When I die, I don’t want to go to heaven; I want to go to The Surf Club.” Such was the gleeful wish of a society reporter in 1962, shared by thousands. Miami’s Surf Club was legendary the world over as party central for the rich and famous.
Built in 1930 in Mediterranean Revival style, the glitterati and literati of the thirties, forties and fifties arrived for the members’ club’s over-the-top theme parties, balls, cabaret and crooners. Off-duty photos of celebs hang on the walls – Noel Coward, Tennessee Williams, Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock., Even Winston Churchill is pictured recharging his spirits in two beach cabanas, one for painting in and one for napping in. The Surf Club was fashionable and frivolous, just as the founders had intended.
By the 21st century it was time for renewal. Today this historic building has a glitteringly serene future as a newly opened hotel with private residences and a private members’ club, managed by Four Seasons.
Back in 2013, at a lunch, the Pritzker-winning architect Richard Meier sketched his idea for a new Surf Club onto a napkin. Still set within six acres of pristine beachfront in the exclusive address of Surfside, he considered it “the most incredible waterfront destination in Miami Beach”.
In restoring the original buildings, Meier took his cues from their proportions when designing the glass towers containing the 77-room hotel, 119 private residences and 31 residences serviced by the hotel. “When designing a house which is on the water, the water takes priority,” Meier says. Transparency and openness is paramount. Residential terraces are wide and expansive for lounging and entertaining and in the units where the roof terraces have courtyards, light floods down into the living rooms. Meier’s vision is to maximise the ocean views at every opportunity.
The hotel residences are fully furnished by the minimalist Parisian architect and interior designer Joseph Dirand, who has also designed bespoke pieces in partnership with Molteni, Knoll and Brossier Saderne. Neutrals create subtlety; textures create interest – whites, light woods and creamy travertine echo the powder-white sand outside, and pops of moss green are taken from nature. Floor-to-ceiling windows and gliding terrace doors add to the light-filled indoor-outdoor vibe.
“Having the Four Seasons as part of The Surf Club development returns the level of service to what it was in its heyday and makes it the luxurious place that it was from the beginning,” Meier says. Now that it’s complete he’s moving in: “I thought I should live here, where I can paint and draw and look out over the water.”
The Four Seasons Surf Club Residences start from $4m, thesurfclub.com. Archive images from The Surf Club by Tom Austin, £50, assouline.com
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