Throughout the years of striving and hard work and inevitable chaos that governs our lives, it can be hard to see the path that ultimately leads us from our beginnings to the point we now occupy on our life’s map. Anke Bodack’s journey has been one that is seemingly filled with unexcepted twists and turns—born in Germany, she wanted to visit Hawaii but wound up in New York. There, she embarked on a cross-country train ride to California, where she fell in love with the state.
This led her back to Germany where she studied before returning to California for an internship at BMW north of L.A. and then a job doing color and material design for Nissan in San Diego. Though Bodack’s path has wound its way across continents, her journey, she insists, has been anything but chaotic. Moving from Nissan to her own design firm and now to her own hotel has been a natural progression from corporate soldier to self-sufficient businessperson to a wholly fulfilled “self”.
Now I’d say, yes, 100 percent. I see it as kind of homecoming, as I am doing what I grew up with. When I was a girl, my parents would host interesting and creative folks in their home, not to earn money but to meet people. My father always traveled by train, and he would pick up strangers he met and say to them, “Hey, you can stay at our house!” My mother cooked, always hosting and talking about design and being open. So with the hotel, I am recreating what I grew up with!
Nine years ago I went to Mexico and there was a really cool B&B (Villa de la Valle) owned by a couple from England and L.A. They made everything from scratch, and I came back and thought, “Wow, this is so cool, they converted their home into an inn.” I was always hosting people in my backyard in a straw hut that I’d got from Bali and set up by my pool. I was inspired by the hut and I looked at it and I thought, “I should just do something!” So I started searching for a property to buy that I could turn into a hotel, but I could never find one. Still, I knew it was my dream. I meditate every day and this image of me as a hotelier began to crystalize in my mind, a voice saying, “This is what I must do!”
Well, I had rented out a portion of my home for a while to travelers. And the many incredible people who came to my home really confirmed my dream. Then a few years ago, my son, who was only 11 at the time, had the perfect idea: He said, “Let’s just do the hotel at the house!” Encinitas used to be a very sleepy and quiet beach town. But it has transformed in the last five years with new restaurants and pop-ups. I am close to downtown, and the beaches are close too, of course. So I thought I couldn’t do any better than what I already had!
Ha! No. We tore down two-thirds of the house and used up all of my retirement savings. That was the really scary part. My son and I lived through it all in the other third. We had no electricity one night, but it actually went super smoothly! The part that was leveled was built back up into the property’s four hotel rooms. I still live in the other part of the house, which is required in Encinitas if you want to use your home as an inn.
Absolutely. I was in material design, working with and conceiving colors for the automotive industry. With the hotel, I approached the materials in a different way than I think a normal interior designer would. I looked at each room as if I were designing the interior of a car. For example, one room has repurposed plastic materials, just as a car might. You see, I get very inspired by the materials that I’ve found through my work and travels.
One thing very close to my heart is that we have to take care of the Earth. So for me, the hotel is me being true to myself, as it is natural, sustainable. I think people need to go to their core and get past all the layers of the artificial, get to the essence of the self. Which is why, with the hotel, I have created a kind of mindful minimalism. I asked myself, “What does the guest really need?” For me, it is about coming full circle: If you take care of the environment, your space will take care of you. For example, with the bedding I use all natural materials. Nothing toxic. I go back to the essence. Cull out all the unnecessary stuff. That is my vision!
I didn’t budge on cheapening any of the materials for the rooms even though I had a super-tight budget. I ran out of money a few times, but received help from my friends and from the vendors and builders. I did everything how I wanted it. I got sustainable materials. It showed me that I can literally do anything!
I love travel, paddle boarding, going to the beach, and yoga. Also meditation, cooking, and having friends over.
Besides my son, of course, and my dog, I’d say my Bali hut. I ordered it online and it came from Indonesia as a kit. It took a few weeks to assemble. I moved my office into the Bali hut! It’s still there.
That came from my dad, and at the time I didn’t understand it, but now I do. He said, “Do everything with joy!” And as my life progressed, I realized that my true joy lies in holistic design, which is reflected in hospitality experiences. if I didn’t feel joy in what I was doing, I needed to change what I was doing. And you can’t wait until you retire to find that joy. Change or accept—you need to find the joy within.