Hotel vs. Hotel (Edition vs. Thompson)
This article was originally written by Shayne Benowitz of Miami.com
Two highly anticipated Miami Beach hotels opened in November 2014 to much fanfare just in time for Art Basel—the EDITION (2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-257-4500) and the Thompson (4041 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-605-4041). As the beach’s heat map continues to shift north to the former no-man’s-land of mid beach, these two properties promise a lot of sizzle. Now that the art-fueled, celeb-splashed parties are over and the holiday tinsel has been swept aside for the new year, how do these properties stack up as destinations to sleep, dine, party and spa?
Facts & Figures
Both properties happen to occupy spaces originally built in 1955 by architect Melvin Grossman (the Thompson’s first of three towers was erected in 1940 designed by Victor H. Nellenbogen as the Lord Tarleton Hotel) and both exude that particular mid-century Miami Beach glamour.
The 294-room EDITION (inclusive of 28 bungalows) is a collaboration between hospitality behemoth Marriott International and purveyor of boutique cool, hotelier Ian Schrager. The concept—with locations currently in London and Istanbul, and more forthcoming starting with New York—is a large-scale “luxury boutique, lifestyle space,” a hospitality category that Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen concedes the brand had not yet penetrated. Yabu Pushelberg/ISC Design Studio and John Pawson were tapped to create the organic, minimalist 1950s glamour of the interior design, while Madison Cox tackled the landscape architecture of a rare vacant wide lot on Miami Beach. Rooms start at $849 per night.
The Thompson, at 380 rooms (inclusive of 31 suites), is owned by John Pritzker’s Geolo Capital and managed by trendy boutique hotel group Thompson (one of Pritzker’s Commune Hotels + Resorts brands). With hotels in key cities like New York, LA, Chicago and London, each property’s design and programming is a reflection of their respective cities’ unique cultures. In Miami, that’s 1950s glamour with a touch of tropical kitsch, thanks to interior design by Martin Brudnizki, landscape by Raymond Jungles and Kopi Karp architecture. Rooms start at $395 per night.
The common thread through both of these elegant new properties is reverence of their mid-century Miami heritage. The EDITION offers grandeur and expanse through the sheer size of its all white and gold lobby, designed with a bar, plenty of space for lounging amidst a jungle of potted palm trees and original gold mosaic columns. An obvious Schrager touch is the baroque, white marble pool table lined in nude felt, evocative of the Delano.
The Thompson’s lobby leaves something to the imagination through an intentional “sense of reveal and intimacy,” explains David Casey, Area Director of Sales & Marketing. The port cochere’s lines follow through the lobby’s ceiling in a grand wave and that design element is echoed throughout the terrazzo floors. The lobby is little more than a reception space for check-in. However, a glamorous, custom crystal chandelier, reminiscent of a bubbling fountain hangs high above guests. A subdued, pastel mural wall behind reception by LA-based artist Paulin Paris depicts vintage bathers, typical of Art Deco interior design, setting the tone for the property.
Preference over room design at these two hotels is really a matter of taste. Admittedly, I was initially underwhelmed with the EDITION’s spare, modern design. The porcelain tile floors and white furniture with tan accents and natural oak walls felt more unfinished than minimal to me, like something was missing or an artwork needed to be hung. However, rooms feature large monochromatic landscape photographs of the ocean’s horizon that are just as spare as the rooms themselves, and digital works, curated by Sedition Art, are projected onto TV screens as in-room video art installations.
I was immediately charmed by the Thompson’s playful, kitschy design and bright color scheme. Shades of turquoise and yellow in chevron and check patterns are found in the carpeting of the hallways and guest rooms, respectively, creating the most lovely effect when gazing out at the ocean through the windows and balconies. From the funky floral, upholstered chairs to the patterned curtains, the room is never at a loss for discovery, featuring mildly suggestive modern art prints and a cozy bed with retro wooden headboard and side tables. It’s all chic, playful camp.
However, the pièce de résistance rests squarely on the shoulders of the EDITION’s two-story, 1,600 square-foot bungalows (from $5,800 per night), where fighting their brand of minimalist luxury is all but futile. It takes no time to succumb to the room’s spa-like serenity and understand just how beautifully designed it is for total vacation relaxation. Enter on the second floor to an oversized bedroom with an oversized bathroom and rainfall shower. Then, step outside to a truly stunning wraparound balcony overlooking the pool and ocean, complete with a full-size daybed topped with pillows.
Downstairs offers two large white canvas sofas, a long dining table and kitchen, as well as ground level access to the pool through a private patio. Other varieties feature a private rooftop plunge pool. But nothing is quite as impressive as the lower level bathroom with en suite, personal-size dry sauna, a double shower with horizontal and vertical jets, and an enormous marble soaking tub accessed through one continuous hallway. And the plush white robes with oversized hoodie are amongst the softest I’ve donned (so worth cramming into your suitcase—even though they’ll charge you a cool $150 for them).
Your choice is between one of the world’s most revered celebrity chefs and one of Miami’s most beloved locally grown talents, and frankly, you can’t go wrong in either of their dining rooms—although your wallet might take a hit by the end of the night. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten presides over the food and beverage at EDITION with Matador Room as the marquee restaurant serving modern Spanish tapas with a Caribbean twist, and Market offering a more casual approach to dining inspired by the markets in Spain.
