By Julie Landry Laviolette
Your butler whisks a silver tray to your suite with coffee service for two. A perfect red rose peeks from a crystal holder as your butler, Diego, pours the French press brew into delicate white bone china cups with golden rims.
Diego, dapper and gracious in a red blazer and black slacks, explains that he is there to personally assist you – to unpack your bags, shine shoes, press your trousers, or serve afternoon tea or cocktails. And that butler service is available 24/7.
Such is the life of a guest at Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
The oceanfront hotel is the anchor in the $1 billion Miami Beach arts district that Argentinean developer Alan Faena is creating, with an entertainment space and shopping bazaar coming across the street. The hotel, along with its luxurious level of service, offers an opulent and eclectic collection of art that gives the property a glamorous feel.
Designed with the guidance of film director Baz Luhrmann ("The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge”), and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, the result is elegant, decadent, Art Deco-esque and over-the-top.
But it works.
Walk into the Faena Hotel Miami Beach entrance to find The Cathedral, an expansive great hall with gold-leafed columns and ceiling, floor-to-ceiling mystical, richly-hued murals by Argentinian artist Juan Gatti, and an intricately patterned mosaic tile floor. Breathe in. The hotel’s signature scent, the Faena scent, is being subtly released through tea lights.
The Gilded Mammoth
Peer through the glass wall at the far end of The Cathedral to see the hotel’s signature art piece – the bones of a 10-foot-high woolly mammoth, encased in 24-karat gold. The $15 million piece by artist Damian Hirst, secured in a climate-controlled glass case, sits under swaying palm trees. It’s a juxtaposition of ancient relic and Miami Beach posh that will take your breath away.
But back to the hotel. The art is there for the masses, but a discreet and ever-present security team ensures that the curious go no further. The privacy of hotel guests is a priority, a draw for both celebrities and VIPs looking for a secluded retreat.
The property, a renovation of The Saxony Hotel built in 1948, brings an old-Hollywood glamour to its rooms with a touch of tropical whimsy. There are 21 room categories among the 169 rooms, and most are suites. Accented in vibrant red, bold turquoise and cool white, the rooms have a retro-glam feel with modern touches. Summon the butler with the touch of a button. Use the iPad next to the bed to make a dinner reservation. Experience amenities such as a TOTO toilet with a heated seat and electronically-controlled bidet.
Lounge on a plush red velvet sofa like a starlet from the golden age. Recline on a bed with crisp white linens or retreat to a soothing bathroom with a soaking tub, signature toiletries and Himalayan bath salts, a separate shower and twin white marble sinks.
On the stark white balcony, a wall mural of more serene turquoise and red sits just beyond a pair of gilded chairs with seafoam blue cushions. The ocean below beckons; it’s time to go outside.
The hotel’s basic but elegant palm tree-lined pool has a ready staff of attendants wearing billowy white and dispensing towels, sunscreen, a frosty beverage or light bite. Outside the privacy fence, step onto a white sand beach, where you’ll find another staff of attendants with lounge chairs, umbrellas and a menu of light fare and drinks.
A luxe spa
The Faena Hotel’s 22,000 square-foot spa blends modern design with old-world South American shaman inspiration. The spa’s relaxation area is a kaleidoscope of cheerful, brightly colored accents on crisp white furnishings, anchored by a showstopper of a chandelier. The treatment area features a co-ed wet room containing a continuous flow of white marbled relaxation areas ranging from an ice room to a steam room to a waterfall therapy alcove to a hamam, a tranquil sauna-like retreat.
In the morning, sunlight streams into Veranda, an intimate ground-floor eatery with plush red and animal print seating indoors and more casual outdoor seating overlooking the pool. At breakfast, try the South Beach Scramble, with local crabmeat and a bright chimichurri sauce, served with roasted fingerling potatoes.
In the evening, as the sun sinks into the horizon, doors are opened to Veranda’s adjoining lounge and a swanky speakeasy emerges, with a jazz ensemble and a well-dressed crowd sipping crafted cocktails.
The dining room, its warm colors deepening in the low light, offers a sophisticated backdrop to delights such as empanadas filled with hand-cut filet, Wagyu steak with salsa criolla, and sea bass with truffle foam.
At Los Fuegos, the open-fire cooking techniques of Argentinian celebrity chef Francis Mallmann are featured at lunch and dinner.
Upstairs, Pao offers Asian-fusion cuisine by chef Paul Qui in an elegant indoor/outdoor setting.
At the end of our stay, we found a note from Diego and a little gift, silk sleeping masks and lovely fold-out fans tucked into canvas drawstring bags. There was a handwritten note hoping we had enjoyed our stay, signed “your butler, Diego.”
Such elegant, masterful attention to detail. That’s the Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
When you go…
Faena Hotel Miami Beach
3201 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33140