James Beard Foundation Award, 1997 Savannah: a showcase that reinterprets Miami's glory days, fusing a brilliant young design team, a first-time, fast-track restaurateur with ambitious ideas, and cuisine and traditions of a another era. Together, they create a unique and welcoming destination at the center of Miami's renaissance.


To enter Savannah is to enter another world. Outside, the blinding light of Miami's fabled Art Deco district, only steps from the ocean. Inside, a long, cool and shadowed space, with pools of soft light defining areas for food, drink, and entertainment. Separate, they form a cohesive whole with references to both distant African landscapes and American soul food and hospitality.


Originally a rundown futon shop, Savannah was a brilliant subject for transformation.It's proportions were generous but , with only two windows at one end, dark. Light was essential to the design concept, along with creating distinct areas to turn the liability of length into a powerful asset.


Inspired by Florida's savannah (and its African counterpart), Mastro and Locadia chose   its  muted  colors ― soft greens, red-browns and beiges― setting them off with gleaming cherry wood floors and a wall of textured Wisconsin stone, to bring the landscape indoors.


The walls and the structure of multi-layered dropped   ceilings    heighten  the  effect  of iconic "Artichoke" chandeliers,


 directional wall sconces, and a series of recessed ceiling lights that target specific areas. They divide the interior into a long bar and dining area surrounding a baby grand piano for cocktails and cabaret. Throughout, rich textures of stone and wood, reflected in the bar's mirror, create appeal and interest for the eye.


Four columns, a glance at antiquity and an inspired design element, create a temple to set off the three interior spaces. Beyond them lies an informal lounge, with cushioned sofas and chairs, and a VIP room, which can be secluded behind wooden blinds for privacy.


The long bar, with eye and ear access to the live music, offers Alvar Aalto stools for casual times, and parallels the dining room.


The columns, in turn, guide the treatment of the ceiling beams and how they are joined. There are three levels the beams, the dropped ceiling, and the continuous interplay of mass and material (they are partly veneered in wood) that connects them.


Although the total effect is both warm and minimal, there are subtle, captivating differences to investigate and enjoy. The originality and stylish conception of Savannah guaranteed that it would become, and remain, a hot-spot for Miami's in-crowd.


Architect and designer: Giusi Mastro

in collaboration with

Alex Locadia and Chris Owles