Standout selections at Matador Room include sweet pea guacamole ($10), crispy black grouper tacos ($12), Maine lobster with drawn butter ($39) and the signature arroz con pollo with crackling skin and lemon zest ($18). At Market, multiple food stations serve everything from gourmet pizza to raw bar selections to grab-and-go sandwiches with counter-side and bench seating.
Miami sweetheart, Chef Michelle Bernstein, is at the helm at the Thompson with her modern Florida-inspired Seagrape, named for an indigenous leafy green tree lining our beaches’ dunes. The cuisine is fresh and eclectic with Spanish flare, and top dishes include the stuffed squash blossom with shrimp mousseline, grits and seafood nage ($9) and the braised short rib with cornbread foam, brussel sprouts, pickled pearl onions in a maple-vinegar glaze ($39).
The cocktail list, created by longtime collaborator and award-winning mixologist Julio Cabrera, is just as inspired. Opt for the frozen margarita picosa ($15) made with Avion silver tequila, Canton Ginger liqueuer, agave, lime juice and cayenne pepper whipped into a delicate frozen froth. Additionally, 1930s House serves as an eclectic crudo and wine bar, also by Bernstein.
When it comes to nightlife, the two hotels have wildly different offerings. While you can enjoy a masterfully crafted cocktail at either of their main restaurant bars, it’s what you do after that counts. The Thompson presents the Crown Room, a second floor lounge with outdoor terrace, serving an Encyclopedia’s worth of classic and modern cocktails by Cabrera. The vibe is sexy, under-the-sea with cushy scalloped sofas in subdued, yet saturated shades of fuchsia, turquoise and orange with beautiful overhead orange glass chandeliers and white, wood-paneled walls.
The EDITION is a whole other animal with its ground level club The Basement and its adjacent 2,000 square-foot ice skating rink and four-lane bowling alley. Fashioned with a rainbow of neon lights and a disco vibe and soundtrack, Basement provides a den for boogying down all night inside a self-described “micro-club” with an industrial warehouse aesthetic that pays homage to Schrager’s iconic Studio 54.
What the Thompson’s lobby might lack in size, it makes up for with an expansive oceanfront yard featuring a lovely landscaped pond for lounging, a bar and grill and the delightfully eclectic 1930s House (a house from the 1930s that was literally plopped onto the property by former owners, Wizard of Oz-style). Two pools mirror one another, lined with kitschy cabanas reminiscent of fashionable Big Top Circus tents. Loungers in pops of lemon yellow are arranged in cozy stadium seating in the grass
The EDITION’s poolscape also features two pools and is just as grandiose as the Thompson—if not more so. Here, the aesthetic remains toned down minimalism. The lounge chairs and towels are white, the astroturf is bright green and the Tropicale Bar and Grill is located in a gazebo-like rotunda near the bungalows with an elevated sun deck on the roof. One pool is a traditional rectangle, while the other resembles a dramatic space-aged Fender Stratocaster with its original Miami Modern diving platform intact.
There’s a clear winner in the spa category and that goes to the EDITION. A dreamy relaxation room is outfitted with multiple white couches and daybeds piled high with pillows, partitioned by white drapes with plush vintage Moroccan rugs that sets you immediately into relaxation mode. The locker rooms feature steam rooms with light therapy, and the full service menu features customizable massages. I opted for a trance-inducing 90-minute deep tissue ($235) that included stretching and special attention to the feet and belly. They’ve created a spa that’s on par with the best of the city.
The Thompson, on the other hand, has taken a risk with an outdoor rooftop spa featuring six private, open-air treatment rooms that misses the mark of true luxury and relaxation. The idea of sea breezes and panoramic views sounds nice, but the reality of Miami’s hot sun and lack of protection from the elements doesn’t put me at ease. There is no relaxation area or locker rooms per say. Instead, guests are led to their private treatment rooms to get oriented and undressed.
I enjoyed their 90-minute signature red rose massage ($255), which includes a body scrub and polish with luxurious and organic Tata Harper products. The treatment, itself, was one of the most relaxing and hypnotic that I’ve had and my masseuse was masterful and kind. It’s just the outdoor therapy rooms with fans blowing at full blast to counteract the humidity and heat that I could do without.
In keeping with its attention to local culture, the Thompson will introduce cult favorite Wynwood salon Junior & Hatter to the property this month. Guests can also enjoy complimentary group fitness classes in the morning at the adjacent gym.
The bottom line is that both of these properties are solid and sexy additions to the burgeoning hotel landscape along Miami Beach and well worth a visit. The hospitality is fine-tuned and staffs are well-trained and ready to deliver. Both hotels offer their own brand of 1950s Miami Modern glamour—the EDITION is sleek, chic and spare with elements of the unbelievable, while the Thompson is playful and smart with dashes of eclectic, tropical kitsch.
It’s nearly impossible to say which is the hottest, but since we’re picking winners here, I give it to the EDITION by a hair for the sheer novelty of its amenities (hello, bowling alley and ice skating rink!) and those over-the-top, immaculate bungalows.