Yes, Miami is still prime terrain for sun worshippers and party people, but in the past decade—particularly since the 2002 arrival of Art Basel—it’s come into its own as the vibrant, Latin-inflected cultural capital of the American Southeast. And as of December 31, visitors will have a new way to explore the city’s eccentric personality when an innovative hotel concept debuts in two disparate neighborhoods. Little Havana and South Beach are the first flagship offerings from Life House, a new contemporary hospitality concept. With a focus on historic building rehabilitations, Life House prides itself on being “responsive” to its surroundings, delivering authentically local concepts unique to each neighborhood, not to the market at large.
And “local” is the operative word here. The first boutique hotel in the neighborhood, Life House Little Havana is a celebration of Cuban culture, which has thrived here since the first wave of Cuban immigrants arrived in the 1960s, fleeing the Castro regime. The hotel pays tribute to this lineage through art, design, and food. Photographic works by Leandro Feal, for example, focus on the youthfulness and energy of his home city of Havana, while design elements include Afrocubanismo quirks and monochrome checked floors typical of mansions in the Cuban capital. The lobby cafe and courtyard, Parcela, derives its name from the Latin term for “urban farming,” which Life House embodies with its backyard food forest and creative use of space. The rooftop terrace opening this spring features an herb garden, sun chaises, and a restaurant and bar, Terras, where guests can enjoy family-style Latin American street food overlooking the Miami skyline.
Look hard enough from the rooftop and you might see Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood, where Life House South Beach sits steps from the beach inside a landmark building designed by the great Floridian architect Henry Hohauser in the 1930s. Hohauser was in high demand during this period and contributed to the Art Deco movement with such buildings as Essex House, the site of the former Hoffman’s Cafeteria, and the Park Central Hotel. Life House South Beach, however, is an architectural anomaly in the area, being styled on an English Tudor Cottage. Inside, seaside-inspired design reigns, while sunset yoga on the beach is a perfect antidote to that Miami furry best found in the lobby café come nightfall.
Founded by Rami Zeidan, a seasoned hospitality executive formerly with Sydell Group, Starwood, and TPG, and technology entrepreneur Yury Yakubchyk, Life House has 10 properties underway and aims to have 20 properties in development across the country by the end of 2019. One thing’s for sure: With Life House Little Havana and Life House South Beach, they’re off to an auspicious start.