Inspiring Interior

by Mark Robins | July 1, 2021 12:00 am

Unfinished metal, vineyard influences and exposed container metal provide unique interiors

By Mark Robins


Located in the wine country of Paso Robles, Calif., a luxury boutique hotel called the Geneseo Inn provides accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking and a garden. Located amongst 145 acres of vibrant grapevines and rolling hills, the 5-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. While these are noteworthy features, perhaps its biggest and most visible amenity is its recycled, industrial steel shipping crates with their stylish and modern interiors. The design award judges were so impressed with its interiors that Geneseo Inn was awarded the 2021 Metal Architecture Design Award in the Interiors category.

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The main design goal for architect Walter Scott Perry of Los Angeles-based Ecotech Design[1] with the interiors was to create a simple, but open space using 20-foot-long by 9 1/2-foot-high, hi-bay shipping containers (from Crate Modular Inc.[2], Carson, Calif.) with a 4-foot-wide by 12-foot-high site-built, steel, stud-framed clerestory space constructed between to create a 20-foot by 20-foot footprint or 400-square-foot interior. The additional 4-foot room width provided by the clerestory allowed for 6-foot-wide by 7-foot-long king-sized bed placement which otherwise would not fit within the 7-foot maximum interior width of shipping containers. The design program also includes a closet, wine bar, makeup space and a glass-enclosed open ceiling, walk-in European style bath with vineyard views.

Perry says the interiors were conceived as an expression of the container technology. “On some of the units I exposed the outside walls of the containers inside. If the containers had red walls outside, they had red walls inside. There were three different colors, blue, green and red, based on wine labels, that was the owner’s decision.”

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“Distressed or rusted, corrugated metal sheets from recycled barns were used at some of the units based on the design themes chosen by the owner and interior designer,” Perry adds. “Each unit had a different theme, based on retro music and films.” To reflect the use of metal in the architecture, an interior designer placed headboards that feature corrugated metal in some units.

All the containers’ ceilings were exposed steel from the containers. Since the maximum height ceiling is 8 feet, 10 inches, all ceiling light fixtures and sprinkler heads had to be surface mounted with electrical and sprinkler lines running above the container, below roofing that required extensive coordination during fabrication. “The clerestory light bar allowed for natural, north-facing daylighting and ventilation as well as to create a cathedral ceiling effect,” Perry says. “The 12-foot-high clerestory ceilings were designed for the application of recycled corrugated metal sheets both inside and out. In addition, the exterior steel container walls were left exposed in some units.”

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The project’s interior designer Eliana de Leon[3] of Paso Robles, Calif., knew from the start that, “We were creating a special experience; given the spectacular location amid the grape vines, we needed to provide equally amazing guest lodgings. My challenge was to create an inviting place that didn’t compete with the panorama. I presented atypical materials for the interiors to the clients, which they immediately approved!”

Each room’s interior design was unique. “For one room, I initially referenced as the high-tech room, I presented several different metal materials. Bathroom shower walls were installed with old-world-like tiles accented with 1/2-inch penny rounds with a metal glaze. We also installed rectangular and corner stainless steel shelves in each bathroom to add a zap of gleam to all the shower walls. Obviously, we wanted to keep the integrity of the inside of these freight containers so guests could experience their edgy elements. So, we applied bright white glossy paint to exposed steel ceilings, but added a matte galvanized metal to the clerestory entryway ceiling in a room to create an urban reception. [We] then transformed leftover metal pieces into a headboard as an added nod to industrialization.”

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De Leon chose exposed shiny metal plumbing pipe fittings, fixtures and grab bars as part of the design intent to give rooms a utilitarian feel that juxtaposed the naturalness of the exterior countryside. “This contrast creates (pleasing) drama! A room at Geneseo Inn called Gaia is dedicated to sustainable materials. The old recycled corrugated metal applied on the clerestory ceiling was left to patina naturally. The color that is developing blends in beautifully with the stripped copper-colored, Marmoleum flooring that gives this room a warm glow. As guests return, they will find subtle changes in the metal finishes that reflects nature’s aging process.”

Overall, Perry explains, “The whole intent of that project was to express the steel outside to the maximum and on the inside as much as possible. Express the steel as an expression of the structure. It’s a very modernist idea, it’s a very progressive idea.” Awards judge Tara Williams, AIA, associate architect, ASD | SKY, Tampa, Fla., really liked this idea, especially on this project. “They could have covered up the corrugated metal look really easily if they wanted to. Instead, they chose to highlight it instead, which is a good idea. It provides a good level of scale throughout the interiors with a whole lot of extras.”

  1. Ecotech Design:
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  3. Eliana de Leon:
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