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Soho Beach House

The renowned British members-only club opens its doors to Miami surf and sun

by John Ortved in Travel on 13 October 2010

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Despite sandy beaches and tropical influence, when it comes to social life, Miami isn't known as the warmest of places. Inundated with velvet ropes, crowded clubs, big cars and bigger jewelry, the Florida metropolis recently received an attractive antidote with the arrival of the Soho Beach House.

Situated just a short distance north of the South Beach strip on Miami Beach, Soho Beach House—complete with Cowshed Spa—hopes to bring the brand's mix of exclusive intimacy to a scene weary of its anti-poseur atmosphere.

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Soho House has always been, first and foremost, about its clientele. The establishment itself is difficult to pigeonhole—it's a members-only club, just like its fellow Houses in L.A., New York, London and Berlin; it's also a boutique hotel, providing 50 rooms to paying guests who get to act like members; it's an accessible spa, offering anyone massages, blowouts and pedicures, using their exclusive Cowshed products; it's a beach club, with beds and full service on its own strip of sand; and it's a restaurant, Cecconi's, offering pricey but well-prepared Venetian delicacies.

The Beach House successfully blurs the boundaries between Miami old and new. With designer Martin Brudnizki (who redid London's Club at The Ivy), they've taken over the space formerly occupied by one of Miami's great Art Deco hotels, The Sovereign, gutting the interiors and building a second tower, but leaving behind the lobby detailing and flooring, as well as its classic façade. Santo Trafficante might feel at home, but so will you as you sink into the rich upholstered sofas that adorn its lobby, as you plug in your laptop and sip a café proffered by the Cuban coffee bar.

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Light and unpretentious, the hotel's 50 rooms feature giant rainforest showers, large flat-screen TVs and massive king-size beds. The rooms range in price ($500-$1475) with suites boasting stand-alone baths, ocean views and wraparound terraces inviting guests to relax both indoors and out.

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Dim hallways house ink drawings and paintings by local artists, books piled on old wooden shelves, and antique desks—all a club-like rendering of the carefully curated, bric-a-brac collector's aesthetic known well to shoppers at Jack Spade, and mastered by John Derian. The best example is the 8th floor lounge with its antique furniture, inviting couches, impeccable views and a rooftop swimming pool and bar just steps away.

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With similar disregard for borders, the lobby's unobtrusive but bright coloring, displayed under Brudnizki's custom Deco-inspired chandelier, gives way to the outdoor restaurant, decorated with wood and Edison lightbulbs in Mason jars that form a glowing trellis with the tanglewood trees from which they hang. The break between the indoors and out, between work, lounging and dining spaces is nearly invisible.

The 2nd floor, members-only cocktail bar—featuring a giant timber bar and tiled floor and tables is inspired by 1940s Cuban watering holes like La Bodeguita del Medio. The exterior seating seamlessly gives way to the swimming pool, and then to the beach. Accessed through a hallway of reclaimed wooden walls (from a barn in Wyoming), the bar leads to the airy Cowshed Spa and a 40-seat "Screening Snug" where they will show first-run films, like the upcoming "Carlos." Your mouthwatering Manhattan can take you from your blowout to a film to the sand in barely a sip.

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Founder Nick Jones' aspiration to achieve "flip flop glamor" nicely embodies the challenge of Soho Beach House. These are things that either cannot, or should not, go well together: a '40s Cuban bar and a high-end spa; a restaurant that gives way to a swimming pool; a private club that is, in some facets, open to the public. The success of Soho House will be in how they keep those borders blurred. That, and making sure the border between Soho Beach House and South Beach stays tightly guarded.

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