Design with a sense of place. In New York City the elegant NoMad evokes turn-of-the-century grandeur.
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Design Delivers

Valerie Gladstone / December 14th, 2012

Glamorous new hotels rely on stylish architecture and interiors to carve out their niche in the marketplace.

First-time visitors to the new 463 suite Conrad New York hotel in Manhattan’s Battery Park City could be excused for thinking that they had entered a spectacularly beautiful futuristic universe. Light floods the 15-story atrium lobby, dramatically accentuating the sensuous blue and purple lines weaving across the towering, abstract Sol LeWitt painting Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple) that fills one wall. Opposite this work, in a piece called Veils by designer Monica Ponce de Leon of MPdL Studio, cables are suspended from a succession of aluminum frames descending from the skylight to luminous effect. In the lobby’s center, streamlined, limestone-colored, felted wool couches and chairs and leather ottomans have been invitingly arranged a distance from the unobtrusive registration desk. More eye-pleasing delights await—the stunning rooftop bar Loopy Doopy, with its expansive Hudson River views, the spacious guest rooms, 11-screen movie theater, and the huge event spaces, including the Gallery Ballroom, which like every room in the hotel is complemented by striking contemporary art.

Former Four Seasons Hotel New York chef Anthony Zamora, who creates a Mediterranean menu for the Conrad’s sleek 95 seat Atrio restaurant, couldn’t be happier with its appearance. “It’s vast,” says the chef, who has developed a following for his crisp flavorful pizza, “with a wonderfully warm and sophisticated ambience.”

“I wanted it to have a Mediterranean feeling,” Ponce de Leon says, “like cafes along the sea. The ceiling is composed of reinforced fiberglass with a plaster finish that makes it look as if the wind is rippling across it. The beaded glass curtains on the windows soften the light.”

Hotels grow increasingly stylish as architects and interior designers take more of a role in their appearance. The Conrad New York, which Goldman Sachs transformed from an Embassy Suites into one of Hilton Worldwide’s luxury brands, ranks among the most attractive that have opened in the past year, along with The NoMad Hotel in Manhattan’s Flatiron district; the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and the SLS Hotel South Beach in Miami Beach. Each one offers the visitor a uniquely tailored experience. “We aim for nothing less than to be a world-class hotel,” says architect Josh Chaiken, a principal with Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, who led the Conrad New York design team.

Andrew Zobler, CEO of the Sydell Group, which owns and manages the 168 room Beaux-Arts NoMad Hotel, has no less ambitious a goal. “We want people to come back over and over again,” he says. “We want to be a home away from home.” To make that likely, Stonehill & Taylor, an architecture firm specializing in historic preservation, transformed the hotel to its original turn-of-the-century grandeur, while French designer Jacques Garcia created the elegant interiors. It looks like a grand European hotel with New York flair.

The NoMad’s residential-style rooms and suites feature French mahogany writing desks, handmade vintage Heriz rugs, freestanding claw-foot bathtubs, and chairs and sofas in Parisian fabrics and distressed leather. Reproductions of photographs and sketches of cities found in French antique shops enhance their walls. Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park oversee the food and beverage service in the opulent public spaces, including a soaring atrium; a two-story library/cocktail room with an imported French spiral staircase; a cocktail lounge complete with a 24-foot mahogany bar; the NoMad dining room, decorated with antique framed pressed herbs; and the rooftop bar with its striking copper cupola.

Partners Jed Walentas, Peter Lawrence and Andrew Tarlow stunningly transformed a turn-of-the-century cooperage, later used as a textile factory, into the sophisticated 72 room Wythe Hotel. Going for a minimalist look, architect Morris Adjmi preserved its industrial character, leaving its original pine beams, masonry, arched oversized windows, and cast-iron columns. Light fixtures and mirrors have been antiqued to give them a period look. The beds and desks were built by local craftsmen from wood recycled from the building, and the guest rooms, many with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and East River, are decorated with works by local artists.

Brooklyn restaurateur Tarlow, of Marlow & Sons, Diner, and Roman’s, manages the hotel’s food and beverage program, which includes Reynard, a ground-floor restaurant and bar with a wood-fired oven and grill, and The Ides, the handsome forest green, sixth-floor bar and terrace, with Manhattan and Brooklyn views that draw a crowd of local and not-so-local hipsters. The hotel also offers lofts, some that include private roof decks, as well as a 60 seat screening room and bar. “We want to transport people,” says Tarlow, “and to give visitors and neighborhood residents a place to congregate.”

Originally built in 1939, the glamorous, 140 room SLS Hotel South Beach recently opened on the site of the former Ritz Plaza Hotel, a collaboration of SBE founder, chairman, and CEO Sam Nazarian, renowned designer and architect Philippe Starck, and über chef José Andrés. Starck’s distinctive ideas come into play throughout the beachfront property. In the black-and-white tiled entranceway, he evokes the charm of Parisian and Italian cafes, furnishing it with hand-crafted pieces from Mexico, a red wheelbarrow bench, and bright French bistro chairs in green, yellow, and orange. He defined Bar Centro, which is adjacent to the lobby, with Latin and Asian accents, by decorating it with plush red velvet curtains and vibrant Cuban paintings.

For the sumptuous guest rooms, he took inspiration from the bedroom of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s famed mistress, using lavish bed and furniture coverings in whites and pinks, and adding a big white sofa for extra comfort. The white wooden tile floors are covered with tapestry-like carpets. Andrés’ restaurant, The Bazaar, is an engaging bright yellow and features a singular seashell encrusted chandelier. “It’s the heart of the hotel,” he says. “You look around and know you’re in someplace special. This is what Philippe is so good at creating—an environment of fascinating details, unique touches, and surprises that come together to tell a bigger story.” He accomplished something equally enchanting in the restaurant Katsuya, which is dominated by oversized images of geishas.

These hotels do everything to enthrall visitors with ambience that matches their lifestyle and make them wonderfully comfortable, whether they’re hipsters or hedge fund managers.