for years.
Sunnylands Center and Garden | Where the presidents stay.
Where to Shop:
Trina Turk | Stop on the way into town and buy a fabulous outfit for the weekend!
Wil Stiles | Next to Trina Turk; great men’s and women’s clothes.
The Frippery | Great vintage clothing.
Where to Hike:
Tahquitz Falls | Easy 1-mile hike to a 50-foot waterfall. The experience is five minutes from hotel.
South and North Lykken Trails | Also a walk to and from the hotel. Moderate to difficult—whatever you desire. Bonus is maybe seeing bighorn sheep!
Where to Eat:
Workshop Kitchen+Bar | They have a seasonal menu, and everything is delicious. Great cocktails. Our favorite is the Palm Springer.
Shanghai Reds Bar & Grill | The band plays Thursday through Sunday. Order the ahi tacos and a skinny margarita.
Where to Drink:
Paul Bar/Food | Say hi to Paul. He is hilarious.
Seymour’s | Super-cool speakeasy.
Bootlegger Tiki | Why go to Hawaii?
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