Miami Hotel Spotlight: South Beach's Lord Balfour

 

Lord Balfour Hotel is back after a two-year, multi-million dollar overhaul

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By Shayne Benowitz | shayne@shaynebenowitz.com

Lord Balfour has been reinstated in South Beach.

The 64-room Streamline Moderne boutique hotel, originally built in 1940 and named for the former British Prime Minister, opened its doors at the end of June after a two-yearlong, multi-million dollar overhaul.

Formerly The Wave Hotel from 1999 to 2010, Lord Balfour is back with design nods that tell a story, balancing the old (original terrazzo flooring, an ornate, hand-stenciled golden fresco elevator door with porthole window) with the new (a colorful tattoo motif, free WiFi in every room, and contemporary art installations).

Balfour, a lifelong bachelor who had a reputation for vanity, irreverence, and ahead-of-his-time politics, seems to fit in rather nicely in 2013 South Beach. Designed by Malcolm Berg and the Edge of Architecture team, the hotel has a regal blue and yellow color palate, as well as unexpected elements, like a mirror-paneled wall with rows of outstretched white plaster hands, clutching hand mirrors. The vibe is both sophisticated, and cheeky.

“Some people will like it and some won’t,” says Alessandro Ferretti, Principal of Cometsa, the group that owns the property. “But everyone will remember it. When a guest checks in, I want them to call a friend to say, ‘you’ve gotta see this place.’”

The lobby’s most eye-catching element is a scroll of Lord Balfour quotes, extending from behind the front desk, and onto the ceiling. One of Ferretti’s favorites being, “A good speech, like a woman’s skirt, should be long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

Things get a little wild inside the guest rooms where the image of a tattooed woman by photographer Justice Howard peers out from behind the “solar yellow” diamond-tufted headboards. This is offset by the sedate, natural tones of sustainable bamboo wood floors, an exclusively designed hair-on-hide leather chair, and custom wooden writing desk.

Back in the lobby, the original reception desk has been converted into a bar with a beverage program by Tommy Merolla steeped in the English tea tradition. The Lord Balfour Collins, for instance, is made with gin, yuzu, soda, fresh basil, and an Oolong tea reduction. Drinks are priced at $12 each with two-for-one specials from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

There’s a small gym with four cardio machines, as well as partnership with nearby Equinox Gym. A restaurant is in the works, and plans for a “phase two” addition to the property, featuring larger guest rooms, meeting space, and a rooftop garden, pool, and Jacuzzi. Introductory off-season rates start at $199 per night.

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