Greeting the new year with kitsch, candor and jewel-bright colors is LORDS South Beach in Miami. The hotel was conceived by owner Brian Gorman as a serious commitment to the kaleidoscopic demographic of gay culture, offering a stylish playground that is equal parts chic and tongue-in-cheek.
”I will confess, designing for a discerning gay audience definitely adds to the pressure of creating a space that is special and unique,” says Dan Mazzarini of BH+DM, the New York-based interior design company. ”Our challenge was to create a space that was stylish enough to match the clientele, without being too serious.
Our response to Brian’s goal was to create a space that combined the ”poolside chic” lifestyle with a sense of humor. It’s crisp, stylish and spirited with a nod to the cheeky side of things. The space does not take itself too seriously.”
Mazzarini explains that because the location of the new hotel is historically preserved (tucked onto Collins Avenue), much of the architecture could not be disturbed, which created a significant challenge—the spaces had to be charged with a newfound energy, a younger spirit that could counter the more staid exterior.
”Yellow and aqua were colors that we saw repeatedly in imagery of the Miami beaches and botany, so we used this as a point of departure for our rooms and hallways,” says Mazzarini. ”We love a cabana stripe for tropical interiors—it seems to automatically infuse a space with a sense of poolside chic living—so this became a motif throughout the space. Gold became the jewelry of the palette.”
Guests are greeted with a kaleidoscope of crayon-bright colors in the lobby—an undulating canary-yellow couch peers across a teal green carpet onto two geometric armchairs—but all those sun-soaked hues are merely a foil for Debbie Harry, the rock icon of Blondie, who gazes lustily across the foyer stripped down to a Warhol-esque duo-chrome. Revelers visiting LORDS will also note a custom-made, 10-foot polar bar backed by a gestural painting crafted by Joseph Conrad-ferm.
”Even though much of the space is injected with a sense of wit and whimsy, we were always conscious to temper the kitsch with sophisticated ideas as well,” he says. ”Pattern was used to add high impact to important pieces, such as the zigzag carpet of the hallways, slipcovers for chairs in the guest rooms and pillows throughout.”
In the guest rooms, the late silver screen beauty Elizabeth Taylor reigns over the space in her infamous role as Cleopatra, steeped in turquoise and cobalt, adding a touch of glamour to the beach-chic guest rooms that feature lemon-yellow sofas and cabana-striped beds.
”Inspiration for furnishings throughout came from a mix of local Latin-inspired architecture and updated twists on mid-century classics,” says Mazzarini. ”Stripes, zigzags and a dynamic color palette are carefully curated in the hallways to build the personality of the hotel even before visitors reach their rooms.”
Countering the guest rooms’ sunny laissez-faire attitude is the ChaCha Rooster Bar, a ”leather bar meets sequined purse” concept that celebrates ‘Roosters,’ the term Gorman coined for the overly glamorous (and overly tanned) women of South Beach.
”The bar's concept is realized in the custom-designed studded leather chairs,” says Mazzarini. ”Artwork was very important, as it was a way to interject color and personality into all the spaces.
The ChaCha bar’s gold mirrored tile, woven gold fabric by Pollack, custom gold tabletops by Rudy Art Glass and the gold back bar combine to make guests feel like they’re inside a sunny disco ball. Mid-century moments, such as the Obama desk chairs from White Furniture, help to temper the intensity of the palette, and add the needed serious design moments to these spaces.”
Mazzarini says that people walking by come into the lobby just to have their picture taken with Elizabeth Taylor, and, to him, that’s a job more than well done.
”That means we’ve accomplished our design brief—we’ve created a space with enough visual interest to welcome visitors and foster a sense of community for the South Beach gay demographic.”