June 17, 2024

This Boutique Hotel is not a Beach Resort for Parents

The IS Hotel Orli in La Jolla, California, travelers with the mindset of the next generation are guaranteed to be open to taking a coastal route that has no beach feel. A pair of millennial and Gen-Z founders created a high-design boutique hotel in their seaside hometown, trying to break away from the cliché.

Thanks to co-founders, owner-operators, and siblings Hailey Waitt and Max Waitt, the Hotel Orli has played against type since it opened last year. Instead of pastels, expect dark metal finishes alongside blue and amber tones that reflect local tide pools.

Instead of nautical knickknacks and color-block patterns, expect rich textures and echoes of Parisian Art Deco and Modernism.

Instead of shutters and ceiling fans in a bungalow-style layout, expect custom-blown glass chandeliers in the tall 1913 structure’s entrance.

Instead of a wing full of rooms, expect only 13 guest rooms.

For help with the hotel’s “luxe homestay” vibe, the Waitts tapped ML Design Co., a native-led hospitality design firm Lord Maddie. Together, their design choices reflect a broader trend of owner-led boutique hotels.

The “sunroom” guest room at Orli, a new boutique hotel in La Jolla, California. Source: Orli.

Not Your Typical Beach Hotel

“We didn’t start with a mindset of ‘being as unique as possible’, but we didn’t want to be cookie-cutter, of course, and we wanted something that wasn’t available on the market,” said Hailey Waitt.

Details such as the locally sourced kombucha and cold brew on tap (free for guests) reflect the secret to creating a “sense of place”.

Orli rooms are also created to appeal to guests personally. Each room has a name, as well as a different vibe and benefits.

“We wanted you to see which one spoke to you,” said Hailey. The Wing series, for example, has a record player, and The Nomad has a Polaroid camera.

outside the Orli Hotel in La Jolla, California Orli Source
The exterior of the Orli Hotel in La Jolla, California. Source: Orli.

Sibling act

“Hailey and I were lucky enough to travel quite a bit when we were younger,” Max said. “Our father and mother put a lot of emphasis on exploring other cultures and areas.”

When the pandemic hit, sisters Hailey and Max faced career transitions. A few months later, the Bed and Breakfast Inn at La Jolla came on the market, and they bought it.

“We combined all of our experiences from traveling at a young age into this new hospitality concept that later became Orli,” said Max. Orli means hems in Italian – a reference to the customized experience they hope to offer guests, as well as a nod to their family (“HEMS” is an acronym for the four Waitt siblings: Hailey, Emily, Max, and Sophia).

Today, Hailey handles the legal and human resources side of the business, while Max works on the finance and software technology side. Both keep an eye on marketing and branding.

Orli boutique hotel Entry & Library orli source
Boutique hotel owners Orli have created a web-based app to help guests order locally sourced goods and services. Source: Orli.

Hotel Boutique Tech

The father of the two hospitality entrepreneurs, Ted Waitt, co-founded the now-defunct computer company Gateway.

Given their family roots, it’s no surprise that technology would be one of Max and Hailey’s main focuses – something that isn’t always the norm in boutique hotels.

Before arriving, guests are invited to “build their perfect stay,” through their web-based app. (Downloading an iOS app has a higher barrier to entry, Max said, so they opted for web-based.)

Guests can use the app to do anything from message the hotel, order a flower arrangement from a local florist, get sweet treats from a bakery located in La Jolla, or book a kayaking trip to tour sea caves.

“Hailey and I chose all of the partnerships within the chamber as well as the local tours and local operators,” said Max. “We took the tours, and experienced them all.”

the vibe homestay at sunset hotel the orli boutique
The homestay vibe at the sunset suite at the Orli hotel. Source: Orli.

Local Hub

Incorporating local businesses is a practice that comes with additional benefits. Not only are they supporting the community, but it makes their guests feel more connected to the store property.

“Guests love the local aspect, the owner of Flower Pot [a local bakery] actually deliver the pastries by hand,” Hailey said. “Know that they make like the dough even more than they would have.”

Hailey and Max also try to capture that local feeling when guests enter their property.

“You’re greeted by a friendly person, whether it’s Jordan or Omar, and we’re kind of like your friend,” Max said.

Jordan he is Hailey’s husband, a former professional soccer player.

“I was there yesterday, and a guest asked ‘Are you a Jordanian woman?’ — it’s funny that guests know everyone by name because it’s such a small team and such a cozy, comfortable vibe,” Hailey said.

outdoor space with trees at the Orli boutique hotel
Outdoor space at Orli boutique hotel. Source: Orli.

While the Orli concept is in the works in La Jolla — they say they’re here forever this summer with pop-up concerts and yoga events — it’s not yet clear whether the Orli concept is a one-time passion project or a brand that can scale.

“One of the biggest things we discovered early on was that people love the experience and the concept we built,” said Max. “We really found that there is a need for Orlis in the future in other markets. Because of its small physical footprint, the concept can easily be expanded into other markets across the US.”

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