Heart Away From Home

Did you catch our appearance in the February issue of San Diego Home & Garden Magazine? Our newly-installed artistic lighting features are highlighted on page 24! If you haven’t stayed at our Little Italy, San Diego boutique hotel lately you’re in for a treat. Our recent hotel re-design offers inspirational art installations along with elegant ‘heart away from home’ hospitality and a soulful urban charm. Bay area artist/designers, Martha Channer and Craig Mitchell of MC2 The Science of Design, truly envisioned a unique, Californian design based on our airy and open-to-the-outdoors feel.
La Pensione in San Diego Home & Garden
Come and relax in the beautiful, immersive environment that co-mingles unique design solutions with comfort, caring, and a great way to relax outdoors, California-style–in the heart of downtown San Diego’s most vibrant neighborhood!
Here’s a peek inside the design project…
Take a Cue: Functional Art
Take A Cue art installation
High-style contemporary design was important to us, along with comfort, ambiance, and an eye toward the unusual. Custom ambient lighting answered the need for both atmosphere and alluring original art on the courtyard’s fountain wall. These three by five foot functional art “light barrels” were created as part of the overall design theme; Homage to the four elements.
barrel light closeup
Curved to create a soft edged beauty that enhances the modern architecture; the lit elements are faced with images from nature that are printed on aluminum. Martha Channer, co-founder of MC2 The Science of Design, teamed up with graphic designer Leila Rand to accomplish the visual statement that conceptually embodies the essence of the four elements theme. Four photographic images of trees and other plant forms were collaged together into three bands to visually enhance the curve of the convex arch and also to represent earth, air, fire, and water.
Light Barrel
Craig Mitchell, the other half of MC2, designed and manufactured the light weight aluminum frame and interior LED lighting system, and then attached the large, flat aluminum prints to the frame with PL construction adhesive. By carefully bending the large prints over the frame, he was able to arch the seventeen gauge metal without any pre-form process such as putting it through a roller. The wiring is snug within the wall, ensconced by the frame and sealed on both sides with frosted plexiglass. “We had to devise lighting that would work for all weather conditions in an outdoor space, and at the same time create an inspiring work of art. Often our best ideas are born out of these kinds of practical challenges.”

Homage to the Four Elements
Nature’s four elements are literally and metaphorically combined in our open-air courtyard; which features a 12 by 9 foot abstract “painting” in plants displayed as a lush vertical garden, a prominent water feature that provides sound and atmosphere, MC2’s premiere “Yin/Yang” communal fire pit tables, and a sculptural human size nest that suggests the nurturing security the hotel offers, as well as a place from which to confidently take flight. These are just a few of the artful attractions found throughout the hotel.
High-style contemporary design was a requirement for us, which called for soft edged beauty along with an ergonomic use of space. MC2 envisioned the hotel courtyard as a sanctuary created with elements from the natural world combined with sensual, modern materials and sophisticated fine art applications. Our lobby is a tribute to forms and textures that inspirit great architecture; abstract design elements that emulate natural formations and the patterns found in nature, particularly those that describe the four elements.

The living wall, in concert with two fountain planters, is a “painting” with plants that is secured in a self sustaining vertical garden system. California river aggregate in two colors of cast concrete makes up the curved courtyard tables that were designed and manufactured by MC2 specifically for this project.
The human size nest, a sculptural creation by Craig Mitchell, is a conceptual depiction of the hotel as a home away from home. It says, come land here and stay a while.
Two premiere communal fire pit tables, a unity of opposites, balance hotel day and night life. As useful for a business meeting as they are for an intimate fire side chat, these multipurpose social magnets encourage community, fun, and great conversations.
A custom water feature designed by MC2 brings the soothing sound and feel of water into the courtyard. Custom light features designed by MC2: These curved five by three foot light “barrels” are photo montage images printed on aluminum that spill light from their curved side panels onto the painted metallic bronze walls. They embody all four elements in imagery; both in design as well as the reflective quality of the metal surfaces.

La Pensione Front Desk
The hand crafted chandeliers are silver air scribbles that describe the flight patterns of birds or insects or the chaotic breezes that stir the trees. Also nest-like, they echo the large nest sculpture and the “many nests” mural painted along the India Street courtyard entrance.

living wall system
The custom designed front desk, reminiscent of a rock formation, juxtaposes a curvaceous cast concrete top embedded with large chunks of amber glass that are lit internally by LED lights. Historical images printed in large format architectural photo montages, make up the exterior panels of the front desk, which are developed in sepia tones on aluminum.

Front Desk


front desk cabinetry
The elevator wall incorporates a white wave pattern tile, like ripples on the sandy bottom of a lake, which is mirrored on the floor by the single wave that creates a visual distinction between the lobby and the courtyard.

Now the question is, when is your next trip to Little Italy? Book a room today and get ready for a truly unique experience — we are your heart away from home.
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Mc2 logo
“We Create Experiences”
Designers Martha Channer and Craig Mitchell are a husband and wife spatial design team known for their unique, immersive environments. As MC2 The Science Of Design they bring an original, artful, and inspiring aesthetic to the field of contemporary design.

Hotel spatial design by MC2 The Science of Design / Martha Channer and Craig Mitchell
Lighting Fabrication: Bay Photo Lab
Graphic Design: Leila Rand, Mama Bear Design
Living wall system by Agrosci, Inc.
Custom table tops and front desk top manufactured by Bohemian Stoneworks
Custom cabinetry and front desk constructed by Studio Europa and Leicht
Tile from Emser Tile
Chandeliers by Timothy Ferrie lighting designs
Mural and color design by Martha Channer
Sculpture, water feature, and dryscape by Craig Mitchell