Rick Ueno, the General Manager at W South Beach, talks with Ocean Drive about what guests can expect from the hotel’s newly renovated suites and his favorite spots around Miami.
Located on famed Collins Avenue, the iconic W South Beach offers guests an elevated Miami experience with luxurious amenities and some of the hottest spots in the area for dining and nights out. However, that doesn’t stop them from continuing to improve the oceanfront property for their guests. With a recent multimillion-dollar redesign of their E-WOW Penthouse and E-WOW Ocean Escape suites, the guest experience has proven to get better with the transformative spaces that offer cooling hues, specially curated art collections, and exclusive amenities. Here, we talk with Rick Ueno about what inspired the redesign, their newly launched art program, and his recommendations for the perfect stay in the Magic City.
What inspired the redesign of the W South Beach's E-WOW Penthouse and E-WOW Ocean Escape suites?
Rick Ueno: Our goal was to evoke a beach-like vibe that perfectly captures the light, soothing feel of the ocean and natural surroundings while also incorporating a design that plays up Miami’s pulsating energy. The idea for these suites was to conceptualize a space that felt fresh and inviting while maintaining an elevated level of luxury. A few elements and color schemes we incorporated to achieve this include a selection of nude hues, dark hard wood flooring and accents, whitewash finishes, and natural leathers.
Anna Busta of Busta Designs is known as one of the most influential young minds in the world of international design. What prompted you to work with her on this redesign?
RU: We chose to work with Anna Busta because of her vision and ability to bring the outdoors in. There was no doubt she would be able to perfectly capture the cool, calming vibe we were after.
What would you say is the biggest change the suites experienced from their original design to now?
RU: We completely revamped the suites to bring forward a fresh new look that’s reflective of Miami Beach’s playful energy. Some cool new elements include the smart technology throughout including the bathrooms, the stylish mid-century furniture pieces by Holly Hunt, Stark and Michael Dawkin, and the incredible art collection of surf-inspired photography curated by St. Barths’s Clic Gallery.
What designers were most influential for the aesthetic of the suites?
RU: As art and design are among our biggest passions, we took design inspiration from several top creators including Holly Hunt, David Weeks, Philip Stark, and Michael Dawkin to name a few.
What are some of your favorite features that the suites have to offer?
RU: The impressive book collection, which features artists such as James Turrell, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin is undeniably my favorite feature in the suites. Plus everywhere you turn, you’re guaranteed to capture striking views of the beach and sea so the private, wrap-around balconies are a must.
Do the guests that stay in these suites get treated to any exclusive amenities at the hotel?
RU: We designed the suites to offer a heightened level of guest experience with exclusive amenities including a dedicated W Insider for VIP Concierge service, on-suite butler, signature Whatever/Whenever service available through the touch of a text message, airport and local transportation, E-WOW cabana at WET pool and daybed at SAND with full food & beverage service, and preferred reservations at the hotel’s restaurants and nightclub. New this year, suite guests can also enjoy access to the nearby Bass Museum for private art tours through a newly debuted partnership.
How will the newly renovated suites help business and reservations for W South Beach in the upcoming months?
RU: The suites are constantly occupied over major cultural events for which W South Beach is the hub for—including Art Basel and Swim Week. They are ideal for hosting smaller groups or meetings as well as private events. For example, the rooftop space in the E-WOW Penthouse suite is a perfect location for an intimate event as it can accommodate up to 30 guests and features soaring views of the city and sea.
Both units boast incredible art collections. How were these collections curated? And does the art displayed play an important role in the overall design of the spaces?
RU: The suites boast impressive art collections specially curated by Aby Rosen, including the original nature and ocean-inspired photography found in the E-WOW Penthouse. The pieces are commissioned by Clic Gallery based in St. Barths, from famed photographers Wayne Levin, Jeff Divine, Jean Philippe Piter, and Juliette Charvet. The Ocean Escape Suite also features a similar surf and ocean-inspired photography, as well as series of nature-inspired triptych photos by Jordan Sullivan. Both collections tie into the overall design to accentuate the hotel’s contemporary feel and playful approach to life.
Aside from amazing art collections in the suites, the hotel itself has recently launched an art tour program for guests. Can you tell me more about that program and what sort of pieces we can expect to see?
RU: The newly launch art tour program is an exclusive amenity for guests who want a closer look at the $25 million art collection curated by Aby Rosen. The personalized tour is led weekly by a W Insider and allows guests to catch original pieces from legendary artists including Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel, among others. We’re also launching a new partnership with Bass Museum, which will offer our guests complimentary entrance to the exhibits and added programming.
The W Hotel also features many hot spots for dining, including renowned restaurants, The Dutch and MR CHOW. What dish would you recommend guests should try from this location?
RU: The Dutch is great for both lunch and dinner. A few of my favorites include the Farde Salmon with roasted veggies. For more of a seen-and-be-seen night out, I always recommend MR CHOW as they offer upscale Beijing cuisine in a very cool setting that houses an impressive pop art collection. You can’t go wrong with the Drunken Fish, Beijing Duck, or signature noodles, which are hand-pulled each night during their famed ‘noodle show.
For guests traveling to Miami for the first time, what would say are the must-see attractions they need to go to in the Magic City?
RU: One of my favorite places to eat is Pubbelly Sushi. They serve the most incredible butter crab roll, a delicious selection of saki, and the fish is so fresh. I also love MR CHOW—and not just because it’s at W South Beach—the food and service are unmatched in Miami. Another place to see art is Wynwood. I’ve traveled around the world and have yet to see such an artistic and involved neighborhood like Wynwood. Also, across the street we have the Bass Museum, which recently re-opened after a massive renovation. For an authentic experience, I recommend visiting The Little Havana Cigar Factory on Calle Ocho, which is a favorite of mine. The Webster on Collins Avenue is also must-see if you’re looking to shop. They house the best selection of designer menswear and house an insane sneaker collection.
Photography by: Photography via facebook.com/wsouthbeach; courtesy of W South Beach