We sat down with Shelley Armistead and asked her all the questions about what home means to her AND her design of Gjelina Group’s newest addition: Vitorrja, a hotel located steps away from Venice beach.

Before we get into it all, let me introduce her. Shelley is a partner and CEO of L.A.’s beloved Gjelina Group. A storybook of food and hospitality nourishing every soul that steps through the door. The group includes Gjelina, Gjusta, Gjusta Goods, Gjusta Grocer, GTA, Vitorrja, and other properties.

Shelley’s personal food story started with her love for baking as a child in Cape Town, South Africa. During her college studies, she worked as a waitress and after graduating with her second degree, she accepted a manager position at London’s River Cafe. This led to her collaboration in opening Notting Hill’s members-only club, Electric House of Soho House. After years of working with Soho House, Shelley moved to L.A. to open Soho House West Hollywood and to join the Gjelina family.

Shelley is a one of a kind, treasure person– an all-heart and open-arms type. I enjoyed every second with Shelley, and I hope you find something special in her words for yourself. Enjoy!

Stepping off the city streets of Venice into the Vitorrja feels like escaping to a far-off place—a calmer, slower, peaceful one. The door off the streets even seems like a secret door! Only known to those purposefully looking for it. Was this your intention?

It was absolutely the intention. I love seeing how many people extend their stay when they are here. The lack of TVs and the understatedness of it creates a sort of wind down in people.

What was most appealing to you about the location?

Its proximity to all of our other properties & the beach.

How was designing the hotel different from designing the restaurants? 

Two main factors that determine this are the time the guest spends in the space and the operational flow. When the time that you have with a guest is a minimum of 24 hours, the way that the space is articulated is intended to honor that. With restaurants, you may have someone inside your space for 5 minutes while they grab a slice of pizza or a coffee or an hour and a half if sitting down to a meal – the energetic intention is always that someone is coming in straight behind them. Gjusta and GTA are uncomfortably built for that reason – there is really no major hang space inside the properties.

What inspired your color palette?

The softness of the walls came from showing Jamie at Portola a bag of Oatmeal & an old washed-out terracotta pink cardigan that a dear friend had gifted me – and wanting the color to be a combo of that. The blues resonate with aspects of the blue we play with at Gjusta but reflect a greener tone of the ocean. The greens are a play on my favorite tree, the Acacia Convenyi. The salvaged blue brick, vintage creamy terracotta, and reclaimed oak floors give it a groundedness that plays nicely with the wall colors.

How did you implement “personalized hospitality of private hotels and the purposeful utility of traditional boarding houses” in the design? 

It comes from being both a hotel operator and a frequent traveler. I spent 12 years with Nick Jones as an expert on how spaces make you feel. I abide by one of his leading principles: creating spaces you want to be in. I live at Vitorrja, as a testimony to that principle. That gut instinct of feeling governs all design decisions – I know how I want to feel. Embracing both the geography of location and the personality of Vitorrja, and all of her sisters, as humans – are understated and warm.

Where do you begin when sourcing for your designs?

It starts with considering the brand’s personality—in this case, we have three different sisters, Gjelina, Gjusta, and Vitorrja—the geographical location (i.e., does it need to be specific to a locale), and the history of the building.

Do you have any favorite countries/places you can share that are your go-to?

I find inspiration in all places—from the rock formations surrounding Moab to the old basement kitchens in Barcelona. I do an annual pilgrimage to Hydra out of season. Yes, all of the history rings true, but ultimately, to live in a place with zero car noise, hike, write, and swim in the ocean is an entire system reset.

Expanding on your pilgrimage to Hydra, is this “ultimate”? Do you speak of a similar vibe or takeaway you hope one gets from their stay at Vitorrja?

It is certainly one of a number of travel experiences that help me instill that feeling in the sleep spaces I create.

What kind of sister is Vitorrja?

She is unfussy, warm while still being cognisant of your space, and unintrusive in your experience. She is a steady constant.

What’s behind the series of portrait paintings found throughout the hotel? 

Imagine what Vitorrja (as a person) would have in her own home if she had run a boarding house in Venice Beach. My great grandmother did run a boarding house, and so I take inspiration from her stories to help form the character.

What is your favorite part about Vitorrja?

It’s hard to pick one; I love it all. The team, the individuality of the rooms, the personality of the vintage pieces and the art work, the terrace—it’s all sweet.


What does home mean to you? 

