written by:
December 12, 2008

The Mondrian South Beach, a new luxury boutique hotel designed by Dutch design star Marcel Wanders, is much like Wanders himself: large, white, and pricey.

MondriantudioPhoto

I stayed at the Mondrian last week while in town for Design Miami, just a few days after it opened, and found it to be rather in keeping with its swish design hotel ilk. Looking rather like a run-of-the-mill Ian Schrager property, or some Philippe Starck concoction, the large, white plastic lobby gave onto a large, white plastic bar and restaurant; the central staircase was large, plastic and—who could see this curveball coming?—black. Giant columns, giant bells, and giant lamps carry the load elsewhere. Click here for a virtual tour of the place and to hear Wanders talking about his design.


Make it big and paint it white! The bar at the Mondrian South Beach.

The furnishings were the unsurprising brainchildren of the elite design world—Jaime Hayon will stay in business at least as long as the Mondrian does—and like any good Miami spot, its sleek poolside lounge invites both seeing and being seen.


Clean modernism meets busy baroque in a kitchenette in one of the Mondrian's suites. The table's centerpiece is a Fruit Bowl by Harry Allen for Areaware.

The most disconcerting design element was the repetition of a disembodied woman’s face. With anime-esque features, this icon, a “superhero” as Wanders calls her, appeared all over the place, including right next to the TV in my room. Coming in at about a yard square, and like the eerie angelic counterpart to the horrifying women in Aphex Twin’s “Window Licker” video I found this character even more alarming than Wanders’ indulgence in the contemporary fascination with sleek, white, baroque-inspired objects. The hotel is certainly nice as hotels go, but as a statement of cutting edge design, it feels a few years behind the times. 


The dining room, replete with chairs from Jaime Hayon's Showtime collection. 

Though still working out the kinks—my room key didn’t work at least twice—the most surprising part of my stay came after I checked out. Having left my cell phone charger behind accidentally, I was informed that I’d need to supply the hotel with a credit card number to get them to send it back. Considering that I stayed in a $600-per-night suite, I took this to be rather shoddy treatment. If only the Mondrian’s conception of luxury extended beyond the décor.

First image: An alarming design motif—these disembodied heads appear all over the hotel.

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