CLIFT San Francisco Hotel Review - Contemporary Elegance, Old World Charm

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Just a short walk from Union Square, amidst the cacophony of city life, the CLIFT San Francisco, a boutique luxury hotel, welcomes it guests into a bygone era of old world stateliness mixed with stylish class, comfort and luxury. 


On a recent trip to the City by the Bay with reservations at CLIFT San Francisco, equipped with the limited knowledge provided by reviewing on the website where pictures detailed a minimalist elegance set against, what is often described as “old money” and a lobby adorned with fantastical furnishing I wasn't sure what to expect.

A standout and the first impression, the CLIFT lobby has a unique design. Upon entering an oversized Victorian chair immediately commands the attention and essentially separates the lobby into two areas: the business side, an efficient check-in-concierge desk, from the pleasure side, an old money study.

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The type of room where the names like William Randolph Hearst or J. Paul Getty, would retire after dinner for a cigar and brandy. Board games, Chess, Chinese Checkers and Backgammon, along with a unique design of assorted and diverse settees, lounges, and chairs fill the open room.

This luxury hotel designed by Philippe Starck features an eclectic furniture collection in the lobby, including work by Salvador Dali, the Eames brothers, and Roberto Matta. Two unique pieces of furniture, an oversized Victorian leather standing nearly four foot off the ground, that was obviously a decorative piece and an handcrafted antler craved settee separated the old from the new.

Upon arrival I met Angeline, the Senior Sales Manager who would be providing a tour of the property. The history behind the 100 year old hotel dates back nearly as far as the famed city itself.

During the guided tour the story of CLIFT property, the historic value to the city, the pieces of furniture, the Redwood Room lounge, each room, each piece had a story and collectively it represented over a century of hospitality. An original handcrafted and ornate, Victorian, arm chair, over a hundred years old, with interictally designed, arms and legs is on display.

Obviously needs have changed and in order to stay competitive and attract the high end clientele, accommodations have to modernize and CLIFT San Francisco did more than simply renovate they reinvented the definition of opulence, of well-appointed, of modern luxury in an urban setting.

The modern rooms, ranging from standard quarters to private apartments, have sleigh beds and flat-screen HDTVs In-room spa services and 24-hour room service are available for a fee. Amenities include a free 24/7 gym, free WIFI in the Lobby, free bike loaners and three dining options, including the art deco Redwood Room, which dates to 1933 and has original redwood paneling.

Even if a stay at The Clift is not any future plans when visiting San Francisco The Redwood Room, an opulent, old world, plush lounge serving bites and libations is a must. Walking into the lounge, with sky high ceilings, with matching floor to ceiling pillars of the same red wood, one is immediately curious as to the origins. The Redwood Room was crafted out of one single Redwood tree. The rich, dark, red wood is welcoming and warm, and the glass bar bask in a yellow glow.

The crowd is a urban hip, trendy, stylish. Serving bits and bites, the newest items are creations from the CLIFT Executive Chef, Dawn Taylor-Cole. New to the CLIFT she has taken the menu and crafting items around the idea of farm fresh and sourced locally.

Having the opportunity to sample her new hors d’oeuvre menu she prepared a twist on the traditional hummus and pita, creating a Hummus Two Ways, a Beet hummus with pine nuts and Chick Pea Hummus with olives served with grilled pita bread.

As I generally am not a fan of beets, I was a little apprehensive. When she brought the plate, the flavor was delicious. The Beet Hummus, and she did describe the color was really for show, which to me meant it was infused with a Beet zest, after I sampled one to be polite, I realized this was really delicious and didn’t care how she made it.

The second item sampled, a fresh take on Salsa and chips, a tuna tartare with chips, a take on the traditional Salsa and healthier. I have to admit I became an instant fan of the Beet Hummus appetizer.

After the reservations were set, I had researched the CLIFT, and discovered they harvest their own honey from bee colonies they have on the roof. It was important for me to see. I met with the Hotel General Manager, Michael Pace, for the guided and informative tour of the story behind the bee colonies.

In recent years, urban beekeeping has been a rising trend, in part because of the declining honey bee populations. In 2015, Clift welcomed one queen and 10,000 bees to their CLIFT suites – rooftop aeries that were lovingly designed by Clift’s bee keeper, Roger Garrison.

The Rooftop Bee Sanctuary came about due to the efforts of Michael Pace, General Manager of CLIFT. Michael serves as the Chairperson of the Sustainability Committee for the Hotel Council of San Francisco, and spearheaded a larger effort between numerous local hotels to implement bees on their rooftops as well.

The Honeybee initiative was implemented at CLIFT to demonstrate leadership in sustainability and to share best practices and creative ecofriendly ideas. Today, the CLIFT honey bee population has reached 100,000, spread across five healthy hives, and produces more than 15 gallons of honey annually. Installing a BEEcosystem, an observational honeybee habitat designed to make pollinator education more accessible, was the next logical step in Clift’s efforts to bring attention to the plight of the honey bees.

“The installation of Clift’s BEEcosystem gives guests and hotel employees a glimpse into the lives of honeybees in a way that we hope provokes meaningful conversations and awareness about honeybees and the pollinator process,” states Pace. “This installation is an extension of our Rooftop Bee Sanctuary and a symbol of the agritourism and ecotourism industries within San Francisco we are trying to support.”

The BEEcosystem’s modular hives have been designed for observation and to be incorporated into nontraditional beekeeping spaces. While guests can view these modular hives, a private tour must be requested. They will also be used for special events within the hotel.

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From the roof of the CLIFT which is off limits, the Golden Gate Bridge is visible to the north-east. The historic fog was rolling in while we stood looking to across the grid of city streets, bay to harbor, with tentacles of white dense, thick clouds, the peaks of the bronze bridge were shrouded and no longer visable.

Having the Penthouse reserved for my stay, the tour also included deluxe rooms. Each of the rooms, standard suite, deluxe suite or private apartment, included full amenities, mini-bars, modern furnishings, and were well-appointed suites, plush and luxurious.

The two room penthouse suite, included a living area with full size sofa, ample chairs, stylish, unique, and all comfortable.


The spacious Penthouse had two flat screens televisions, a dining table with place sittings for six. The California King sized bed, which nearly stretched across one wall, fit perfectly with ample room for the Bed Bench and a Victorian chair with ottoman.

The dressing area included a make-up table and mirror. Malin+Goetz toiletries were provided.

Unique to the CLIFT and a testament to the idea of sustainability, for those clients who opt to re-use towels and linens for a second days a 15% discount is offered for the Red Room.

My stay at CLIFT San Francisco was exceptional and extremely pleasurable. From arrival, it was a memorable moment with a well-informed, dedicated staff, and luxurious, grand, furnishings. The accommodations, extraordinary. I truly left my heart in San Francisco at the CLIFT.


All images, except the bee-comb, courtesy of Janet Walker for

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