Nicolo Rusconi

Hotelier and entrepreneur

Nicolo Rusconi

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A hotelier and entrepreneur with a keen passion for storytelling, Nicolo Rusconi’s work is guided by his constant desire to see, learn, and dream beyond physical materiality. A wearer of many hats, including that of antiquities collector and desert plants, he founded BLVD Companies with Jon Blanchard to develop creative and innovative real estate and hospitality ventures that focus on cultural impact and community. 

A Hotel Life caught up with Nicolo as he and his team add the finishing touches to their latest project — the restoration of Santa Monica’s iconic property, The Georgian. From following the footsteps of hospitality legends to the most magical hotel he’s ever stayed at and some unexpected, albeit spooky, guests he’s had over the years, read on to find out more.

What do you do, and how did you get here?

I’m a hotelier and real estate developer, although I like to think of myself as a builder and a storyteller. I love to create and build concepts, brand identities, experiences, and buildings themselves. I attribute what I do today to my constant desire to ask questions, learn, and dream, my travels around the world, and my business partner and mentor, Jon Blanchard. I also wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the love and support of my wife, Abi Rae.

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Why do you love your job? 

I love what I do, and I’ve never seen it as a job which is most likely why I love it. I truly believe that architecture, real estate, and hospitality are all art forms, and I get the opportunity to wake up every day and create things that impact the community, culture, and individual people’s lives. It’s a dream come true. 

What does a good day at work look like?

A good day at work is when I get to adequately focus on the most meaningful elements of a project — the minute details, the unique and creative differentiators, and the collaboration with world-class designers, hospitality professionals, artists, and more. 

Where did you get your sense of hospitality? 

It’s truly an amalgamation of my life experience from my upbringing to my travels to the people that I’ve surrounded myself with over the course of my life. My parents instilled a deep sense of hospitality in me from an early age. As an adult, experiencing some of the most amazing properties in the world and seeing the deeply inspired teams and individuals who run them elevated my definition of hospitality. 

Breaking ground for citizen M hotel
Breaking ground for citizen M hotel
Nicolo, Jon and team of BLVD Companies
Nicolo, Jon and team of BLVD Companies

What main differences do you see in hospitality today compared to when you started?

When I started, I watched hospitality legends like Ian Schrager, Andre Balazs, and Alex Calderwood redefine the idea of lifestyle hospitality and the integration of culture into each one of their properties. Each hotel was inspired by something more intangible than the built experience itself. Today, we see different brands and groups trying to templatize this ‘lifestyle’ experience to accelerate growth globally, though the verdict is still out on long-term sustainability and hyperlocal relevancy. With that said, it’s an extremely fun time to be in hospitality, and there are so many innovators moving into the field, taking the industries in new directions and to new heights.  

In which ways is technology helping you do your magic? 

We are a deeply collaborative company, and technology plays a fundamental role in that. We typically handle all day-to-day projects, development, and construction management in-house at BLVD. The strides taken in rendering technologies, global access to design software, and even newer technologies like AI Image Generators allow us to see, and in some cases even feel, the built experience prior to swinging a hammer. 

With the world at our fingertips with smartphones and all, how can a concierge stay relevant?

Live it. True passion is visceral and visible. Lovers of hospitality know the difference between a script and authenticity, and no amount of technology can fake that. 

"I truly believe that architecture, real estate, and hospitality are all art forms, and I get the opportunity to wake up every day and create things that impact the community, culture, and individual people’s lives."

How do you create a trustful relationship with your guests?

Be human. My partner Jon always references humanity whenever dealing with conflict — whether that be with a guest, a contractor, or anyone else that we deal with daily. We’re human, and so are the individuals we interact with. Everyone just wants to be seen, heard, and listened to, and that serves as the foundation of trust with our guests and beyond. 

Can you tell us about the most memorable guest you’ve ever had?

We’ve had the same first guest at each one of our hotel openings over the past decade – Hal Bastian. He was the head of the Downtown Los Angeles Business Improvement District for over a decade, and he remains one of the most passionate and dedicated individuals in regard to the ongoing downtown Los Angeles renaissance. It’s the passion of people like Hal that make everything we build possible. 

What is the wackiest thing that ever happened to you at work?

Historic buildings always tend to come with ghost stories. On numerous occasions, we’ve seen unidentified and unexplainable phenomena on security cameras, doors opening and closing in fully vacant and powered-down buildings, glimpses of human figures out of the corner of our eyes, and much more. BLVD Ghostbusters may be the next venture!

Nicolo and Abi Rae at the Roman Colloseum
Nicolo and Abi Rae at the Roman Colloseum
Nicolo adventuring in the Grand Canyon
Nicolo adventuring in the Grand Canyon

What excites you the most these days?

People and stories. As we’ve been building our team at The Georgian, I get reminded every day just how much I don’t know and how much I haven’t experienced. Fortunately, the hospitality experience for any property is a manifestation of the collective experience of everyone involved, and I get excited every day to see how that manifests itself with our projects and properties.  

If you would like to change anything in your industry, what would it be?

Less bottle service networking.

The historic pale blue façade of The Georgian
The historic pale blue façade of The Georgian
The redesigned bedrooms at The Georgian
The redesigned bedrooms at The Georgian

Check out our guide to the Best Hotels in LA

If you could give hotel guests one piece of advice for their stay — and for life — what would it be?

Walk and explore. The most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had have come from stepping out the front door of a hotel in a new city and just walking. I’m an avid collector of way too many things and often find myself in back-alley bookstores, midblock obscurities shops, off-map stores & galleries, and more. I’ve always loved the idea of serendipity, and in most instances, it feels like these places find me more than I find them. Walk, explore, and find your own inspiration.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career today?

Find something or someone that deeply inspires you. Surround yourself with people who aspire to be great. You will quickly realize just how much passion and dedication it takes to create something truly special. Once you have that, latch onto that feeling and let the inertia guide you to creation — while always being cognizant of your mental and physical health, of course.

Nicolo and Abi at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Nicolo and Abi at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Do you have a favorite movie where the hotel is the backdrop or the star?

With all of the time we’ve been spending on the restoration of The Georgian in Santa Monica, the movie Grand Budapest Hotel and the cinematographic genius of Wes Anderson has been a deep source of inspiration for multiple facets of the project.

If you could choose a hotel to stay in, that isn’t the one you work for, anywhere in the world, which one would it be?

It depends on how long I have to stay. Haha. After I got engaged to my wife in August of 2019 in Iceland, we spent three magical days at the Blue Lagoon. It was both spiritually and professionally transformative for me, and it remains one of my favorite hospitality destinations globally. If I had to stay somewhere for weeks or longer, I’d probably choose Le Sirenuse in Positano. The iconism of that property amidst the surrounding culture and cuisine of the Amalfi Coast speaks to a very deep part of my soul.

"True passion is visceral and visible. Lovers of hospitality know the difference between a script and authenticity, and no amount of technology can fake that."

If you were a hotel or destination, which one would you be and why?

A mix of Los Angeles and Hanalei Bay (the homes of me and my wife). 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have a desert plant lifestyle brand called Pax Obscura, give us a follow =) And come visit me at The Georgian in Santa Monica.

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