Serenity at Indigo in San Diego

It was the bottom of the fifth, and the Florida Marlins were leading the San Diego Padres, 3-1. The crowd roared as a flashing sign in Petco Park implored the fans to make some noise. From my seat, I heard and saw it all. But I was a block away, relaxing, drink in hand, on the ninth-floor terrace of Hotel Indigo.

I had a clear view through the outfield to home plate, though binoculars would have helped. But what I missed I could see on the stadium's oversized screen. And what fun to be a rooftop voyeur on a warm summer night. It's one of the perks at Hotel Indigo San Diego-Gaslamp Quarter, which opened July 13.

The place has a playful, casual vibe. On a given day, Sandy (as in San Diego), the house puppy-in-training, might be leading a merry chase through the lobby. Haiku abounds. On a coaster: "Rest your glass awhile. Mingle with the dragonflies. Summertime delight." On a door hanger: "Give me some more time. In a dreamy state of bliss." On the cover of the guest room directory: "If you flip, you'll find it here. Asking works great too."

The Indigo's icon is a blue nautilus shell -- blue for calm, the nautilus to represent the epitome of perfect proportion in nature. Bed pillows are embroidered with blue shells and an invitation to "curl up."

The 210-room boutique property, owned and managed by InterContinental Hotels Group, is the second Indigo in California (besides the Ontario Rancho Cucamonga property). Indigo is promoting its 29 properties in the United States and abroad as environmentally friendly and very green (as well as calm and blue).

Green features at Hotel Indigo San Diego include an herb garden for its Bistro and a roof covered with drought-tolerant plants to reduce use of heating and air conditioning. The deck on the ninth floor Meditation Terrace (not conducive to meditation during construction of a high-rise next door) and the ballpark-view terrace are made from recycled plastics and wood fibers. Eco-friendly cleaning products are used. Each guest room has a recycling container, and the Bistro kitchen composts organic matter to feed those rooftop plants. And -- what a concept -- guest rooms have windows that actually open.

I'd booked a king room directly with the hotel for $199. When I checked in, the hotel had been open only a week, but things were humming, in no small part because general manager Chris Jones seemed to be everywhere at once. When I mentioned to him that I couldn't make my coffee maker work, he appeared within minutes with three others to check it out. (I hadn't held down the brew button down long.)

The Indigo brand doesn't miss an opportunity to play off its name in describing its hotels and services. Front-desk staff members are in.bassadors, who are expected to be in.tuitive. The properties are designed to be in.viting and in.triguing.

This is an urban hotel on a small site (no pool) and close to neither the convention center nor the city's business core. Indigo's directive to designers was that it be a neighborhood hotel with an indoor-outdoor feel, a place that would attract both visitors and locals and "take advantage of this wonderful weather in San Diego," said architect Joseph Wong of San Diego-based Joseph Wong Design Associates.

The lobby is bright and welcoming, with a water-wall defining a seating area. The adjacent Phi Bar and Bistro has operational floor-to-ceiling windows. Everything at the Indigo is about Phi, which, an in.bassador explained, is inspired by the Fibonacci sequence of numbers and its relationship to nature and art.

When I mentioned to architect Wong that my fifth-floor room felt spacious, he said the rooms are about the size of those at Holiday Inns (another InterContinental brand). Clever design elements, including a foyer with a frosted-glass divider separating it from the bedroom and a curving half-wall on one side, do the trick for these 300-square-foot rooms.

The bath had a large shower (only the five suites have tubs) and good counter space. Room amenities included a 37-inch flat-screen TV, two phones, an iPod docking station and a desk with Wi-Fi access. (There's also a small business center in the lobby with free Internet.) I did blanch at the price for a liter of Fiji water on that desk: $6.

The interior designers, Georgia-based Design Directions Inc., didn't shy away from color. And in this era of the ubiquitous white duvet and neutral palettes, color looks fresh again. The king bed cover was a stylish blossom print in persimmon and cream. The draperies were persimmon, the rug on the dark faux-wood floor two shades of green in a wave pattern. A lounge chair was in a geometric cream and persimmon fabric. Bathroom walls were chocolate brown. Panels of persimmon give a punch of color to green-carpeted corridors.

Local artist Lisa Schirmer created the 40-foot "Indigo Waters" sculpture on the hotel facade, arranging the 33 glass panels in Fibonacci sequence to bring to mind the ocean's waves and ripples. San Diego photographer Ian Cummings created the big, colorful photographic murals of local landscapes and waterscapes that add color to guest rooms and public rooms.

There is one thing that didn't quite add up: the Bistro. It's not exactly a restaurant, with its selection of small plates such as "quarter bites," which are sliders by any other name. For dinner, I chose the sampler -- four fish or meat quarter-bites -- for $16. The description was better than the reality. The best part was the sweet potato fries with ancho chipotle sauce. A better bet: the delightful Cafe Chloe, just two blocks away at 721 9th Ave.

Another downside: The Indigo, at 9th and Island avenues, is in the East Village, still a dicey area on the fringes of the Gaslamp Quarter. Gaslamp's restaurants, bars and shops are largely concentrated between 4th and 6th avenues. (On the plus side, away from the Gaslamp bustle, my room was quiet, even with the window open.)

My favorite spot in the hotel was the Phi Terrace Bar with its reflecting pool and twin fire pits of recycled glass. All this, baseball and a view of city lights. Does it get any better?



Hotel Indigo

San Diego-Gaslamp Quarter

509 9th Ave.

(877) 270-1392

(619) 727-4000

Advance purchase rates (nonrefundable) from $134; other rates from $199.

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