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“Since we are in the entertainment business, we want our guests to feel good in the hotel and enjoy their stay,” Estefan tells PEOPLE. 

By Linda Marx
June 13, 2019 10:23 PM
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Grammy-winning pop singer Gloria Estefan, and her Grammy-winning music producer husband Emilio, just finished a $15 million redesign of the sexy Cardozo South Beach hotel on Ocean Drive. And PEOPLE has a first look inside!

After a nearly four-year closure, the iconic 1939 created Art Deco hotel, which the couple purchased around 1992, has just reopened with 41 brand new guest rooms and suites, and the Northern Italian BiCE Cucina Miami restaurant.

“We can’t wait for our friends around the world to experience the new Cardozo because it is so personal, and we like people to feel comfortable and relaxed when they are with us,” Gloria, 61, tells PEOPLE during an exclusive tour, after which she is leaving for London to promote On Your Feet!, the traveling jukebox musical based on her life.

“Plus, Emilio is hands-on and made sure every detail was created beautifully,” she adds.

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Credit: Maurizio Leoni

Inside the modern white vibe is mixed and matched with elements from the Cardozo’s historic original decor.

The sparkling lobby still has the original terrazzo floors, while newly installed rounded windows and herringbone flooring pay tribute to the building’s history.

Tony hotel accommodations include white bed frames with shiny mother-of-pearl headboards, glossy cabinets that line matte white walls, and spacious bathrooms outfitted with smooth white tiles and shapely gold fixtures.

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“Emilio and I have traveled the world for our music, and we know what we like in a hotel room,” Gloria continues, pointing out a pristine headboard. “While Emilio is a visionary, I am logical about what works, often adding history and color. We work together to personalize everything and are on the same page.”

For example, the Estefans have soundproofed the entire hotel so guests will feel relaxed and secure and not bothered by tourists on the beach or people walking along the streets.

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They also added modern amenities not often found in South Beach’s historic buildings, including individual temperature controls in each guest room, showers with adequate pressure, outlets on both sides of the bed, luggage racks that are out of the way, walk-in closets, and great lighting in the bathrooms for applying makeup and shaving.

“We have appointments of luxurious sheets for guests when they lay down in the bed, and the thick towels are made of the finest quality,” Gloria adds.

With help from south Florida’s music loving architect Aldo Ducci, Emilio personally redesigned much of the chic yet friendly hotel using furniture, art and accessories from the couple’s private homes and work spaces.

Paintings, sculpture and tables in the lobby and reception areas come from their Miami Beach house; wicker chairs were “borrowed” from Emilio’s recording studio; the glittery, sophisticated ceiling in the elevator is the same surface they have in part of their home; and a great deal of the accessories and art come from their global travels.

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Credit: Maurizio Leoni

“I love sculpture and art, so I buy what I like when we travel and then see where they work when we return,” Emilio, 66, tells PEOPLE while pointing out unusual pieces. “I place it around our home, so I have brought some of it to the Cardozo. I love doing this.”

Adds Gloria: “This hotel is really Emilio’s baby. We both talk about the design, but I trust him completely. He is on top of everything…I tell him he works too much!”

Super spectacular is the Cardozo’s newly designed 1,500-square-foot penthouse on the third floor, which was created for celebrity guests like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and other international stars.

Like a big city apartment, the light, bright penthouse offers panoramic views of the ocean and is outfitted in neutral-toned furnishings in metals and woods. Marble tiles from Istanbul cover the floors, and are complemented by teak bedroom doors and a granite-topped bar with a base of teak and mother of pearl.

The suite offers two master bedrooms, three spacious bathrooms—two masters with double sinks, a pair of marble soaking tubs and glass enclosed double showers, and a third for guests—a dressing area, two dining rooms, two living rooms, two 60-inch TVs, and a variety of sophisticated chandeliers.

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In the hallway, Emilio points out recently framed photos of Gloria on the beach in Brazil recording her next album, and another where he is pounding his beloved conga drum.

“We put our heart and soul into this redesign,” he says. “We love Miami and wanted to make the hotel special.”

The hotel’s illustrious history mirrors that of the city of Miami.

The Cardozo started as a housing facility for U.S. Army recruits and trainees during World War II then transformed into a glamorous movie set.

As guests walk along the lobby and on the upper floors, they will enjoy perusing vintage photos lining the hallways from films made in the original Cardozo, like “Hole in the Head” (1959) with Frank Sinatra; “The Birdcage” (1996) with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane; “There’s Something About Mary” (1998) with Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller; “Any Given Sunday” (1999) with Al Pacino and Dennis Quaid; and “Marley & Me” (2008) with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson.

Over the years, Gloria and Emilio have bought and sold apartments and small hotels along South Beach’s Ocean Drive. Now, in addition to the Cardozo, they own seven new adjunct apartments nearby with kitchens for guests who want to stay for weeks or months, and the boutique Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, about three hours north in Vero Beach, where they have another family beach house.

But nothing seems to strike a chord like the Cardozo.

When Gloria was two-and-a-half years old and enjoying a family gathering across the street from the hotel, she made a prediction with amazing prescience.

“My mom asked me why I was looking at the Cardozo,” Gloria says.

“I think I was so excited to be on the beach because we never went to the beach in Cuba. I told her that when I grow up I am going to buy my dad this hotel!”

And the rest is history.