Sac Historic House Profile: The Sainte Claire

Recently, I watched the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor and the film got me thinking about the scarcity of luxury and quality in this modern world. There is something so inspiring in a beautifully designed evening gown or a multi-course meal prepared with care and forethought or a luxury hotel that is actually… luxurious!

The Sainte Claire is truly one of the “grand dame” hotels in California. It was designed by the San Francisco architectural firm Weeks and Day, no strangers to elegant hotels (they also designed the Mark Hopkins and the St. Francis), and opened in 1926 as part of the renaissance of downtown San Jose. Over the years, the hotel has hosted a bevy of famous guests including Clark Gable, Judy Garland, JFK and Joe DiMaggio and when you walk through the lobby doors you can almost imagine that one of them might turn the corner at any moment. The detailed restoration and renovations to each of the 170 guest rooms, and 17 suites, showcases the handmade hardwood furniture, rich wall coverings, ceiling murals and, in the lobby, elaborate gilt scrollwork and hand-carved, hand-painted ceiling panels. You can read more about the history of the hotel here.

We were lucky enough to secure the Grand Suite (room 631) during our recent stay and, if you are looking for a great way to indulge yourself – this is the room to get. The views of downtown are amazing, especially at night when the lights are sparkling like little jewels outside the high arched windows. There is a dining room for eight and a sitting area with a fireplace and flat screen tv, but we mostly sat at the bar in the kitchen area and nibbled on our complimentary snacks while looking out the windows. I loved all of the furniture in our bedroom and probably would have taken the bed home if I could. Actually, you can, in a sense, if you are willing to shell out the cost of the FeatherBorne bed.

Our bathroom was lovely and had a little window that looked down the length of San Carlos boulevard. The jacuzzi tub was also a steam shower, but I confess that I slept too long in the comfortable bed and didn’t have time for a steam (next time for sure!). The bathroom includes toiletries by L’Occitane including my favorite line of lemon verbena bath and body products, which I gush about here.

There was something so solid and well crafted about our room at the Sainte Claire that it made me think, so this is the sort of feeling that those new hotels are trying achieve but can’t quite get close enough. And yet the hotel in general doesn’t feel like one big antique shop or museum – it manages to seduce you with its warmth, charm and friendliness while making it seem as if you’ve stepped into the villa of a wealthy Italian duke. Speaking of Italian, the restaurant attached to the hotel is Il Fornaio – a great place to settle in for dirty martinis and heaping plates of comforting pasta.

I know the Sainte Claire hosts a lot of weddings and I can see why, it’s a romantic hotel that makes a big impression. If you are looking for a place to stay in the Silicon Valley, I hope that you will check out and support this glorious historic hotel… it’s a real California treasure.

*the Sainte Claire is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

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