In amassing one of the most important privately held contemporary-art troves in the country, the Miami-based collectors and hoteliers Don and Mera Rubell have learned to trust their eye. So when Mera walked into the Ralph Lauren store in New York City in 1998 and was struck by the store’s maritime visual scheme, she set out to hire its young in-house interior designer, Scott Sanders. (“He looked underage,” Mera recalls.) Eighteen years later, Sanders is still with the Rubells, having transformed the couple’s three properties: the Lord Baltimore, from 1928; the ’60s-era Capitol Skyline, in Washington, D.C.; and the Albion, a 1939 Art Deco gem in Miami Beach designed by Igor Polevitzky to recall an ocean liner.
The Albion’s previous look was all about angles and imbalance. “The chairs were meant to make you seasick,” Mera says with a laugh. (It was the ’90s.) As part of the redesign, Sanders broke down a waterfall wall, softened edges, and dialed up blues and whites to evoke a sunny day at sea. This being a Rubell hotel, art plays a central role. “I won’t say that we ever see the art in our collection as decoration for our hotels,” says Mera. “It has to be appropriate.” The Rubells run their hotels as family businesses, so for the 100 rooms Mera commissioned 361 pieces by her sister, the painter Sabrina Baron. In the lobby, meanwhile, is a stunning collection of 92 works on paper, scrap wood, and metal by the late local artist Purvis Young, who discovered his talent in prison— another Rubell find. Rooms from $169; 1650 James Ave.; 305-674-0507; rubellhotels.com.