Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Like a true diva, when Fontainebleau Miami Beach opened its doors in 1954, the famed curvilinear resort with the ultramodern façade was instantly recognizable — so much so that for decades the property didn’t even require a sign. Turns out, the hotel sitting on 20 pristine oceanfront acres off Collins Avenue was pre-destined to steal the spotlight. Fontainebleau’s architect, Morris Lapidus, is best remembered for his flair for the theatrical, and in his autobiography, Too Much Is Never Enough, he recalled, “American taste was being influenced by the greatest mass media of entertainment of that time, the movies, so I designed a movie set!”

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Lapidus’ admission certainly wasn’t hyperbole. The French period-themed Fontainebleau quite literally served as a setting for a number of popular films, including Goldfinger, Scarface and The Bellboy. And if the biggest stars of the day weren’t shooting at the hotel, they flocked to the luxurious resort playground to soak up the Florida sun — and glamour — when in town. While paying guests could rub shoulders in the 1950s and 1960s with Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and other boldface names, the owner, hotelier Ben Novack, at one point had to post armed guards at the entrance to keep out gawkers.

By the turn of the 21st century, the stylish landmark was approaching 50 and showing its advanced age. The beachfront beauty closed its doors in 2005 and underwent a massive $1 billion facelift over the next several years. The refreshed Fontainebleau garnered rave reviews when it reopened in the fall of 2008 with, naturally, a star-studded party.

Frank Sinatra’s Welcome Home Party for Elvis Presley (ABC-TV 5-12-1960)

The property originally consisted of two towers, Chateau and Versailles, but an expansion added the all-suite 37-story Trésor and 18-story Sorrento towers. Together they boast 658 junior, one- and two-bedroom accommodations that bring the total available rooms to 1,504. Other exciting additions included 12 hotspot restaurants and lounges, from modern Chinese eatery Hakkasan to the see-and-be-seen poolside Glow bar.

As part of the renovation, a team of internationally acclaimed designers, architects and artists restored many of Lapidus’ original touches, including circular ceilings and shimmering chandeliers overhead and bowtie design motifs underfoot on the floor.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Rather than collecting autographs from Hollywood’s Golden Age actors and actresses, guests today take center stage when they swan down the dramatic “Stairway to Nowhere,” the hotel’s Instagrammable signature feature that graces the 17,000-square-foot lobby. Guests also get the celebrity treatment when lounging around the picturesque oceanfront poolscape or enjoying the 40,000-square-foot spa.

“Fontainebleau has really stayed true to its celebrity, entertainment and energetic DNA since we first opened,” Managing Director Patrick Fisher tells GRAZIA USA. “It’s extremely important to our ownership that we are stewards of history, paying tribute to this amazing brand by continuing to build on the legacy in modern day.”

Just as the architect Lapidus once promised, anyone lucky enough to enter Fontainebleau’s stage-like setting “will play their part.” And what a fabulous role it is.

Read GRAZIA Gazette: Art Basel, Edition 2:

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