It’s a simple question, but one with endless implications. For architect developer Matthew Goodwin, it changed the course of his personal and professional career. Though the Malibu native grew up on the sands of Surfrider Beach, he had spent much of his career working on residential and mixed-use real estate ventures in New York City. But when the 1950s-era Malibu Shores motor lodge came onto the market in 2013—across the street from where he grew up surfing the breaks at First Point—the answer became inevitable.
“There was nothing along the California coast that captured what it’s like to live here or actually experience Malibu,” Goodwin says, a notion not lost on anyone who has ever visited the enclave and witnessed the undeniable disconnect between the beachfront mansions and the dilapidated motels that line the Pacific Coast Highway. He had no experience in hospitality but, recalling his love for Malibu Shores, he saw an opportunity to collaborate with his wife, Emma Crowther Goodwin, who took up the interior design, and partner Alessandro Zanpedri, snatching up the classic Surfrider Hotel and turning it into a modern beach house even locals could appreciate. (Another example of the growing reclaimed motel trend.) “Everything we did was based on what we would want when checking into a boutique hotel in Malibu,” Goodwin says.
The trio embarked on a four-year-long renovation—Surfrider opened last fall—culminating in a stylishly laid-back antidote to high-gloss openings such as Nobu Ryokan and Soho Beach House down the road. “There was a certain palette of materials that were already found here, and we wanted to extrapolate all those tones, textures, and materials and bring them to life through the architecture and interior design,” Goodwin says of the color scheme, which features oceanic indigo, beachy browns, and greens. Hand-crafted concrete and basket-woven pendants, stone side tables, reclaimed teak floors, and Bellino linens add rough-hewn texture to the 20 whitewashed guest rooms and public spaces; custom furnishings (four-poster beds, metal-frame chairs) were created in tandem with local vendors Croft House and Malibu Market & Design.
While preserving the Shores’ good bones and original Midcentury charm, the Goodwins shifted entrances to the rear of the hotel to give each room a private ocean view and added a roof deck open to the sundown margarita crowd. They’ve taken to calling the deck “the amphitheater” for its views of the Malibu pier, Santa Monica Bay, and the lights of Los Angeles and LAX. A sunrise surf, hike up Malibu Canyon, whale watching at nearby Point Dume—Surfrider is peddling the California dream. Naturally, the concierge service begins and ends with that one elemental question: What do you want to do today?