Sixty Hotels quietly opened its first Miami property last week with Nautilus, a mid-century refresh inside the decrepit former Continental Hotel on Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach’s glitzy hotel row. While it seems the paint is still drying, the group known for their stylish boutique hotels in New York and Los Angeles, brings plenty of promise to Miami’s rapidly expanding hotel landscape with Nautilus.
The name is borrowed from the property’s original 1950s moniker and, in restoring the structure, they brought back to life yet another architectural gem by Morris Lapidus—the Miami Modern design luminary is most famous for the Fontainebleau. With the Nautilus, his signature footprints are present throughout the lobby with its curvilinear walls, “stairway to nowhere” and sunken lobby bar framed by glittering white mosaic columns as the centerpiece.
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With plenty of tropical mid-century references, the hotel’s design feels contemporary and warm with neutral and primary colors in soft textures, like tufted velvet couches, low-slung upholstered chairs, a wooden accent wall and copper and bronze elements. “When you have a great historical home, if you’re really respectful, you don’t just rip things out and start over, you add layers,” explains Jason Pomeranc, co-owner of Sixty Hotels, who plans to spend the next few months in Miami to shepherd in his new property.
“In the restoration process, we wanted to restore and uncover things partly to what it was,” he says. “But also elevate it to what it should’ve been. It’s an aspirational historic perspective.”
The hotel is anchored by Driftwood Room, a breezy and luxurious restaurant with buttery rounded leather booths, deep navy accents and mod gold overhead light fixtures for a slightly nautical feel. Helmed by Food Network Star, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Driftwood Room marks her first departure from her long-standing New York City restaurant Butter. “I’m not a mogul,” she quipped, greeting diners during preview dinners last week, explaining that it was her affinity to Jeffrey Chodorow, owner of China Grill Management, that persuaded her to expand her talents to South Beach for the project that he’s operating.
Inspired by the Mediterranean beachside cuisine of Southern Europe, standout dishes include the “lemon fish” crudo with pequillo peppers swimming in a pool of olive oil and lemon juice, a watercress salad with figs and crispy prosciutto and a perfectly prepared beef filet topped with a generous dollop of herb butter. For dessert, the vacherin is a dramatic conclusion with creamy, scorched merengue piled high atop pink grapefruit and lemon sorbet.
The dining room opens up to a white-washed patio overlooking the pool with twinkling lights overhead sheathed in wicker orbs. The vibe takes a cue from the “international beach culture” that Pomeranc sees developing globally. “You can be at the beach in Mykonos or Spain or Latin America today, and the dishes and music are very similar. It might be an octopus carpaccio in Italy or a ceviche in Miami, but it’s evolving into a refined culture that Miami is a part of,” he says. “It’s not homogenized, but it’s blending.”
The poolscape retains the original Art Deco blueprint of so many nearby hotels built in the same era, with a long, narrow pool surrounded by lounge chairs and cabanas, leading to the pool bar and additional lounge space, before reaching the beach. But Nautilus plays with texture, utilizing ipe wood and stone tiles on the deck, while a bamboo-lined corridor offers direct access to the beach.
Upstairs, moody black-painted hallways with dark hardwood floors lead to the hotel’s 250 rooms designed in a mostly white palate with marble floors and neutral accent colors like grey and navy. Unique touches include photo collages by renowned fashion photographer Sante D’Orazio, oversized vintage chests disguising the mini bar and reading lamps designed with a white plaster conch shell base for a sophisticated beachy vibe. However, the design lacks a unifying thread, making most rooms feel slightly unfinished. Perhaps the missing link will be added in the same way that an 18-piece contemporary art installation, curated by Los Angeles-based Depart Foundation, is set to fill a gaping white void in the lobby.
With Nautilus, Sixty Hotels is blending its particular brand of “socially activated” boutique hotel with South Beach’s brand of mid-century swagger. Those elements should come together seamlessly to create yet another attractive hotel in the heart of the city. Opening room rates start at $195.
Shayne Benowitz is the hotels & travel editor for Miami.com. Check-in with her on Twitter @ShayneBenowitz.