A discreet Tudor cottage in SoFi’s art deco sprawl, Life House, South of Fifth occupies slow and storied territory worlds away from the boisterous buzz of downtown Miami. Drawing upon its past life as a 1920s artist colony the hotel has the feel of a seaside writers retreat; its laissez-faire communal spaces are brimming with mix-n-match mid-entury pieces, surf-inspired mementos and an abundance of visual stimuli courtesy of local artists. Self check-in will put a smile on the faces of introverts, who can nab a perch at the stained glass bar while contemplating their newest project; the more convivial are free to flit among the indie South-Beachers at plant-foward restaurant Pretty Swell – either way, craft cocktails, and a buckets of creative energy, are sure to follow.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. In the lobby you’ll find a vintage credenza with two tablets for self check-in, so you can throw your bags down and hit the sand running.
Double rooms from £96.50 ($119), including tax at 14 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of 9% per booking prior to arrival.
Need a spare towel or an extra chair? Just text the staff and they’ll bring it right over.
At the hotel
Indoor/outdoor lounge space, pop-up boutique, free Wifi throughout. In rooms: Le Labo toiletries, minibar, Revival New York linens
Our favourite rooms
Decked in blonde shiplap panels with wicker pendants, boho rugs and rattan details; the rooms offer an extension of the wider aesthetic, each with an artsy beach-shack feel. The Writers Studio is a fine choice for those looking to soak in SoFi’s soulful energy – there’s a curated collection of books and a reading nook for curling up in after wavey mornings at the beach. The Artist Lofts and their custom-made modular bunk beds, meanwhile, set the stage for all-night, gossip-fuelled sleepovers.
There’s no pool, but with the surfer’s paradise of South Beach just a mango’s throw away, you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
That novel you keep meaning to write? Bring your laptop and make a start; with the ocean to inspire you, this ready-made writer’s retreat tends to draw a rather creative crowd, so you won’t be the only one.
All Deluxe Queen rooms are ADA compliant with a roll-in shower and wide entrances.
Welcome, though not particularly catered for. Cots are available upon request, though advance notice is required.
Sea facing in more ways than one, Life House, South of Fifth’s proximity to the ocean informs their sustainable standpoint, from their aversion to plastic and monthly beach clean-ups to partnerships with sustainable retailers. In the restaurant, super-juicing eliminates bar waste and there’s a focus on locally-sourced ingredients. Though not quite vegan, the restaurant team makes mindful choices when selecting seafood. It’s no secret that Florida has suffered a lionfish problem in recent years – an invasive species threatening native fish population – and including dishes like lionfish ceviche on their menu allows the hotel to actively contribute toward the restoration of the ocean’s natural ecosystems.
To see and be seen by SoFi’s most stylish spindrifters you’ll want to nab yourself a spot on the front porch just in time for golden hour.
Like an aughts Olsen twin, pair an oversized t-shirt with your best vintage duster and as many rings as you can get away with.
From the sweet and sour flavours of Phuket to the Aeagan-inspired aliments of Mykonos, in-house outlet Pretty Swell takes a no-borders approach to plant-forward fare, using local ingredients to conjure commonality between the coastal cuisines of Life House hotspots. Spilling out from the intimate lobby, the external half of the restaurant feels like an outdoor living room; pattern-popping textiles, fringed parasols and custom sofas are walled in by leafy native plants. The menu features a sweep of good-for-you sharing plates with an ever so subtle naughty side; start with watermelon and feta salad tossed with raspberry vinaigrette, take pause for an East Coast oyster with a hot sauce twist and finish off with a shrimp and waffle main featuring pineapple salsa, thyme and jerk honey butter. On the move? Grab a poke bowl and bottled cocktail to go.
Variety is the spice of life – and a good cocktail menu, for that matter. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Pretty Swell mixologists shake and stir their way through an impressive list of craft concoctions. In sun-bathed afternoons, take a seat in the lush laneway garden for a refreshing Mahalo – an elevated Margarita featuring a mix of mezcal, lime, jalapeno agave and orange Curacao. Better still, order it on shaved ice hand-pressed by the bar staff using a Hawaiian-style vintage wheel. Come evening, settle under the bar’s glossy teal ceiling with a warming blend of bourbon, rum, honey, ginger and orange bitters befittingly baptised as the Fashionably Late.
Pretty Swell is open from 6pm to midnight, Wednesday to Sunday.
Strung between Miami’s southernmost tip and the defining drag of Española Way, South of Fifth’s tropical enclave is awash with art deco delights and upmarket outlets just steps away from the beach.
Miami International Airport is a scenic half-hour drive from the hotel. A taxi will set you back around $50-60.
The Miami-Dade Metrorail serves downtown Miami, from the closest stop – Culmer – it’s around 15 minutes’ drive to the hotel.
