When Soho Beach House recently debuted in Miami Beach, it caused quite a buzz among the city’s social elite who are always on the lookout for the next wave of über hippness to wash ashore. When we toured the brand new Soho Beach House with principal architect Allan Shulman who supervised the artful transition of the historic Sovereign Hotel into a series of cozy public and private spaces, we learned precisely what makes this new complex such an exclusive seaside oasis.
Soho House of London was founded in 1995 and expanded to include private clubs, guest rooms, restaurants and spa facilities designed to pamper lucky affiliates wherever in the world they might travel. Soho provides chic and private hideaways for jet-setters and their guests in Europe, New York, Los Angeles and now, Miami Beach.
Originally built by architect Roy France in 1941, the Sovereign Hotel is nestled in the daunting shadow of the enormous Fontainebleau Resort which eclipsed the symmetrical austerity of its neighbors when it opened in 1954. Morris Lapidus, the notorious architect who originally conceived the highly theatrical sweeping curves and “cheese holes” of the Fontainebleau, deftly drew all attention up and away from the pre-war buildings that lined lower Collins Avenue with a flourish of his pen.
In an odd parallel, Allan Shulman + Associates were tasked with quietly updating the Sovereign/Soho property just after the Fontainebleau borrowed more than $620 million to help fund massive renovations that transformed the historic destination into a giddy Las Vegas style resort. The neighboring hotels are at once paired opposites; the Soho Beach House is a tailored private refuge while the sprawling Fontainebleau Resort delivers the limelight.
Shulman crafted a slender 16-story tower behind the existing hotel to house state-of-the-art oceanfront guest rooms and then set about the delicate task of blending the updated historic property with the new tower to create a homogeneous experience for Soho’s discriminating clientele.
The Soho brand is steeped in British country living, thus Soho Beach House interiors are paneled in dark woods and are furnished in antique furniture and overstuffed sofas that fill the lobby lounge, the private screening room and even the outdoor terraces. While most Miami properties cultivate a sense of space and serenity with sparse furnishings, white walls and towers of glass, the creative brief at Soho Beach House is entirely opposite. Guests roam reclaimed barnwood paneled halls, tread on jewel-toned oriental carpets and sit cheek by jowl on striped loungers that line both sides of the slender lap pool.
“The design of Soho Beach House is the type of challenge our firm cultivates,” says Shulman. “I appreciate the projects where, to an historic site, we can introduce contemporary pieces that speak more about today’s concerns; sustainability, transparency, amenity and iconography.”
Working with designer Martin Brudnizki, 50 guest rooms are available in six different sizes with a mix of antique appointments, flat panel TVs, iPod docking stations, rainforest showers and ocean or Indian Creek views.
By day, interaction around the 100-foot long pool is encouraged with communal lounge beds and a cozy beachfront seating area that’s perfect for socializing. The new building features a “screening snug” where digital screening services are available for gatherings and parties. The full service Cowshed spa overlooks the Atlantic with a dedicated fitness room, treatment suites and a blow dry bar.
Unlimited access to Soho Beach House is available to members and hotel guests, but the elegant courtyard restaurant, Cecconi’s, is open to the public and offers a romantic al fresco fine dining experience nestled between the original Sovereign lobby and the private seaside pool deck.
Shulman worked with a team of engineers to install a translucent retractable Teflon awning that can be deployed to cover the restaurant in inclement weather or withdrawn to allow an evening under the stars. A wooden pergola festooned with strands of tivoli lights sparkles overhead and adds to the enchanting effect of the space. Because the Soho Beach House protects the privacy of its members, the view to the pool is obstructed by a suitably English hedgerow—yet another seemingly counter-intuitive element in a city where everyone wants to see and be seen.
• Oceanfront hotel
• 5-minute cab ride to Lincoln Road & Ocean Drive
• Cecconi’s Restaurant on-site