The Tides Comes In
Linda Lee -- Interior Design, 10/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Pale imitation should be fighting words, but they're a good way to describe Kelly Wearstler's interiors for the Tides South Beach in Miami Beach. Breaking onto the hotel design scene in 2002 with Viceroy Palm Springs, Kelly Wearstler Interior Design unleashed the 1930's Hollywood Regency look: shiny lacquer, big mirrors, gold leaf.
But where the Viceroy is bold in color, the Tides's palette is subdued—shades of sand, seashell pink, and sea foam, with an occasional pop of orange—derived from the beachfront locale and the 1936 hotel's original sandstone. Not all of it was by choice. Because L. Murray Dixon's art deco building is landmarked, "The city literally had to approve the paint color in the lobby," says Wearstler, whose husband's real estate company, the Kor Hotel Group, acquired the property in 2006.
To reach the lobby, guests climb travertine stairs flanked by terraces with potted plants and banquettes facing the Atlantic across Ocean Drive. Through the entrance, the original terrazzo floor is a playing field of harmoniously arranged barrel chairs, tufted-leather sofas, and brass drum tables sitting on a circular mohair rug. Four towering 1930's stone chairs carved in the form of Roman centurions stand guard against the walls.
With its assortment of gold vases, rock crystals, and vintage furniture, Wearstler's lobby is at once sophisticated and cozy. Thirsty visitors will immediately make for the back of the room, where the open-plan Martini Bar is located, marked only by a half-dozen stools pulled up to a counter of bleached walnut and pale sandstone with a tall liquor cabinet in shagreen and antiqued mirror behind.
On the left of the lobby, behind a long, mirrored, custom credenza, is the hotel restaurant, La Marea—"the tide" in Italian. Those who know Wearstler's in-store restaurant at New York's Bergdorf Goodman, will recognize the tall, hooded Hall Porter–style dining chairs. A pair of enormous brass palm trees and a wall's worth of giant turtle shells complete the oceanside picture.
For a woman who often uses the word organic to describe this interior's program, Wearstler resorts to an awful lot of faux. She's taken kitschy items a '50's tourist might have hauled home from Florida—driftwood, shells, palm-tree sculptures, turtle shells—and given them poise by artfully arranging them on a neutral ground. (The turtle shells are, of course, resin.)
The Coral Bar, a small retreat off the lobby, is named for another tourist collectible. But with its '40's French marble countertop, reverse-glass mural, and ripe palette of persimmon, carnelian, and vermillion, this intimate spot is reminiscent of the much-loved bar at the nearby Raleigh Hotel. The Tides is the flagship for a future chain of boutique hotels, each of which will have a deep-toned Coral Bar like the one here.
Because of landmark status, Wearstler could not alter the layout of the Tide's 45 guest rooms and 10 suites. Instead, she replaced carpeting with travertine flooring, which, she says, "feels more refreshing," cloaked the walls in hemp, and hung bleached-rope and seashell accents. Blond cerused oak woodwork is accented by upholstery in sunrise reds and yellows. Her Hollywood Regency period appears in faux zebra-print rugs, vaguely classical busts, and slipper chairs.
Wearstler also provides hunks of petrified wood, which are intended as tables, but could be used for seating by guests in wet bathing suits. As designers know, new hotel managers frequently alter interiors, especially by rearranging the furniture. The pieces of wood in the guest rooms at the Tides weigh 600 pounds each. As Wearstler says, triumphantly, "No one can move them around."
FROM FRONT MOORE & GILES: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY (BAR), SOFA UPHOLSTERY (LOBBY), HOOD-CHAIR UPHOLSTERY, ARMCHAIR UPHOLSTERY (RESTAURANT), CHAIR UPHOLSTERY (CORAL SUITE). THROUGH MICHEL CONTESSA: LAMPS (LOBBY). UNITED LEATHER USA: BARREL-CHAIR UPHOLSTERY. FORTUNY: SLIPPER-CHAIR FABRIC. MANSOUR MODERN: RUG. THROUGH JEAN DE MERRY: BAR CABINET COVERING. PERENNIALS: LOUNGE-CHAIR UPHOLSTERY (POOL). ULTRA FABRICS: HOOD-CHAIR FABRIC, SOFA FABRIC. THROUGH PEGASO GALLERY DESIGN: PALM TREES (RESTAURANT). DOGWOOD FABRICS: SLIPPER-CHAIR FABRIC (BAR). HOLLY HUNT: BAR-STOOL UPHOLSTERY. CIRCA LIGHTING: SCONCES (SUITE BEDROOM). DORNBRACHT: SINK, TUB FITTINGS (BATHROOM). THROUGHOUT VOA ASSOCIATES: ARCHITECT OF RECORD. REVERB STUDIOS: GRAPHICS CONSULTANT. BRUCE LIEBERT LIGHTING INTERIORS: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. REESMAR SALES & MILLWORK: WOODWORK. S.G.M. ENGINEERING: MEP. J. EDUARDO GONZALEZ: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. BRODSON CONSTRUCTION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.