The Faena Hotel Ushers in a New Era of South Beach Glamour

Argentinian developer Alan Faena raises the bar in the capital of over-the-top flash.

A suite with tropical flourishes. (Photo: Courtesy Faena Hotel Miami Beach)

Ask Argentine developer Alan Faena to describe his latest project—the Faena District Miami Beach, built over four city blocks on both sides of Collins Avenue—and he keeps his answer short and sweet: “A place like no other.” But his plans and ambition are big. Very big.

When the district is fully complete in 2017, it will be a who’s who of architectural greats: OMA, led here by Shohei Shigematsu, who runs its New York office, is designing the 43,000-square-foot Faena Forum cultural center, as well as a marina, parking structure, and retail complex. Foster + Partners, meanwhile, is contributing an 18-story luxury condo building (already finished and entirely sold out), with additional private residential towers by William Sofield and Brandon Haw.

And then there’s the Faena Hotel. Set inside the former Saxony Hotel, the de- sign was a collaboration between Alan Faena, the fantastical filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and his wife, Catherine Martin, a costume designer. They transformed the 169-room property into a vision of old glamour: golden curtain tassels, red fabric, and a profusion of velvet furniture. “Alan does in reality what Cathe- rine and I try to do in the movies and theater,” Luhrmann says. “That’s why we connect. The hotel is like a movie, but it’s real— a natural place to dream and create.”

The action starts as soon as you step foot inside the “cathedral,” the hotel’s stunning double-height entryway, where a site-specific mural by Argentine artist Juan Gatti depicts the quests of conquistadors to El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth. Inside, everything is custom-made, including the lobby’s terrazzo floor in Faena white (which matches the developer’s customary suit).


With details in red leather, velvet, and turquoise, the Art Deco–inspired rooms are just as glamorous as the common spaces. Yet hey also somehow manage to feel homey. (American walnut wood finishes and travertine stone tops help.) As Faena puts it, “From the colors to the carpet, it’s very residential. You won’t feel like you’re in a hotel.” Each of the suites has a different, albeit equally opulent, look. The Faena suite is appointed with gold antique lamps, a white onyx table-top, gold drapes, and leopard-print accents. The Saxony suite trades white and gold for a red-and-blue color scheme, including a teal onyx tabletop and cheetah-patterned sofas. Finally, the Imperial suite goes pastel, with a green and salmon palette and custom armchairs upholstered in a flower-patterned fabric.

A sitting area in one of the suites. (Photo: Courtesy Faena Hotel Miami Beach)

Public Areas

The hotel puts its restaurants front and center—and why wouldn’t it, with pow- er-hitting chefs like Paul Qui and Francis Mallmann each running their own show? (Thomas Keller protégé Gabriel Ask heads the poolside Veranda). The Austin-based Qui presides over Pao, where the crudo- heavy small plates menu competes with the soaring space, a domed room awash in gold leaf. There’s also an abundance of white mar- ble, which rings the wooden herringbone floors and tops the bar. Courtyard tables are gussied up with bespoke gold-and-white cushions by Studio Job. But the real show-stopper is Damien Hirst’s “Golden Myth,” a bronze unicorn sculpture. (The artist’s equally stunning gilded mammoth skeleton, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” sits outside in the Raymond Jungles–designed garden as Instagram bait.)

Damien Hirst's "Gone But Not Forgotten" in a Raymond Jungles–designed garden. (Photo: Courtesy Faena Hotel Miami Beach)

By contrast, the centerpiece of Mallmann’s Los Fuegos is the kitchen itself. The chef is known for cooking over a live flame; guests will be able to see his wood-fired oven and multiple grills from the lobby. The interior dining room blends seamlessly with the outside of Veranda, which is outfitted in teak furniture by Frank Pollaro and hand-painted Juan Gatti tiles.

In the Library, guests can relax in Art Deco furniture covered in—you guessed it—gold and red velvet, with a sprawling Gatsby–esque rug designed by Martin’s company, Underfoot. Don’t forget to look up: A 22- arm vintage Giò Ponti chandelier made of steel and brass hangs from the ceiling.

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