"The hotels [in Miami] tend to be trendy. One of the key things that the owner wanted to achieve here was a more classic look, something that was welcoming, a home away from home," says designer Diamante Pedersoli of the Betsy hotel on Ocean Drive in South Beach. And since the Betsy is housed in the former Betsy Ross hotel, a Georgian colonial building built by L. Murray Dixon in the 1940s, Pedersoli and designer Carmelina Santoro (who were brought together for this project) had something unique to work with.
A welcoming feel starts in the expansive lobby, where original floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with light, plantation-style fans slowly turn, and modern yet comfortable furnishings done in various fabrics stand amongst potted palms. The designers had to restore the original pink terrazzo floor, and added natural fiber rugs to complete the feel.
BLT Steak restaurant shares the grand lobby space. But after designing 12 BLTs in four and a half years, this was Michael Bagley’s first venue to share the lobby. So to create a connection between the two spaces, he made the space a bit more feminine. "I call it BLT light," the New York-based designer says. Instead of ebony tables, he used oak; and the color palette is one of vanilla and white chocolate hues instead of darker tones. Soon there will be a wooden plantation-style shutter wall that separates dining from reception.
The hotel’s home-away-from-home feel comes alive in the 63 guestrooms, which guests get a sense of while walking through the well-appointed hallways (think similar plantation-style fans, raffia ceilings, and console tables at the elevators). Rooms are done in one of four color schemes—lilac, coral, ochre, or apple green—and feature white wooden plantation shuttered windows, black walnut hardwood floors, white lacquered dressers, raffia covered ceilings, chairs, and headboards, and stately poster beds. Bathrooms continue the luxurious feel, as they are swathed in marble, and feature rainshowers and TVs built into the mirror. "When we go to hotels, we like to peek into other people’s rooms," says Santoro, who has designed Bulgari stores in the past (Pedersoli has designed private residences for Ralph Lauren). "So we planned that a different color scheme is across from each room so guests can peek into something different."
Overall, in talking to the designers about these well thought out details, it was easy to see that this two and a half year project was one of love, and a great collaboration. "It was a challenge, but a fun one," says Bagley. "Three minds are better than one."
"We share a vision," adds Los Angeles-based Pedersoli.
Next up for the hotel: a rooftop spa and sundeck, as well as an intimate nightspot.