January 20 2016

Ten Years by the Bay, An Oral History

Miami-Checking In

In early December of 2005, it was business as usual at The Raleigh Hotel, which is to say, a total cyclone of whirling excitement as the art world et. al. shuffled through the lobby, kissing and chatting and drinking and doing all the things that have become the clichés of Art Basel Miami Beach. The Raleigh was André’s first Floridian foray and was already the absolute center of everything. So intoxicating were the hotel’s old-school charms and sinuous turquoise pool, it seemed hard to imagine any place else. 

“Eh, it’s too shady over here," we were told. “Just wait until you see The Standard.” A year later, it was finally, finally, finally open and life on the beautiful, sun-all-day-long, lush tropical isle seemed as though it has always been.

First Impressions:

View of Belle Island in the 1960s. 

View of Belle Island in the 1960s. 

Shawn Hausman (Designer): The site was immediately inspiring due to its proximity to the bay. The shape of the site draws you to the sea and infuses the hotel with a sense of peacefulness. The history of the building was evocative too. When we first took the project on, it was still The Lido, one of the first spas in Miami. The place had this aura to it, which came from how untouched it was and how much the older ladies enjoyed it. It was hard not to be charmed.

Claire Darrow (Creative Director): It was love at first sight for sure!  I saw it at sunset and had never seen a sunset over the water in Miami as most of the other hotels are oriented to the sea where you just get a sunrise. 

Joan Richardson (Director, FF&E): I had just been hired to work on the Raleigh. It was only my second day when I went to Miami to see the Standard's model room. They thought it would be a good introduction … It was like a Marx Brothers movie with the architect, designer, operations people, and André. There seriously must have been 20 people in the room and I was tasked with taking notes. André jumped on the bed and started talking about the location of the lighting dimmer on the bedside lamps. Measuring tapes came out and we were off!

Not a Hotel … a Spa with Rooms:

The Standard

Claire Darrow: The property was already an old-fashioned spa when we found it, so we started with what we’d learned from a mobile spa idea we had tried in LA and then applied it to what the property already had going for it, physically (both indoors and out). Then we researched and visited spas all over the world that were variations on traditional bathing culture. We wanted to make a super bath house/water park/hydrotherapy playground. Also, we wanted it to be a democratic and affordable place that is really fun.

Shawn Hausman: My favourite part of the spa is really how all-encompassing it is. In most places, the spa is an amenity to the hotel, but at The Standard, Miami, the hotel becomes an amenity to the spa. It is the hotel at the spa!

Peaceful Like No Place  

The Standard

Once open, and guests wandered the property in their white-hooded robes, there was an immediate vibe and spirit that took root. A monastic, cult-like energy locked in – a naughty monastery of course. In fact, some actual Tibetan monks came and made a sand mandala.

Chef Mark Zeitouni: I love hearing the hare Krishna's kiertan through the open windows of the yoga room when I walk into work on Sunday mornings

Rukhsana Uddin (Retail Manager): Riding my bike to work every day and being greeted by this lush garden with the loveliest people who say good morning and kiss you on the cheek, it was the best way to arrive to work. I also loved roasting marshmallows at the fire pit, group acupuncture on the full moons, doing past life regression (a few times with many lives), Tarot card readings & dream interpretations on the terrace.

Amanda Hale de Jesus (Marketing): At night, by the water under the lights, it has a magic to it. It was the first hotel I went to when I entered the hospitality world and I figured I might as well start with the most unique and special place I had been. 

Repeat Guests: 

The Standard

And then came the best, slash kookiest guests on the planet ... totally standard of The Standard, naturally. 

Alex Lindao (Reception Manager): There is a guest that has stayed with us for 9 Years and ONLY and I mean ONLY would stay in a room that has Terrazzo floors!!! More than 40 stays!!! 

Pippa Cohen: When I check in, I get hugs from everyone from Crispy to Frank and even the bellmen know my name and remember me. (Not sure if that's good or bad lol). Chef Mark bakes me cookies. How sweet is that? I know everyone spoils me, but it's quite a feel good. I'm not going to lie.

Amanda Hale De Jesus (Marketing Director): Maria, one of our older members visits everyday to go swimming and watch the sunset. She had bonded with a lot of the team and brings them cookies. Another regular is Milo, age 97. He is the father of Lori Bell (our resident acupuncturist and astrologist.) Being a resident of Belle Isle, he visits us quite often. It’s been rough for him since he became a widower and I think the hotel brought him some comfort. Now, you can usually find him charming a group of beautiful women. 

Frank Zapata (Director of Guest Experience): There was the time a guest asked to switch rooms because she swore there was a ghost.  She said she felt something pull at her leg in the middle of the night. That same room also received complaints of tapping and footsteps. When Charlie and I checked it out the next morning we heard steps but there was no one upstairs... spooky 

(P.S. That room is used as storage now by the way, so fear not. No one has to stay in the haunted room.)

Alex Lindao: 8 Years ago a couple met here. Louis was visiting from Michigan and Lianne from London. It was love at first sight! The Standard became their meeting spot and on one of those meetings Louis proposed to Lianne and she gave him the big YES! They married and came to stay with us for their Honeymoon. They've been married for 7 Years now!!

Party Party: 
The Standard

It’s not really a party-party hotel like some of our other properties, but people still manage to have some wild times. From Bacchanalian feasts in the gardens to super star-studded cocktails by the bay, we decided to keep these stories anonymous: 

Memory #1: At the Bruce Weber book signing this boat came racing by. It was huge! A yacht with a drunken captain maybe? The wake came up and over the dock and flooded half the guests. My dress was soaked, but it didn't really matter because we were all having such a good time. 

Memory #2: I once came back very late from Twist with a new friend. The birds were starting to chirp. I tried to take a dip with my new friend from Georgia (the country, not the state) but he legitimately couldn’t swim. Anyway, we were walking back by the fire pit and there was this guy there asleep. He had a smile on his face and was covered in empty Starburst candy wrappers. Apparently, he had sung one too many camp songs. It was actually kinda sweet.  

Memory #3: Usually it’s a little troubling when someone orders a bottle of tequila at 10am on a Tuesday morning, but when it’s a certain supermodel on a photo shoot, it’s just another day at the office. 

Kate Moss by Bruce Weber for W Magazine (2009) 

Kate Moss by Bruce Weber for W Magazine (2009) 

Tempest and a Teapot

It's really tricky having an outdoor operation with Miami weather. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. And with each micro climate shift, the staff races against time. Our new restaurant is much more weather protected, but for the last decade, it all somehow came together: 

Ilan Segal (Managing Director): Two years ago during the peak of summer, it rained hard all day. As usual, at precisely the last moment it let up just in time for our incredible team to race to set up a glorious VIP dinner by the bay. As the sun was setting and dinner was being served, I remember telling one of the guests, totally jokingly, “and now dolphins will swim by.” And yup, suddenly a family of dolphins appeared. It felt like the perfect production, even though it was simply our magical property just doing its thing. 

And in a nutshell:  

Cheryl Dunn (photographer): Basically, The Standard, Miami is an oasis in the midst of chaos. Without its peaceful beauty, my head might explode. Plus dolphins swim by… Magic..! 
The Standard
Writer
stillman meyer