There is no doubt that part of my heart belongs in New York. For someone who hasn’t been there nearly enough (FYI, it’s never enough), it sure has had an impact. The design, the art, the restaurants, the hotels, the shopping, the real estate, the people, the built environment… all are spectacular in every way.
This is a city where you want to explore every block; wander down the streets lined with Brownstones, terraces and heritage apartment buildings, admiring everything from the brickwork and balustrades to their ornamental details and owners.
In addition to the architecture, it goes without saying that the shopping and nightlife are second to none. New designers and their wares are popping up all over town – you never know what you are going to find next. And not to mention a new bar, restaurant or hotel opening on what feels like a weekly basis. Despite being on the other side of the world, I keep up with as many of these openings as I can. And when my feet hit the Manhattan pavement, I stay at, dine at and shop at as many of these new establishments as humanly possible. My New York “hit list” is constantly evolving and growing, to the point where money should grow on trees and I should fly to New York every alternate month.
With my love of this dynamic city obvious to all who know me, I am often asked if 5 days is enough to get around and see what New York has to offer. On my first trip, I was in New York for almost two and a half weeks and it’s fair to say that I barely scratched the surface. While any time in the Big Apple is better than none, there is no way that 5 days is, or even comes close to being sufficient, irrespective of where your interests lie. Two weeks for your first visit is definitely the way to go – you won’t be sorry.
So with time of the essence, a lifetime of things to see and my long-distance love affair with this city, I am often asked by friends and friends of friends for my New York notes. Where to stay, what to book, where to shop…all of which I will more than happily talk about for hours! So with this in mind, I thought I would start posting my guide on this blog, ready for anyone to view who is after a guide that isn’t filled with your typical monuments and city sites, as chances are, these are already on your list.
As I write, I am not entirely sure how many posts this guide will span so bear with me…. I want to give you every note I have, compiled with my particular eye for design and love of an unexpected experience; the variety in this list is as broad as the range of M&M’s in the Times Square flagship store.
First up – where to sleep in a city that never sleeps.
On my first trip, I made a conscious effort to stay at a number of locations in New York – I wanted to see and absorb as much of the city as I could first time around. Whilst packing and repacking my suitcase grew a little tiresome, I would do it again in a heart beat. And to anyone who is staying in New York for over a week, I recommend they do the same – I promise, you won’t regret it. From The Upper East Side, to Battery Park City, Mid Town to Williamsburg, we explored each area as thoroughly as we could, concentrating on their surrounding radius. This helped not only to feel like we saw a greater area of Manhattan, it also helped with understanding the city planning and to gain our bearings. It provided the opportunity to find local hotspots that we may have otherwise missed.
The list of hotels below are a blend of ‘tried and tested’, ‘for the next trip’ and ‘I have heard’. Here we go!
Where to sleep in a city that never sleeps.
Mondrian SoHo, Tried and Tested
The interior of the hotel is a little quirky, a little traditional, and a little Hollywood Regency, all with a good splash of modern luxe and a side of swagger. If you are after a rest and relaxation, this hotel is not for you – you can’t help but be enveloped in its energy.
Whilst the rooms are a little on the small side, the clever design details make up for it. The bed is Heaven and the tone of voice used in the hotel collateral is fun and shows it’s humorous personality.
Crosby Street Hotel, I Have Heard
The contemporary interior design has a thread of English tradition running through its veins, and incorporates it seamlessly with the SoHo cast iron & loft aesthetic. The sculpture garden and terrace are New York icons and in conjunction with their in house screening room ‘Film Club’, the Crosby Street Hotel is more than just a room for the night.
The location alone is worth every penny but the design is inspiring enough to keep you looking around just that little bit longer before you take on the streets.
The Surrey, Tried and Tested
Whilst many people might gloss over the design detail, I surely didn’t. A traditional damask style design to their carpet looks chic and modern, rather than what could have easily been dowdy. Its magic was in the yarn of the carpet – a combination of hemp, wool and silk which provides an incredible contrast underfoot (hemp isn’t soft!). It’s such a small example but one that demonstrates the attention to detail and effort that was embedded into the design of this hotel.
