A touch of whimsy or an over-the-top accessory?

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In between the multitude of sale flyers tucked into the papers this past weekend, I came across news (albeit a few weeks late) of the reopening of the grand Fontainbleau hotel in Miami Beach. Originally opened in 1954, the beach-front property had been closed since 2006 while it underwent a $1-billion renovation and expansion. Given the celebrity response to its grand reopening shindig on November 14, the new, 1,504-room venue—which also now includes 11 restaurants and nightclubs, a 40,000-sq.-ft. space and two new towers to house the new amenities—may continue to live up to its star-studded past, filled with the likes of Elvis, Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and even James Bond.

While new guests may be drawn by the flat-screen TVs and Apple computer in each room or the elaborate chandeliers now in the hallways which are a product of Ai Weiwei, a consultant for Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium, past guests loved architect Morris Lapidus's famed "Staircase to Nowhere," a two-story staircase that led to nothing but a small coat room above the lobby. It's purpose, after all, wasn't for climbing, but rather opposite: Guests would take an elevator up, check their coats, and descend down the staircase and make a grand entrance. While the coat check is no longer there, the staircase remains.

Which raises a question: Are design elements like this a unique touch of whimsy that draws visitors and sets a scene, or are they over-the-top accessories?
Photo: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

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