EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 14, 2013

Developer has new flavor for hostels: Upscale

If the collection of National Geographic magazines in the lobby and ping pong tables out back don’t give it away, then the $40-a-night bunk beds surely will: Freehand Miami, one of the newest lodgings in town, is in every way a hostel.

But this hostel, which opened in December, has a way of turning the stereotype of scruffy backpacker hangout on its head. Freehand is the creation of New York’s Sydell Group, which owns the NoMad Hotel in Manhattan and developed the Ace hotels in New York and Palm Springs, Calif.

Sydell Group has plans for Freehand locations in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., but Miami Beach came first.

Bathed in light, trimmed with wood and decorated with bright collages and a funny map of Miami Beach, the lobby of the 1936 building looks like an Instagram photo. The bar out back, Broken Shaker, was recently named a 2013 James Beard Foundation awards semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.

And the buzz has reached a level that some full-priced hotels could only dream of, with mentions in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, GQ and New York Post, which called the hostel “truly the new hipster hotness.”

Diana Morley, a 31-year-old marketing professional from London, didn’t know about any of that when she set out to find a calm place “that was not a big glitzy hotel” to stay after attending Miami’s Winter Music Conference with two friends. She searched for boutique hostels, not even sure if Miami Beach had any kind of hostels.

Last week, Morley and friends Nicola Doran, an attorney, and Virginia Draper, who works in banking, relaxed by the Freehand’s pool, having found their bliss.

“I’m incredibly impressed with it,” said Doran, 29, also of London. “Whoever came up with the style concept for this place is genius.” She described it as retro, cool and vintage, but “not overdone.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Photos of the Week