Staff are genuine and know all there is to know about the area they are in – make sure you ask them for a dining recommendation as the answer will be a locally loved haunt. This is a hotel where you want to linger, be it for a nightcap in their bar, a long brunch in Michelin Star Café Boulud or an afternoon cocktail on the rooftop, with one of the best views of the UES in Manhattan. One of my favourite memories of this hotel was having breakfast delivered to the rooftop on a beautiful winter’s morning. There is no doubt that they go the extra mile.
SLS Hotel, For the Next Trip
Ace Hotel , I have Heard
Ace targets the younger, artsy crowd, with local recommendations comprising of the newest galleries, cafes and boutiques – experiences that are to the left of mainstream. The dedicated hotel gallery space is “where the worlds of art, fashion, music, performance and food collide” and showcases emerging artists.
A hotel that is always in reach, it provides rooms starting at ‘Bunk Bed’ price points (though don’t be fooled, these are a far cry from any hostel bunk beads!) through to ‘Loft Suite’ luxury. This hotel feels real and authentic and free from pretension, but never leaves you without your luxuries – it’s just quieter about them.
Hudson Hotel , Tried and Tested
The Hudson feels a little more ‘night time’ than the Mondrian – music playing, lights are dim, public areas full of rich texture and materials and it’s a venue ideal for a cocktail beside the dance floor (get ready to dance!) or a stiff drink in the library. But up in the room, the atmosphere is softer, allowing you to sleep it off and get ready to do it all over again. We stayed in a one bedroom suite which was an equal blend of luxury, comfort and style. The separate living area was complete with a kitchenette, dining table and lounge area – perfect for the one night in we did have, eating a slice of NY pizza, drinking wine and planning out the next few days. (As a side note, planning your time in New York is key and makes all the difference between feeling overwhelmed with so much to see, and excited with all you can see – more detail in a later post).
The glass roof in the lobby with overgrown vines is nothing short of amazing. The courtyard behind is filled with sculpture, seating and planting – a great place to enjoy the last of the sun before dinner.
The NoMad Hotel , For the Next Trip
Interior designer Jacques Garcia brings a Parisienne touch to this Broadway hotel and whilst the lobby and dining areas appear to err on the side of gilt glamour, the rooms are pared back with a more French/masculine touch. In my notes on The Surrey hotel I made mention of the potential of damask looking dowdy…if there is one thing I would pull out of the images of the NoMad rooms, it would be those damask screens…. The eclectic furniture pieces look to make the suites feel like home and each room seems to have a slightly different touch. I love hotels that change it up – it shows style and personality and I would take them any day over the larger hotels that have a cookie cutter approach.
The library bar shows us how it should be done. The double height joinery, dim lighting and fireplace are all perfection – all I want to do is jump through the screen and arrive with a Hendricks and tonic in hand. I can’t wait to return to New York to see this hotel in person.
There are so many more hotels I could look at, but I would be writing for days to come and would never get this post online! Here is a quick list of other hotels that are equally as special.
Quick notes on a few more...
Archer New York – This hotel opened earlier this year in the garment district. Its playful interior helps define the personality of “Archer” who pops up regularly in tone of voice communications. I’m intrigued by this hotel and would definitely stop in for a drink. I love their efforts to incorporate art and artisanal retail selections for purchase.
The Plaza – This hotel is as iconic as it gets. The landmark location, the opulent interior, the elegance of the experience, this is definitely one to try. Perhaps it would fall into the ‘tourist’ category, but the food court below is worth a visit. (More on dining experiences at The Plaza to come in a later post).
Park Hyatt New York – Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Christian de Portzamparc and interiors by Yabu Pushelberg, there is not doubt that this hotel will be a jewel in the Hyatt crown. Set to open in August of this year, the renderings of the hotel show the accustomed Hyatt polish, intricate detail and luxury finishes.
Trump Soho – Grand, bold, luxurious and over the top – this is no wallflower and if you stay here, you shouldn’t
Wythe Hotel – Located in Williamsburg, this industrial hotel captures the feeling of its location. Stay here if design, fixies, art and fashion are you – it looks incredible.