06/30/2011 11:24 am ET | Updated Aug 30, 2011

Delano Hotel doubles as museum of contemporary design

When I was 10, I wanted to be Claudia Kincaid. In my favorite fourth grade novel, she and her brother Jamie ran away to New York and lived in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They slept in antique beds, hid from guards at closing time and fished money from the fountain for living expenses.

Last week, my childhood dream came true at the Delano in Miami´s South Beach.

Technically, the Delano is a hotel, but it looks and feels and quacks like a museum of contemporary design. Its nearly mile-long indoor-outdoor lobby, which stretches all the way to the beach, has so many eclectic chairs, mirrors and benches, no two alike, that you almost feel like you should pay for admission.

"Curated" by renowned French designer Phillippe Starck, the Delano has works by Man Ray and Salvador Dali, to name just two. There are odd-shaped fiberglass chairs, 15-foot orange settees, African-inspired tables and chairs that stretch all the way to the ceiling, dwarfing anyone who dare sit in them. Starck, who came to prominence in the 80´s after designing a series of apartments for then French president Francois Mitterrand, designed many of the chairs himself.

The Delano Hotel has undergone a lot of changes since it was lavishly reopened in 1985 by Ian Schrager, once called the Godfather of Nightlife for opening, among other things, New York's legendary Studio 54. One of South Beach's best bets for celebrity spotting, the whimsical art deco icon is now owned by Morgan's Hotel Group. (Schrager is busy developing a line of boutique hotels for Marriott.)

The Delano Hotel is mostly white and off-white (including the TV's) and its famous pool is called a "Water Salon" (and still features piped-in classical music as well as designated areas for floating, eating, sleeping and meditating). The lobby is still Miami's mecca for midnight (and later) minglers.

Over the years, the Delano has hosted pretty much anyone and everyone with a Hollywood agent. Madonna once owned part of the Blue Door, the hotel's upscale sushi bar and George Clooney played basketball with the staff on a makeshift basketball court they set up outside his bungalow suite when he was in town filming the Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight."

The Delano, a 16-story, 208-room property on the northern edge of the Art Deco district, was originally built in 1947. When Schrager rebuilt and reopened it in July 1995, it became a magnet for not only Hollywood starlets, but rock stars, models and affluent someones.

Let's just say it's still a seductive gathering spot with mirrors, 40-foot sheer white billowing curtains and poolside faux-fur covered beds.

But perhaps my favorite Delano feature is the big mirror opposite the elevators up to rooms in the art deco tower. Every morning, the staff paints a new quote on the mirror, reminding us that while classics stay classic, life is ephemeral and always-changing.