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The Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc. The Deauville and the Carillon. The Bel Aire and the Casablanca. The names of Miami’s great resort  hotels evoke a time when nymphs in mink bikinis frolicked on Miami  Beach, when Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, and Lucille Ball were  regulars in local nightclubs, and when thousands of newly-minted  middle-class Americans flocked to South Florida to enjoy themselves  after enduring nearly two decades of hard times. The post-World War II period was a time of optimism, faith in technology, and a belief that the future would bring ever improving conditions for all. These beliefs were made manifest in the period’s exuberant architecture, and nowhere more than in the postwar style known as Miami Modern, or MiMo.


MiMo’s Jetsons-style motifs -- boomerangs, fins, kidney-bean shapes - paired with an over-the-top Hollywood sensibility and a tropical environment to create a style that was modern, luxe, and local all at the same time. The great MiMo architect Morris Lapidus, reviled by the International Style-worshipping architectural establishment of the time, called his autobiography “Too Much is Never Enough” -- and put this credo into practice with projects like the Fontainebleau, whose lobby featured a terrarium with live alligators,  bellboys clad in purple and gold braid, and the infamous “stairway  to nowhere,” built solely to provide guests with way to make a grand  entrance in their evening clothes.  If you’re the sort that favors grand entrances -- and views the living room as a stage set for your fabulousness -- the MiMo is the style for you.

MiMo interiors are modern -- but with as many, twists, turns, and flourishes as can be crammed into them. They should feature curving, sweeping lines, theatrical lighting effects, lots of color and drama, and, if possible, multiple floor levels (i.e., the classic “sunken living room”). Morris Lapidus devised a large catalogue of design  “tricks” that became the lingua franca of fifties and sixties  popular architecture: curved walls, circular or amoeba-shaped cutouts  (he called them “cheeseholes”), metal rods with no structural  purpose, and purely decorative mirrored dividers.

Elements of MiMo Style

Floors can be tile, highly polished stone, or terrazzo, perhaps topped with a curvilinear rug.  Low-pile wall to wall carpet is another good choice, preferably in a vibrant color like electric blue or burnt orange (or even in a curvy, busy pattern).  Furniture should be midcentury modern, but avoid Miesian austerity: you want kidney- shaped coffee tables, curved sofas, anodyzed aluminum pieces in gold and copper tones, colors like avocado and eggplant, and glamourous touches like white fur throws and tiled mosaic murals.

In the bedroom, a round bed with white-on-white linens would work brilliantly, along with metallic accents, mirrors, and rattan or bamboo room divider screens.  In any MiMo room, tropical elements add the unmistakable Miami touch, transforming mere kitsch into resort glamour: potted palms, louvered windows, a salt water aquarium,  tropical and animal prints, and neon.  When you look your creation over and say to yourself, “Enough,” go out buy two more accessories, then come home and fix yourself a champagne cocktail.

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