British designer Tara Bernerd sheds the layers of a spring-break capital on the cusp of transformation and presents a contemporary vision of the new Fort Lauderdale.
By Nate Storey
February 25, 2022
When Tara Bernerd first visited Fort Lauderdale in 2014 to explore a new project for Four Seasons, she was pleasantly surprised. “People would say Fort Lauderdale is very ‘spring break’, but it reminded me of Cannes in the old days, that Riviera feel,” she says. “There are layers that I like to discover. The inland canals and waterways, the huge yachting community, some very chic Scandinavians going there via Miami Beach – you start to unravel that kind of elegance.”
Fort Lauderdale has long been a second fiddle to sexy brother Miami and in recent years has blossomed into a destination with depth. South Florida’s pandemic boom notwithstanding, a spate of new condominiums are evidence that the city is becoming an increasingly attractive place to live for the cosmopolitan crowd. The $400 million Auberge Beach Residences & Spa development, which opened in 2019 with 171 designed residences Meyer Davisthe upscale 105-unit Solemar’s in Pompano Beach and ODA’s forthcoming 300 West Broward Condo high-rise are just some of the dazzling newcomers.
Elon Musk’s Boring Company recently submitted a proposal for an underground tunnel called the Las Olas Loop to alleviate traffic problems with 21st-century infrastructure. The new Brightline bullet train changed the game, connecting downtown Fort Lauderdale with Miami, West Palm Beach and soon Orlando. One thing it always had? Some of the region’s most idyllic beaches.
In a prime location on North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences is another milestone in reshaping “America’s Venice”. It’s the developer’s latest conquest Nadim Ashi’s Fort Partners, which also owns Four Seasons properties in Palm Beach and Surfside. After several delays, the property is finally ready for closure – it was worth the wait.
British designer Tara Bernerd was chosen for the interior design of the 189 guest rooms and residences as well as the public areas, delivering an ambitious vision worthy of the city’s contemporary development. Start with a quintessential Florida patina, add a dose of Riviera flair, sprinkle in some Gio Ponti, and the result is a world-class escape that would turn heads anywhere, be it Miami or the Mediterranean. “I wanted to stay true to that Floridian style and pay homage to the Bahamas with some furniture, but there’s something about the Riviera — the Riva boats, the heavily lacquered woods,” she says. “I wanted the hotel to exude something of a hybrid that reminds me of the feel of the Mediterranean, and then incorporate the threads of what I’ve learned about Fort Lauderdale.”
Bernerd’s beat mixing is harmonious and leaves a great impression from the moment guests walk through the door to reception. The fluid space, lined with bold geometric travertine floors inspired by Ponti’s iconic patterns, flows into the all-day café, Honey Fitz — the name of John F. Kennedy’s presidential yacht — serving specialty coffees and pastries in glass-domed bowls are issued offer every morning. In the evening, it transforms into an intimate champagne lounge, with dimly lit brass wall sconces, mid-century-style armchairs, and a custom-made rattan sofa creating an evocative sundowner vibe.
One of Bernerd’s triumphs is translating holistic themes with an understated but tasteful stroke. The guest rooms are a showcase for that ability. Decorated in neutral tones and with plenty of linen, small details make a big impact, whether it’s the architectural wraparound walnut shelving that gradually shapes into a minimalist desk reminiscent of a Chris Craft yacht, or the rattan and wooden headboards on Wings the ends like origami. “Ultimately, we try to create invisible design that brings an attitude or personality to a place without making it feel too heavy,” she says.
The synergy continues upstairs on the second floor, where designers Martin Brudnizki, a native Brit, lent his touch to both the pool deck experience and Evelyn’s restaurant. Known for designing theatrical environments in prestigious boîtes, such as B. his Garden of Eden makeover for London’s Annabel’s and his aquatic maximalism program at the London and Miami locations sexy fish, he shows a clever reticence with Evelyn. The sophisticated yacht club aesthetic of blue, white and wood strikes the right balance between context and kitsch. “Materiality is key when it comes to ensuring a nautical design doesn’t feel like imitation or gimmicky,” he says of the high-gloss lacquer, sleek linen, marble and velvet that subtly echo billowing sails and elegant remember boat interiors.
Add in the expansive sea views and the space is the perfect backdrop for Chef Brandon Salomon’s artfully plated takes on Mediterranean cuisine, including locally sourced micro-vegetables on skewers, squid smoked over olive wood, accompanied by lively dollops of Vadouvan carrot puree with pomegranate glaze, salmon skewers and a selection of mezzes served with fluffy flatbread baked on stone. It’s an ambitious concept for a city once derided as a restaurant desert, but the growing sophistication of the food scene is another sign that Fort Lauderdale is maturing into South Florida’s Goldilocks City. “In our eyes, it perfectly blends the energies of its neighboring cities, combining the elegance and tradition of Palm Beach with the vibrancy and contemporary flair of Miami.” says Brudnitsky. “We believe it will inevitably become a destination in its own right.”