Jet-Set Bohemian: Reliving Miami’s Glory Days

Travel Lists Miami
Jet-Set Bohemian: Reliving Miami’s Glory Days

A jetset lifestyle doesn’t have to be all private planes and decadent digs. In Paste Travel’s Jet-Set Bohemian series, we blend the best of high and low for just the right balance … enticing everyone from backpackers to luxury boutique hotel lovers to come along for the ride.


Take a glance around Miami and you’ll see a city with a very distinct yet very split personality. Looking at photos of my mom standing on Miami Beach in the late 70s, only a few low-rise buildings sprouted behind the sand, but now high-rises hug Collins Avenue. In Downtown and Brickell, skyscrapers compete for attention, each climbing higher than the next, with one big-name brand after another joining the neighborhood (SLS Brickell Hotel & Residences is slated to open this year). But despite the growth of these hotels with their mega-clubs and multiple dining options, more hoteliers are looking at Miami’s Art Deco past, with 800 historically significant structures on South Beach swathed in a sea of pastels that maintain the same tropical resort-style motifs (and original façades and signs) as when they were built in the boom following the Great Depression. The latest wave of hotels opening up in these Art Deco beauties is bringing back a sense of Miami’s golden days just as the city celebrates its centennial, literally draping buildings in gold and antique-inspired furniture for a Great Gatsby-meets-Marilyn Monroe-style experience.


Faena courtesy of hotel.jpg
Photo courtesy of Faena

One of this year’s most anticipated openings, Argentinian developer Faena’s new Miami Beach hotel set up shop in the historic Saxony Hotel, built in 1948 by architect Roy F. France. From the outside, the hotel looks just as it did in the 1940s, but inside tells a different story, with filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and Academy Award-winning costume and production designer Catherine Martin tackling the redesign. The husband-and-wife duo behind whimsical films like Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby brought this same pops of color and old-world glamour to the 169 rooms at Faena, adding subtle tropical touches with golden palm tree lamp stands, pillows emblazoned with coral and seashells, and soap dishes in the shape of sea urchins. Rooms overlook the sea and are bathed in shades of red and teal, balanced by animal print ottomans, vintage-inspired light fixtures and furniture etched in gold.

During Art Basel, the wraparound penthouse suite—accessed by a private elevator—played host to a Perrier Jouet party with Champagne sitting everywhere from the bar to the bathtubs in a style that Gatsby would definitely be proud of. The Roaring Twenties vibe continued post-party downstairs at the Living Room, or lobby bar, with cocktails under the pièce de résistance—the Alberto Garutti-designed chandelier that flashes in tune with lightening storms happening over 4,000 miles away in the plains of La Pampa, Argentina. As if this all isn’t decadent enough, step outside and admire another piece of artwork in the form of Damien Hirst’s 24-karat gilded woolly mammoth skeleton, “Gone but not Forgotten,” sold at the Cannes amfAR gala in 2014 for $15 million, standing regally in a case of hurricane-proof glass.


Drawing Room at Shelborne.jpg
Photo courtesy of The Drawing Room

Another 1940 landmark, the 200-room Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach reopened in the Art Deco District in 2014 following a $150 renovation. Rooms bring back elements of the Rat Pack days with mid-century modern furniture and fabrics inspired by cars of the same era. You’ll still find elements of the original design scattered throughout, such as Art Deco architect Igor Polevitsky’s iconic diving board, but now the pool staff has uniforms to match, with 1950s-themed looks by costume designer Carol Ramsey. In the original 1940s lobby, mixologist Albert Trummer put down roots for his first permanent cocktail bar in Miami, The Drawing Room, serving up apothecary-style concoctions (lab coat included) in a setting that looks like a glammed up version of Mad Men with its brass cocktail carts, plush leather couches and terrazzo floors. The only hint of the 21st century here is the very Miami-style sign hanging behind the bar next to the shelves of prescription-looking potions that reads “too much is never enough.”


While these spots show off more of Miami’s glitz, the new Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel, which opened last fall before Art Basel, reflects the mid-century European jet-set style, even placing vintage travel chests in rooms to which serve as well-stocked mini-bars. Designed by Morris Lapidus in the 1950s, the 250-room hotel looks like it could’ve been the set for Monroe’s Some Like It Hot with a cabana-lined saltwater pool (updated with an underwater sound system) and retro-style white parasols shading sunbathers. The sunken lobby bar with its muted mustard and violet velvet chairs is throwback Miami, but head deeper into the hotel and you’ll see that Driftwood Room restaurant’s dining room (pictured at top) teeters more on the modern side, while still incorporating wood and brass Art Deco accents. Of course the spot wouldn’t fit into the beach’s fine dining hotel scene without a celeb chef at the helm, and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli has earned this title, fusing elements of Miami and Southern France into Driftwood Room’s dishes.

Photo courtesy of Carillon

Mid-Beach (between 23rd and 63rd streets) continues to grow with new hotels taking over Art Deco digs, but developers are looking further north past landmark spots built in the 1950s like Fontainebleau and Eden Roc, the one-time playground for the likes of Lauren Bacall and Frank Sinatra. The former Canyon Ranch is the perfect example. Undergoing a $25 million renovation set to be complete by the end of the year, the 1958 hotel is returning to its roots and original name, Carillon Miami Beach. Staying true to its original design, the architect’s son, Ira Giller, is spearheading the redesign bringing the all-suite Carillon back to its former glory that he experienced first-hand growing up around the hotel.

Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.

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