Bobby Schlesinger is Just Like Us
by michael b. dougherty
“It’s not easy to be in a family business,” remarks Richard Schlesinger of Bobby’s ultimate conversion, adding, “Bobby takes more from his mother [Leslie] than he does from me. She is both intelligent and incredibly creative; he follows her acumen in both areas.” When discussing The Obadon Group, the conversation often turns to Leslie Schlesinger, who is both a partner and the dominant creative force behind the hotels. It was Leslie’s vision for a remodeled Brazilian Court that Bobby often credits as being responsible for its success. She dictates the interior and exterior designs of the hotels, a fact that comes into full relief with the family’s latest and most ambitious (even audacious) project: The Omphoy Ocean Resort.
It’s been 19 years since an oceanfront hotel was constructed on Palm Beach, which in many ways explains Omphoy’s raison d’être. Palm Beach is many things— exclusive, beautiful and born of blue blood—but no one under the age of 60 would argue that it is hip. “We said, Let’s come up with a hotel that has some sex appeal, that provides something that you wouldn’t normally think fits on Palm Beach,” says Bobby. In an obvious attempt to eschew the floral-print sheets and Bermuda doors that have defined the area’s accommodations for decades, The Omphoy pulses with South Beach’s youthful sophistication.
Constructed with sleek, modern lines—from the Shinto shrine-like portico to the Macassar-ebonywrapped columns—The Omphoy finds aesthetic reference points in other Asian-influenced properties, like The Setai or a Mandarin Oriental. But what sets it apart, besides the location, is the intimate, boutique quality and the physical proximity to the ocean. The Omphoy is in fact set closer to the high-water mark than any other Palm Beach building, something that is immediately apparent upon ascending the blue-glass main staircase (with a koi pond below) and entering the lobby bar with its panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Says Leslie of the look, “I have always been original in my concepts. Sometimes people don’t get it, but those that do, they really get it.” Bobby is obviously a believer: “While I’ve heard criticisms of everything else, the one thing I haven’t heard is that any of our hotels she designed aren’t absolutely gorgeous.”
With Bobby splitting his weeks between Miami, Palm Beach and New York, he might be getting a little closer to that popular image of the jet-setting hotelier than he feels comfortable with, but he remains conscious of why it is he gets on a plane every week. “I don’t want to exude the attitude that I’m only successful because I went into my family business,” he says. “I hope I would have been successful in whatever realm I would I have gone into. But I went into it because I knew there would be nothing I would care about more, nothing that I would work harder for, than to preserve the hard work that two generations of my family had done before me.”
TOP IMAGE: Bobby Schlesinger at Palm Beach's new Omphoy Ocean Resort
CENTER: The pool deck at The Mayfair Hotel & Spa
photograph by kate benson