By Mark Gauert
City & Shore Magazine
Will Meyer, of Meyer Davis Studio Inc., led a recent tour of the seaside comfortable spaces he and partner Gray Davis designed for the new Auberge Residences & Spa Fort Lauderdale. The award-winning design team, whose recent projects include the 1 Hotel South Beach and numerous Four Seasons worldwide, were brought into the landmark Fort Lauderdale beach project almost four years ago by developers The Related Group, Fortune International Group and The Fairwinds Group. “The designers consider each new project an opportunity to bring a unique and powerful story to life,” the studio says. “Playing with space, form, texture, and light, they develop a visual experience that seeks to compel and inspire.” Meyer talked about how they developed the luxury project here with a keen sense of place, from the beach up.
Q. How did you begin work on this project?
A. The Related Team asked us for visual renderings of what we felt each [interior] space should be, which is a little bit of an unusual way to start a project. Usually you do plans, elevations, mood boards and you build up ultimately to have a rendering. We just did ‘first impressions’ – what the lobby should ‘feel’ like – without getting so into the aggregate early on. We just went for big brush strokes initially, then we worked backwards to realize that brush stroke.
Q. How did you get the feel of the lobby from that?
A. If you think about the architecture of Auberge, it’s all glass. It was designed to be this glass space. Our initial thought was to create architecture within the glass that gave texture and warmth to it. So we created these wood elements: wood walls, wood frames, wood floors. And then these big beautiful column bases that come up to about head height to give it some scale. Some things are definitely meant to enlarge [the space], like the vertical screens; and other things are purposely cut down – so you have this play of things that are horizontal and vertical and then everything in between finds its place. The screens here allow you to have the reception with the space behind … and then a more private public space behind it.
Q. Did you live on site anytime during the [nearly four-year] construction process?
A. No, but we were here all the time. We have an office in [Miami]. I live in New York, and our team was here all the time.
Q. How did natural light play a part in your renderings?
A. The dappled light in [the lobby] was really important to the feel of the room. It feels so airy, but you see the superstructure is glass and steel, so we incorporated this post and beam, made out of a stained oak, to create warmth in an otherwise airy space. So it just feels right.
Q. What inspired your color scheme?
A. The entire palette came from the ocean – the beach, sand, skies. It’s really everything you see [outside], with the same balance to the sand colors mimicked in the floors; and the columns for that same kind of light, tan color. You get the blues in the rugs that you see in the sky and the ocean. Again, just really airy and fresh. I didn’t want to make a competing color palette from nature. I just wanted to sort of take what’s beautiful, and why people come here, and reflect it in the interior.
Q. What about the displays of wine in the lobby?
A. What’s interesting about Auberge is they export California lifestyle, and I think wine is such an integral part of what they’re all about. Incorporating that into the lobby and to the whole program is a really important thing. It just sets the tone in a nice way. The bottle [labels] are beautiful. It’s an uncommon common wine room.
Q. How did you connect these rooms with the outdoor spaces?
A. What’s nice about the plan of this building is that everything gets this great connection to the outside, [and] you never really leave that connection. A lot of [other] buildings [put] their amenities in less desirable parts of the property; but here we’re really emphasizing the amenity spaces connected to the outdoor spaces. And it really pays off. The ocean view is right there, with all of these sea and beach tones, in every room.
Q. How did you hope to set Auberge apart from other properties?
A. For many residents, this is their second or third or fourth home. The way we decided to make this special was to make it really connected to the site, and about where this is. And that gives it its own identity. It is what it is, and that’s what makes it great.
Q. What elements do you think give it a uniquely South Florida feel?
A. One thing you lose in South Florida, and a lot of properties, is the sense of the real reason why all of this is here to begin with: the natural beauty. I think because of the heavy [art] deco influence – and there’s a certain kind of glitz to the residential properties that has become the identity of South Florida – our goal here was to take it down a notch, make it more about natural materials and natural beauty and casual lifestyle as opposed to heightened, elevated, shiny. This space is really the counterpoint to all that. I think people appreciate that it’s the reason why they’re really here to begin with.
PHOTO (by Mark Gauert): The lobby of Auberge Residences & Spa Fort Lauderdale.