The definition of home for me has changed as I have moved through the various stages of motherhood. When the boys were little, and I was working long weeks, it was a place that I returned to, and they welcomed me. Now, I am witnessing the reverse happening. When my boys have been away visiting their dad, and they walk in the door, eat multiple helpings of the dish that always welcomes them on a return journey, and then sleep for many hours – that feeling, as a mother, is the warmest feeling of home. Their laughter, their teasing, crawling into my bed to tell me stories about their day. As I become an empty nester this year, this is what I crave deeply for my home. 

Fill in the blank: Your home should be...  

Welcoming. A space where good friends feel comfortable enough to help themselves to food on your stove, help with the washing up, play board games, and take a nap on the sofa. Hospitality has so many layers. If it lands where guests feel utterly comfortable and completely themselves, that’s the definition of welcoming for me. It’s about how you make people feel. It doesn’t rely on material possessions.

Tell us about your childhood home. What do you remember most? 

I was lucky enough to grow up in the same home in Somerset West, Cape Town, until I left South Africa at 23. My parents worked hard to build a beautiful home for us. Many hours were spent in our swimming pool, which started as a plastic paddling pool in a yard with little grass and no trees or plants, to a lush garden with a gorgeous pool in which I spent hours of my day. Swimming is still my favorite thing to do. Friends would come by after school, and we would lie on floaties and discuss all our secrets. I loved the view of my parents on a warm summer evening after work, swimming up and down and catching up on their day with a beer on the steps of the pool. We also had these great wooden sliding windows in the kitchen onto the stone floor patio and a wood-burning stove. The smell of wood oven, looking out over the vine-covered terrace to the blue water. The kitchen, this patio, and our pool were the heart of our home. 

What was your favorite home you’ve ever lived in, and why?

I loved Browns Cottage in Kilmersdon, Somerset. It is still the place I get most emotional about when thinking about our family. We moved there when Joseph was 6 months old. Isaac was born there, and it was a truly magical home on a beautiful piece of land. It was part of a 600-acre farm, with a wood in between us and where we worked at Babington House.

What is the best part of being at home?

Long meals with our neighbors on our communal deck. We all move very slowly, so lunch can start at 2pm and finish at 7pm with a walk somewhere in the middle.

How has your idea of home evolved over the years? 

It used to feel focused on aesthetics and the placement of things. Now, it feels intrinsically like a collection of memories. Every piece of furniture has traveled with us and been added to. As has the boys’ art and photographs as they have grown up. It feels like a collection of all of us and what we love. 

What are your top 5 must-haves in your home? 

A cast iron cooking pot that works on a stovetop or in a fire and is pretty enough to serve out of in the middle of a table, great olive oil, Maldon sea salt, a bathtub, and good bedding.

Describe your ideal day at home: 

Wake up before the boys at 5am to walk along the beach with Alfie Armistead, our pup. Batch cook for the week, make one big pot of something warm for the day (short ribs, roast chicken). I clean the house and do the laundry. Have breakfast with the boys, go to the farmers market for salads & fruit, set out lots of rugs and pillows on the sand, have friends over, and alternate between eating and chatting until after the sun goes down and the moon comes up. Preferably with a beach fire to end the day, and then fast asleep. It’s a full day with enough industriousness to make me feel good and enough friendship and nature to round it out. I find cooking, cleaning, and ironing very therapeutic. If ever I am stuck creatively, I will spring clean my house.

What is your favorite spot in your home? 

Any sunny patch with a cushion for my head and a book is where I will end up taking a nap—sometimes on my bedroom floor, Joseph’s bedroom floor, our deck, or the beach below our home.

What helps you achieve a work/life balance? 

What things help you transition from a work day to being at home? It depends on where I am. In Malibu, it is feet in the ocean and at least six games of Sudoku in the bath. I just keep topping up the hot water. In Manhattan, it’s a Negroni and then a walk to my favorite restaurant with a great bottle of wine.

Have you made any recent changes in your home? 

I am reupholstering my sofa and armchairs in olive green velvet and whiskey-colored leather. I will repaint rooms with different colors or reupholster furniture when I want to change the space.

If you could have a second home anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

I am fortunate to have a little home in the East Village, Manhattan. However, my current dream is Millerton, NY. Zillow & I have a strong relationship at this point.


thank you, shelley!

follow along with shelley here

book your stay at vitorrja here

shop gjusta goods here

learn more about the gjelina group here

photos by: julie pointer adams and trip davis

portrait by: morgan foitle photo

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