Last week we played hooky and ran off to southern Florida to re-familiarize ourselves with that glowing yellow orb in the sky. We were curious to experience the growing design culture in Miami and we also checked out the Florida Keys. Since then, we’ve recovered from the copious amounts of rum, we’ve sorted our notes and we’re ready to release the scoop for the design conscious, enjoy.

Miami Beach has no shortage of well designed, sleek accommodations. For resort stays check out The Shoreclub, The Standard, The Tides, The Raleigh, Delano, Sagamore, The W Hotel, and the Mondrian. The amenities and pool scenes come at a premium though. If you can give up the pool, a great, cost-effective option is the *Townhouse Hotel at 150 20th St. It’s modern, minimal and has great prices for being next to the beach. Bring the appropriate duds for their fat-tire rental bikes.

Despite the overwhelming number of outdoor restaurants, we kept finding our selves at News Café, 800 Ocean Drive. Known for being Gianni Versace’s last cup of coffee, the service, food and atmosphere are all quite pleasant. They’re also open 24 hours, which can be useful in a city that doesn’t appear to sleep.

[Photo by srcohiba]

We don’t typically have a problem dropping some serious coin on a great meal. But despite our efforts to track down Miami’s culinary delights, we didn’t find much worth recommending. The prices per quality of food and service just didn’t seem to be proportional. Reasonably priced food was mediocre, good food was ridiculously overpriced, and great food did a superb job of hiding from us. There are most likely venues worth recommending that we just didn’t hit, but we’re all about the straight scoop at the BUILDblog.

The design district hosts a slick outdoor lounge called Mai Tardi at 163 NE 39th Street. If the weather is accommodating, this spot is a welcomed break while you’re exploring the neighborhood.

The Townhouse Hotel Rooftop Bar at 150 20th Street is a great spot to unwind and take in the view at the end of a long day of conquering the urban landscape.

A bit more of a scene, Skybar at 1901 Collins Ave in the Shoreclub Hotel gives you a great excuse to check out the hotel and grounds. Things don’t pick up until about midnight so grab a couch, have a drink and get ready for one of the best shows in town.

The Rubell Family Collection at 95 NW 29th Street carries some edgy and forward thinking work.

* The ArtCenter South Florida at 800 Lincoln Road is up to something amazing. The artist co-op was started before the neighborhood became popular and subsequently the organization acquired a spacious building in a great location. The building contains dozens of talented artist studios housing everything from oil on canvas to photography and jewelry.

[Photo by Burt O Holmes]

The Bacardi Building at 2100 Biscayne Boulevard is a refreshing example of design that reminds us of some of the best work from Latin and South America.

*Art Deco Row, on Ocean Drive across from Lummus Park, offers a nearly perfect collection of Art Deco buildings which we picked apart in a previous post. Doing your architectural homework in this neighborhood is a pleasure as it’s full of restaurants, cafes and bars.

The Atlantis Condominiums at 2025 Brickel Ave by Architectonica is the quintessential Miami condominium tower – you may remember it from the days spent with your old pals Crockett and Tubs.

Check out Rex Ray/Jonathan Adler at 1024 Lincoln Road for some fun interior furnishings.

CB2 at 1661 Jefferson Ave is two floors of hot, modern furnishings at reasonable prices. The building is also well designed.

*BASE at 939 Lincoln Road is the Colette of Miami; they’ve carefully filtered down their wares to the coolest of clothing, music, books and art. It’s always inspiring to experience a shop that’s got a pure vision. Kudos to BASE for supplying us with a stack of uber-cool roadtrip tunes.

Books and Books at 933 Lincoln Road creates a well appointed space to review some excellent hand-picked titles.

*tomas maier at 170 NE 40th St carries beautiful things and is a must see in the design district. The friendliness of the staff eases the intimidation of the pristine space.

For guys clothing hit the gritty Post Blue Jean Co. at 836 Lincoln Road

Y-3 at 150 NE 40th St in the design district does a super job with fast-forward design – they’re sales are also extraordinary.

When you’ve had enough of high-end convertible Italian sports cars, barbed wire tattoos and gratuitous attitude, head 3.5 hours south to the Conch Republic. The atmosphere is easy going, fat-tire bikes abound and the food is far superior.

*The Nine One Five Bistro and Wine Bar at 915 Duval is, hands down, the essential Key West experience. The seasonal menu is delicious, the service is top-notch and the atmosphere is perfect. While it’s not a modern design venue, the 1906 Victorian house is nicely restored and the inconspicuous Point 5 bar on the second floor is a great little hideaway for that pre-dinner drink.

[Photos by irish foodie]

It’ll make you feel a bit like a poof for not having reeled in a 10 foot swordfish earlier that morning, but the Hemingway House & Museum at 987 Whitehead Street is informative and inspiring. The setting is pleasant and it’s a satisfying peak into the life of an international man of mystery.

For a good wine selection try the Blackfin Bistro at 918 Duval Street. It’s clean interiors and bar menu provide a welcomed break from all the touristimos on Duval Street.

Santiago’s Bodega at 207 Petronia Street is the real deal; the atmosphere is gritty, the location is out of the way and the menu delivers.

[Photos by absenter]

Despite all the parrot-heads and Hemingway lookalikes, there are some modern gems to be found in Key West, like this rocket-hot concrete bunker on Simonton.

*The asterisk gives a shout-out on spots not to be missed.

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