Upon arrival, the characteristic Art Deco exterior of the former Saxony Hotel in Miami Beach does not offer any intimation of the sheer beauty and interior seduction that lie beneath. However, just one step through the weighty glass entry doors into the hotel’s “Cathedral” triggers all five of my senses into optimum gear leading me on a remarkable journey of sight, sound, scent, taste and last but not least, touch.
This foray into the extraordinary fantastical world of the Faena Hotel is unparalleled. The hotel is only one part of the billion-dollar Faena Arts District taking over the northern part of Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, conceived by Alan Faena–the creative mastermind behind every Faena venture along with business partner Len Blavatnik. With additional culinary and retail venues to come later in the year, the District currently encompasses several distinctive structures: Faena Forum, a sleek, modern, “white box” event space especially suited to weddings and private events that can be transformed into any theme one’s heart desires; Casa Faena, a Spanish-style boutique guesthouse–a little sister to its grander namesake; Faena House, a luxury residential condo building; the very Instagram-worthy Museum of Ice Cream complete with its sprinkle-laden pool, interactive displays and bright colors; and of course, the exquisite Faena Hotel.
My divine visual journey begins inside the Cathedral upon gazing at the eight richly colored floor-to-ceiling gold-leafed murals by Juan Gatti, the Argentinian “Michelangelo of the Faena” as he is so appropriately called. The murals titled “The Ways to Futopia” are themed around love, science and nature, and are meant to transport you to a “mystical continent of utopic communities and perfect worlds”–places I go willing without hesitation.
This sensual odyssey continues upstairs inside the lavishly decorated suites decadently strewn with animal prints, plush red and ocean turquoise velvets–a repetitive theme that bleeds into the décor of the hotel’s bar, The Living Room, and its neighbor, Los Fuegos, the South American open-flame restaurant spearheaded by award-winning grillmaster Chef Francis Mallman.
The Living Room is host to evenings complete with live music celebrated by well-heeled guests sipping bespoke cocktails and savoring delicate bites of goodness. Los Fuegos is replete with exquisite flame-cooked meats and seafood, one of two restaurants that call the Faena home. The second being Pao, a modern Asian concept conceived by Top Chef winner Paul Qui where one can feast on globally inspired small plates underneath an opulent domed ceiling encasing Damien Hirst’s golden unicorn sculpture standing guard. Hirst is also responsible for the 24-karat gilded skeleton of a woolly mammoth that takes center stage outside on the promenade. This life-size work of art brilliantly embodies the essence of extravagance, unrestraint and excess that makes the Faena so unique.
In the same vein that Alan Faena cultivated the Faena rose at his seaside house in Uruguay–the inspiration behind the red found throughout his hotels his style is apparent in other decorative touches including the signature Faena scent covertly infused throughout the property at every turn–a highly classified hush-hush formula comprised partly of Palo Santo–an essential oil derived from its namesake tree found in South America.
Last, but certainly not least, intimately inside the Faena Theater–a 150-seat Parisian-style cabaret theater sheathed in red brocade silks and velvets underneath a massive gleaming chandelier–the ultimate in sensory experience is explored with “Sensatia,” an arresting interactive Cirque Cabaret performance that transports one to another dimension entirely with impressive acrobats, delicate ballerinas and fire-eating temptresses.
Nearly every detail–from the seashell encrusted outdoor bar to the massive purple and teal marble slabs encasing the hammam-themed spa–is artfully executed to provide guests with the ultimate in luxury and service, and to stimulate the senses like they have never been before. A stay here is truly an experience of a lifetime making it hard to ever want, or need, to leave at all.
>Written by: Maneli Garahan Wilson