An Art Deco gem whose sparkle had lost its luster, the Shelborne hotel has reemerged as a Wyndham Grand property on Collins Ave., ready to take its place once again as a South Beach hot spot. This latest iteration boasts a restaurant by Iron Chef Masharu Morimoto and a bar concept by famed mixologist Albert Trummer.
Originally erected in 1940 by architect Igor Polevitsky and updated in the 1950s by Miami Modern mastermind, Morris Lapidus, the Shelborne stands in the heart of the Art Deco District. Without a signature restaurant or nightlife scene in recent years, the hotel itself felt dated and lacked sizzle. On a street where “Art Deco gems” are a dime a dozen, the Shelborne was overlooked in favor of its more fashionably rendered historic neighbors, like Delano, The Raleigh and Shore Club, and most recently SLS South Beach.
A half-hearted renovation to the public areas in 2011, along with the launch of the short-lived Sushi MiKasa by reality star and Kim Kardashian hanger-on Jonathan Cheban, failed to ignite a comeback for the hotel, and in July 2013 it closed for further renovations.
Longtime owned and independently operated by the Galbut family, they partnered with Wyndham in February 2014 as the hotel underwent a $90 million restoration. It reopened in September with new business partners Flag Luxury Group and Wyndham management.
Today, as soon as you step foot inside the new lobby, the sense that, this time around, they pulled off a successful update is palpable. The design is cohesive and softly glamorous, thanks to interior designer Meg Sharpe, in shades of pink, coral and cream with sunburst golden chandeliers.
In keeping with historic preservation codes, certain design elements remained unchanged, like the exterior neon sign, circular port cochere and its supporting diamond-shaped columns. This design detail was honored throughout the property as diamond shapes emerge in the terrazzo floors, plush carpets and even in lighting fixtures at Morimoto.
Marketing Manager Jonathan Torres is keen to refer to the project as a restoration as opposed to a mere renovation because of how broad the work was in recovering the hotel’s original glamour.
Through the course of the project, a few discoveries were unearthed, like an original objet d’art in the form of a giant seashell that stands at the foot of the stairs in the lobby on your way to Blue Harmony Spa. Two guest rooms were also demolished on the ground level to create Trummer’s Drawing Room bar in the back of the property where they discovered a Lapidus-signature spiral “stairway to nowhere” (in this case, a mezzanine and ballrooms) that now stands as a design focal point with a gleaming column.
Richard Mishaan Design was tapped to reimagine the 200 guest rooms and corridors with inspiration taken from 1940s vintage cars. Guest room doors are painted in the same shiny acrylic enamel used for cars. And hallways feature detail photography of dramatic retro fenders with sconces reminiscent of headlights. Inside, shiny chrome bedside lamps compliment the custom furniture—desk chairs, amorphous headboards—featuring tan leather with blue accents inspired by a car’s leather seats. And the recurring diamond pattern is found in the modern bathrooms’ white tile.
A successful South Beach hotel needs a restaurant that draws the crowds, and Shelborne Wyndham Grand has found one in Morimoto, which is also responsible for the entire property’s food and beverage program. The Iron Chef’s modern Japanese restaurant has a sensuous dining room aglow in rose gold with creative preparations and uber fresh offerings, like the toro tartare served in a glass plate on a bed of ice with wasabi, nori paste and sour cream and the ishi yaki buri bop, yellowtail cooked tableside in a hot stone bowl accompanied with rice.
For a nightcap, quixotic mixologist Trummer brings his signature “elixirs” to The Drawing Room, an eclectic lobby bar with the apt Lapidus maxim, “Too much is never enough,” emblazoned above it in neon amidst wrought iron shelves climbing with spirits disguised in custom apothecary bottles. Cocktails are listed on the menu as “house medicines” and divided into categories, like Aphrodisiacs, Stimulants and Euphoric Enhancers. They’re created with local fruits, herbs and botanicals, and are purported to have medicinal benefits, so come with an open mind and a curious palate.
To round out the Shelborne Wyndham Grand’s offerings, the property also features 15,000 square-feet of flexible meeting space in addition to its classic Art Deco poolscape, complete with a statuesque, decorative diving platform. Prices start around $449 per night after the holidays. Whether it’s a night’s stay or a nightcap—or dinner at Morimoto, of course—the newfangled Shelborne is once again worth a stop on your next night out on Collins Ave.