Not too shabby at all. The complimentary continental breakfast is excellent, with a variety of pastries, yogurt, fruit salad and coffee from Panther in Wynwood. Guests receive an assigned bunk, a towel and a locker (BYO lock). Staying here means you have access to the entire grounds, but when it's time to head out, there's the option of borrowing a bright red bike (they were free during the soft opening, but there will be a tiny daily rental fee).
Free and pretty fast around the entire property. We spent the most time working at the tables in the lobby. Other guests followed this lead and, since the tables only comfortably seat about 14 total (fewer when breakfast takes up most of one table), they may need more tables.
What we liked:
· Excellent, affordable nightly rates.
· Very comfortable mattresses.
· Each bunk bed has a nook with three(!!) power outlets and lamp. Sometimes that's all one needs in life.
· There's just enough illusion of privacy in the multi-bunk rooms to allow for comfort.
· Campy, quirky details with a respect for the historical details (like the archive of National Geographic archive on the lobby mantle and their devotion to preserving the property's past as the art deco Indian Creek Hotel)
· Future plans. They're not nearly done here, nosiree. Can't wait to see the restaurant, whenever it's finished.
· FUN. The Freehand is seriously fun. Cannonball into the pool, play table tennis while getting a tan, make faces at the resident scraggly cat while drinking down a rum punch, borrow a bike to get some take-out tacos then eat it with your friends in the lobby, and then finally fall dead tired into a cozy bunk. Success.
· Location. The Freehand sits on the edge of a very hot area for hotel development, not to mention that it's super close to the W and not a bad bike ride from, like, the entirety of the rest of South Beach. Bonus points for being on a quiet street.
· The drinks at The Broken Shaker, which even feature infusions made from plants grown in The Freehand's garden.
What we didn't like:
· Despite the three power outlets per bunk, the rest of each room was sorely lacking in outlets. None near the desk? WTF.
· Rooms that face The Broken Shaker and garden courtyard could suffer from bar and party noise late into the night.
· Late at night, in a hallway by yourself, the hotel can seem a little spooky.
· The square sofa-chair things in the rooms are not comfortable at all. They're best for laying out your luggage, really.
· There's no TVs in the rooms or lobby, unless you're in a private room. This was a plus for us, but other guests may go through TV withdrawal.
· The Freehand turned into a circus during Art Basel and, thanks to events and stuff, it became a temporary base for a small crowd of scenesters from New York whose typical South Beach stomping ground is normally tied to The Standard or Soho Beach House. And they'll go right back to those places next winter when The Freehand's novelty and comped drinks run out. The mood of the place drastically changed overnight, from friendly and chill to plain...vain.
Out by the pool, after dark
The price, location, design and dream is right, but it's not perfect. The Freehand has a very cool, welcoming vibe right now; over-promotion and marketing it near exclusively at the Coachella set could kill this (see: The Ace NYC and the fact they've had evening bouncers for the lobby for a couple years and any self-respecting New Yorker has crossed it off the go-to list). This is funny because The Freehand is a new venture of the Sydell Group, who previously worked on both The Ace NYC and Palm Springs hotels (and the NoMad and the two Saguaros...). We digress.
The point: The Freehand needs to be a somewhat bohemian discovery; it should be one of those places where, when you hear it mentioned, your first instinct is to say, "that's mah spot." Of course marrying this with the desire to make lots of money is an issue.
One last thing, The Freehand is poised to corner the market on a group almost completely ignored by hoteliers: the young, free-wheeling connected traveler who's somewhere between cheap, jankity hostels and flashy, expensive hotels. These guests are totally bored to death by the generic, mid-range hotels they can afford, but know somewhere out there is a place high on style and social appeal, yet low on price and unnecessary frills.
The Freehand's guest doesn't need a business center or six Frette towels under the sink. What is this, 1998? No it's not, and The Freehand gets this. THANK GOD.
Don't let the "Indian Creek Hotel" sign fool you; this is The Freehand
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for HotelChatter]