Reviews for the new Starz series “Magic City” have been mixed, but the critics seem to agree on one thing: The show looks stunning. Set in 1959 Miami Beach in the luxury Miramar Playa Hotel, "Magic City" looks like it was shot entirely on location in a period-perfect resort, but in fact its living rooms, bars and suites were built on a stage over nearly four months. The look is a mix of gold, glitz and glamour that betray the deals that go down after dark.
Production designer Carlos Barbosa and set decorator Scott Jacobson said they worked hard to stay true to the period in all aspects: the Midcentury Modern furniture, the television consoles that would have been appropriate for a new luxury hotel, even the typography on the matchbooks and signs.
“It was such a fascinating time both socially and politically, especially in Miami,” Barbosa said. “There was the Jewish Mafia. Sinatra. Castro took over that year. Later the Kennedys would visit.” And there was one architect in particular who captured the glamour at that time: Morris Lapidus.
The production designer said he took inspiration from the Miami Modernist architecture -- or MiMo -- of Lapidus, who designed several Miami Beach hotels including the Foutainebleau, Deauville and Eden Roc.
Like Lapidus, the production team mixed styles -- including Modernist, classical and baroque -- to create the Miramar Playa's distinctive interiors. To save money, the production made much of the furniture rather than tracked down period pieces. “In order to achieve that look today, in that scale, many things were not available,” Jacobson said. “And even if they were, it would be too cost prohibitive. It’s easier to design what you want and select the textiles that are right.”
Nothing was leased from a prop house. Jacobson, who is based in Miami, said he scoured Florida antique shops, EBay and the Brimfield antique market in Massachusetts. "Estate sales were a gold mine for me," he said. "There were several where I walked in in the morning, took a look and told them, 'I'll buy everything.' " Keep reading for a closer look at some of the residential environments, as well as the back story to the bar pictured at top ...