Little says ‘Miami’ more than a cruise down Ocean Drive as the salty sea breeze fans your hair. Hire wheels at the airport and head down the MacArthur Causeway until you merge onto Collins Avenue. Nearby Vespa offers 24-hour valet parking for $40 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
South of Fifth’s surfer paradise is situated at the low end of South Beach where art deco design and community flavour reign. The location is perfectly primed for outdoor pursuits; Lummus Park boards the ocean with a beach, playground and fitness equipment to get your pump on en-plein-air, South Pointe offers a white-sand beach, elevated fishing pier and picnic areas complete with hammock zones, and, while airing your lungs, don’t miss Miami Beach Botanical Garden, a broad plot of native bromeliads, palms and cycads, mangroves and pond apple trees. There’s a Japanese garden and a whole load of classes, too, from yoga and meditation to horticultural events and live music. Art buffs are spoiled for choice with three diverse offerings on the doorstep. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exterior of Artechouse; commanding all five senses, its immersive, genre-pushing exhibitions focus in upon that experimental sweet-spot at the intersection of art, science and technology. The Bass, by contrast, with its formidable art deco architecture and palm-lined approach, is a serious institution with an equally serious collection. You’ll find a permanent array of European painting and sculpture from the 15th century to the present day and a rolling roster of contemporary exhibits by the likes of Ugo Rondinone, Erwin Wurm and Mika Rottenberg. Finally, the offbeat World Erotic Art Museum includes pieces by Dali and Picasso alongside a bevy of more, lets say suggestive, artefacts. Splash a little cash at three-storey boutique The Webster before heading north to Española Way; Miami’s upmarket answer to New York’s Little Italy. Designed to mimic a Mediterranean village, the 1920s bohemian enclave has seen it all, and it’s had its fair share of on-screen appearances, too, from Miami Vice to Robin Williams’ The Birdcage and John Travolta’s Chains of Gold.
Care-free seaside spot Monty’s Sunset overlooks Miami’s beach marina; watch the ships go by with piled-up plates of fried calamari, stone crab claws and shrimp salads. There’s a raw bar, live music and a rather generous happy hour, too. For more formal fare head to Myles Chefetz’s Prime Fish where a romantic outdoor seating is matched by a rather inventive menu (fried oreos and swordfish schnitzel, anyone?) and a lengthy wine list to boot. If you tire of SoFi’s many seafood offerings, switch it up at carb-centric Carbone. The New York transplant combines old-school charm with elevated Italian classics like veal parmigiana, minestrone and the Instagram-famous spicy rigatoni made with vodka, all served on a hand-painted plate straight from the green plains of Umbria.
Owned by beach-loving local Patricia Olesen, Under the Mango Tree is exactly what it sounds like; a down-to-earth spot filled with tropical greens – including, you guessed it, a real life mango tree. The rainbow-coloured menu of this organic vegan spot has everything you need to start the day feeling fresh. Choose from fruit-topped açai bowls and vibrant smoothies or fair trade coffee and veg-heaped Buddha bowls.
Mid week drag karaoke? Check. Vintage pinball machines? Check. A life-size statue of Bruce Lee mounted on the bar? Check. It’s as chaotic as it sounds, but at no-wave throwback Kill Your Idol that’s precisely the point. Reminiscent of the late-1970s punk scene of New York’s East Village, you’ll find cheap drinks, live music, oh, and an astronaut on the ceiling.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this art-spangled hotel in South Beach and unpacked their trendy Life House merch and sand-dusted sliders, a full account of their palm-fringed break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Life House, South of Fifth in Miami…
Life House’s self-proclaimed ‘contextual hotels’ are firmly rooted in their locations, and that sense of place can definitely be felt here, at Life House, South of Fifth in downtown Miami’s bougie hood. Perched on the tail end of South Beach’s powder white shores, this tropical Tudor cottage – complete with stucco exteriors, half-timbered frames and a pitched gabled roof – is a far cry from the high-rise flurry of Ocean Drive. Formally an artists’ colony, the interiors pay homage to the creative legacy of Española Way and care-free 1970s surf culture with hand-picked artworks and surf-inspired moodboards nestled between touches of Mid Century craftsmanship. Its beach-shack vibe is further cemented in rooms, where cane and wicker pendants, rattan furniture and colourful textiles pop against blonde shiplap wood. The eco-forward bar and restaurant, Pretty Swell, has become a landmark among laid-back locals, with a menu of sustainable sharing plates and craft cocktails to be enjoyed in one of three delightfully designed spots; under the high-gloss ceilings of the custom-made concrete bar where terrazzo floors and stained glass panes set the tone, in the tropical nest of the front porch, or out back in the sun trap of the lush laneway where two-top tables and mellow beats bring a hint of Aussie cafe culture to the edge of the Atlantic.