Fantasy scenario: I am shopping in a Jonathan Alder store near closing time and the staff accidentally locks me in for the night. I am trapped inside this happy place of soothing modern designs, buoyant colors and winsome figurines. Here, the (ceramic) cat never scratches and the dachshund won’t ever bark to go out at 3 a.m.
Real scenario: I am locked (of my own volition) inside a room at the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa in South Florida, surrounded by Adler designs that I didn’t have to pay for, except at a nightly rate. His prints are all over the space: on the bed, carpet, furniture, lights, pillows, water glasses and coffee mugs. I sit, sip and sleep Adler.
My fantasy has become a reality.
The 309-room property is the international designer’s second hotel project. His first, at the Parker Palm Springs in Southern California, opened in 2005 with a fitting desert palette (sand dune colors with bursts of red). The Florida redo, which feels like a perfect day at the beach with ocean blues, sunny yellows and puffy-cloud whites, wrapped up last December. The former Ritz received a new name (pronounced like a surprised “Oh!”), look and personality but kept the same body: seven oceanfront acres with a private beach.
The hotel retains some hints of its Ritzy upbringing. Charming doormen stand at attention; I never once had to lift a finger to enter or exit. At check-in, an employee offered me the choice of a flute of champagne or bottled water. Opting for the latter, I had a decision of chilled or room temperature. A tray with cool towels sat on a corner of the reception desk, a discreet wipe for any sudden outbreaks of Palm Beach perspiration. A dispenser with cucumber-spiked water and a basket of green apples completed the socialite-on-holiday scene.
The lobby is elegant and semiformal and a bit disconcerting, like wearing a ball gown at the beach. The high-ceilinged lounge features a muted rainbow of rose gold, pinks and creams, with Asian-inspired floral patterns blooming on the carpet and wallpaper. The decorative touches come straight from the Sunshine State gallery: a statue of swimming sea turtles, a painting of a great white heron, tall vases filled with shells. In the evening, the mood turns romantic and trippy, with 100 candles and a klieg light that emits purple rays. At sunset on weekends, guests raise a champagne glass (gratis) to the “new-fashioned Palm Beach lifestyle.”
The owners mixed some new items with the Ritz period pieces, but the real ta-da occurs in the refurbished hallways and guest rooms. When I entered Planet Adler, via a carpeted walk past conference rooms and grave landscape paintings, I felt as if someone had drawn back the heavy curtains and let light, laughter and the menagerie inside: butterflies encased in a Lucite obelisk, a print of a hard-staring octopus, a ceramic shark more cuddly than killer. And I wasn’t even in my room yet.
Once inside my second-floor sanctuary, I reignited my fantasy. I raced from the bed (Queen Anne-style headboard with blown leaf pattern, yolk-yellow blanket) to the desk (white Lucite with tassel, mini-scoop vase) to the bathroom (glasses, wastebasket, toiletry tray, mirror frames, tissue box cover). I made coffee (design courtesy of Keurig, the rare exception to the A-rule) and poured it into a whimsical mug with a mustache on one side and plump lips on the other. I faux-fainted on the velvety chaise and propped my head against the needlepoint “Palm Beach” pillow with the cheeky bikini outline. On the balcony, I sat on “Peace” and then “Love” — a pair of engraved wrought-iron chairs — and finally collapsed in the egg-shape swing. I drifted off to the sound of waves and hot-tubbers below.
The room was not 100 percent Him, but the outliers matched his style. A mid-century Slim Aarons photo of a family driving a car in a harbor hung by the writing desk, and a beachy-chic print by Donald “Drawbertson” Robertson flanked the bathroom door. The hotel also left me a gift on the bed: flip-flops and a teal-striped canvas tote bag that I could easily fill with Adler products from the gift shop.
As if you had to ask: Yes, the gift shop stocks his products. (To prevent sticky-finger shopping, most of the portable items in the public areas are glued down. Housekeeping also has a checklist, and guests are billed for any missing objects.) With some liquid courage from their bar Stir — there go the retail inhibitions — I could’ve easily slapped down the plastic for the Palm Beach bikini pillow (the exclusive Eau version), the mustache corkscrew, the hand-clutching-an-ice-cream-cone vase and marine-life baby socks that I could use as finger warmers.
Of course, I understand that not everyone shares my devotion. And to those people I say . . . go lounge by the pool (two, including one for adults only). Unwind on the brown sugar beach. Dine at Angle, which serves modern American cuisine; Temple Orange, where the Mediterranean and Florida collide; or Breeze, a snacky spot by the water. Sit around the pit fire, which glows bright from flames and smartphone screens. Get a Self-Centered Massage (the treatment’s actual name, not my opinion) at the award-winning spa. Work out in the well-equipped gym. Oh, wait, scratch that: A trio of Adler sculptures from the Utopia collection adorn a shelf inside the fitness center.
I have heard that to overcome an addiction, like to ice cream or clove cigarettes, you should overindulge in the habit and then, queasy at the mere thought of it, you will be cured. However, the strategy failed in my case. Now instead of a wishing for a night inside an Adler retail store, I dream of a week at Eau with the “Do Not Disturb” light on.
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Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa
100 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, Fla.