IF THIS PLACE had a soundtrack, what would it be? The question played out in my mind as I strolled into the lobby of the long-awaited Goodtime Hotel. After all, a partnership between music-world superstar Pharrell Williams and nightclub impresario David Grutman should have a suitably hip playlist, right?
I had entered the hotel on Washington Avenue, a stretch of Miami Beach that was fashionable in the 1990s. Though the neighborhood has since become decidedly gritty, it seems a renaissance may be afoot. In February, Moxy Miami South Beach debuted three blocks north. It’s the first resort-style hotel from Marriott’s millennial-focused brand and has brought a youthful energy to an area that had started to feel forgotten.
The Goodtime is set to change things even further. The minute I stepped through the door and saw light streaming through the glass roof and illuminating planters of lush greenery, “Walking on Sunshine” popped into my head. Washington Avenue already seemed a world away.
A hand-painted mural depicted a dreamy landscape of coconut palms and banana plants, making the space feel like a tropical hothouse. Puffy painted clouds presided over the front desk, which was skirted in pink and green palm-print fabric and anchored by a pair of glass lamps with fringed red shades like hula skirts. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to hear Guns N’ Roses singing “Welcome to the Jungle.”
“Ken’s work is very eclectic, and he does it so effortlessly,” Williams said this past spring, on the eve of the hotel’s opening. “It’s the magic of making different things work together in harmony.” He was referring to Ken Fulk, the globetrotting, San Francisco–based creative force behind the property’s Alice in Wonderland–inspired style. Williams and I were sitting in the Goodtime’s sprawling poolscape, the “acre in the air” on the third floor that he told me is his favorite spot. It’s a pink and pistachio playground where Miami’s millennials have been flocking to check out the scene.
Fulk, whose recent projects include the Lake Tahoe home of Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom and the Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Austin, Texas, spent more than five years bringing Williams and Grutman’s dream to life. That dream began with a vision of lifting Washington Avenue back to its heyday, when Madonna and Sean Combs (a.k.a. P. Diddy) were neighborhood regulars. “When you come through the doors,” Fulk said, “it’s as if you’ve drunk the potion. Suddenly, you’re transported.”
Instead of a magic carpet, an elevator dressed floor-to-ceiling in a hot pink crocodile-motif wallpaper took me to the third floor, where the Goodtime’s aesthetic really started to reveal itself. The doors opened and, to the left, a life-size ceramic cheetah sat on the floor beside a seafoam rattan table, on which a pair of ivory- colored ceramic macaws and a glossy porcelain tower of bananas made their home. It was a scene that’s as improbable, some might say, as the idea of buying an entire city block in a run-down section of South Beach, transforming it into a hotel, and then opening it during a pandemic.
“The big idea that we thought up from the very beginning,” Fulk said as we surveyed the vast pool space, “was that we wanted to bring you up from Washington Avenue into the sky and to have this celebratory moment, with an extraordinary pool club and a fantastic restaurant.” Candy-striped cabanas lined the two-tiered terrace, punctuated by a couple of bars and a DJ podium. Between twin pools, a tiled walkway flanked by giant metal monstera “trees” functioned like a fashion-show runway, populated by a constant parade of bikini-clad guests.
Kim Kardashian, the Beckhams, and Bad Bunny had graced the grand opening, and five days later it seemed like everyone wanted to be there (helped by the fact that Florida has imposed minimal restrictions during the pandemic). Every poolside was occupied, several of them by guests speaking Portuguese and Spanish. And cabana customers were keeping servers busy with orders for heaping fruit platters and servings of fries. “Nothing feels better than this,” crooned Khalid from the speakers.
BESIDES BEING the man behind South Beach nightclubs Story and LIV, Grutman is also a restaurateur. His ventures include Brickell spot Komodo and Design District darlings Swan and Bar Bevy, which were his first partnerships with Williams and Fulk. “Food and the restaurant experience is my core business. And for me, of course, everything’s social,” he said. “The restaurant should always be the heartbeat of a hotel.”
In the Goodtime’s restaurant, Strawberry Moon, Fulk has taken retro Miami, Caribbean, and Latin American elements and combined them into a multilayered mash-up of color, texture, and pattern. Wherever I looked there was something to delight the eye: Glass- petaled lamps bloomed from the ceiling. Grass-cloth-covered walls the color of the Caribbean were punctuated with orblike sconces and Art Deco–style mirrors. The palette of blue and pink and the textured rattan chairs brought to mind the fabulousness of The Golden Girls. This is the kind of place Blanche Devereaux and Wes Anderson would go on a date.
At dinner, I tucked in to the pillowy folds of moon bread (a popover-like confection served with fig butter) and a refreshing beet and watermelon salad, dressed with segments of pink grapefruit that seemed chosen specifically to color-coordinate with the surroundings.
After dinner, I checked out the library, the Goodtime’s other social hub, which is framed by swaths of teal drapery. Built into salmon-pink walls, the shelves of curated books are another whimsical flourish by Fulk, displaying color- coordinated spines and deliberately placed bookends, vases, and objets.
The library’s style contrasted with the simpler aesthetic in the hotel’s 266 rooms. “We designed them so that you have everything you need, but not a lot of extraneous stuff,” Fulk said. “A super-comfortable bed. A great shower. But also beautiful spaces in which to come together, to celebrate, to recharge. ”
To that end, beds have built-in storage, replacing side tables. Instead of using a closet, guests stash their things in a console of drawers, on an open rack, or on a leopard-print bench. The bathroom is utilitarian yet still has some visual winks. On the bath mat is the embroidered reminder be good. And I can imagine the darling pink cups on the bathroom shelves swiftly disappearing out the door.
The pink and green leopard-print robes (yours for US$75) were another Fulk touch. “We should all be wearing them!” he proclaimed, laughing. “You put them on and you can’t be sad. Is that not a good time?”
Checking out, I still wasn’t sure what the hotel’s signature song should be. Williams, when I asked him which one of his songs he’d pick, chose “Beautiful,” the Snoop Dogg hit on which he made a guest appearance. “Happy,” I think, would also be a suitable (albeit predictable) choice. Perhaps Grutman’s suggestion, Toto’s “Africa,” fits best. “It’s my favorite song,” he said. “It makes you want to have the best time of your life and sing along. At the Goodtime, we want you to sing along.”
thegoodtimehotel.com; doubles from US$259.
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
Photographs by Claudia Uribe
Aug 20, 2021