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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 14:12

New York's Boutique Hotels

Written by  Monique Burns

Small hotels have always been part of New York’s hospitality mix. But in 1984, the first boutique hotel appeared in the city when Ian Schrager, of Studio 54 discotheque fame, opened Morgans Hotel, still a stylish Midtown fixture.

Ranging from about 100-200 rooms, boutique hotels typically offered three-to-five star luxury, personalized service and upscale furnishings. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, designer-decorated boutique hotels ran the gamut from minimalist with all-white interiors to phantasmagorical with velvet trappings, outsize gilded mirrors and eye-popping art.


Recently, a new breed of New York boutique hotel has been emerging. There’s still an emphasis on style, with designer furnishings, one-of-a-kind art and sometimes entire galleries. But the focus has been firmly reset on luxury and comfort. Spacious rooms feature European-style down duvets, plush armchairs, and polished wood floors with Oriental rugs. Cozy libraries, intimate bars, and bistros where top chefs provide gourmet comfort food, add to the homey feel. In lush gardens and rooftop lounges, guests are transported far from the city hubbub.

Many new boutique hotels are in historic landmark buildings. They aim for a slightly retro decor with 19th or early 20th-century antiques intermixed with modern or contemporary furnishings harkening back to gentler, more
refined times.

Here are four of New York’s best new and recently renovated boutique hotels.

The Benjamin
Recently emerged from a multimillion-dollar restoration, The Benjamin’s grandeur starts on the outside, where the hotel’s Renaissance Revival building, capped by a verdigris copper crown, dominates the corner of E. 50th Street and Lexington Avenue. Designed in 1927 by the great New York architect Emery Roth, the building was immortalized a year later in Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting, “New York Night.” Inside, expect posh residential-style luxury, beginning with the welcoming lobby with plush wing chairs and gilded mirrors, and front-desk clerks whose genteel charm recalls well-trained
European concierges.

The 209 spacious rooms have fridges, or separate butler’s pantries with stainless-steel refrigerators and gourmet snacks. Commodious living rooms or sitting areas, in restful beiges, grays and whites, are graced with tasteful modern or contemporary art. Survey Manhattan’s rooftops from a stylish Terrace Suite.

Comfort reigns supreme with 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and down comforters. An extensive pillow menu is part of the hotel’s Rest & Renew Sleep Program, including aromatherapy treatments and healthy bedtime snacks, designed by Rebecca Robbins, co-author of “Sleep for Success!”

The National, the popular ground-floor grand café, with leather banquettes and black-and-white tiled floors, serves New American classics by famed Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian. There’s also a 24-hour Fitness Center.

Superb service is the legacy of founder Benjamin “Bud” Denihan, who worked in his father’s laundry and dry-cleaning shop in the 1930s. Catering to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Denihan promised he could remove any stain. When he couldn’t, he’d phone the fabric manufacturer for a replacement swatch.

The High Line Hotel
When The High Line, a linear park built over old elevated rail tracks along Tenth Avenue, opened in 2009 in artsy Lower West Side Chelsea, it was quickly followed by The Standard High Line Hotel ( a contemporary glass-fronted boutique hotel straddling the tracks on tall concrete pillars. Now The Standard has a new neighbor.

Opened in spring 2013, The High Line Hotel is housed in the former 1895 General Theological Seminary, a National Historic Landmark built on apple orchards once owned by Clement Clarke Moore, author of Twas the Night Before Christmas. In Collegiate Gothic style-and often compared to Oxford or Cambridge-the stately brick buildings surround a grassy quadrangle, and the 60 rooms retain original 19th-century details like ornate mantelpieces, brass chandeliers, and pine floors covered with Oriental rugs. Along with free phone calls anywhere in the world and gourmet minibars, the High Line Hotel has oversize beds with luxurious down or hypoallergenic bedding and pillows.

Downstairs, in Intelligentsia, the first East Coast outpost of the Chicago coffee chain, enjoy gourmet brews, and delectable pastries from Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Or visit the Minibar, a restored 1963 Citroën truck in the hotel’s quadrangle, or courtyard. A courtyard Champagne Bar arrives this summer, and plans are underway for a gourmet

The NoMad Hotel
Somewhere between Versailles and the Louvre’s contemporary glass pyramid, the French practically invented style. In Manhattan’s West 20s, in the emerging NoMad district north of Madison Square Park, bordered by Gramercy Park to the south, Chelsea to the west and Times Square to the north, an exemplar of luxurious French style recently opened in a turn-of-the-century Beaux-Arts building.

Designed by Jacques Garcia, who also designed the Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière in Paris and redesigned La Mamounia in Marrakech, the 168-room NoMad Hotel boasts mahogany writing desks, embossed leather headboards, maple floors covered with vintage Heriz Persian rugs, and tasteful original art. Dive into European-style down duvets, and luxuriate in baths featuring walk-in rain showers and, in some cases, antique clawfoot tubs.

Chef Daniel Humm, whose Eleven Madison Park restaurant holds three Michelin stars, offers updated French classics in several intimate dining rooms: the Library, with a two-level spiral staircase from the South of France; the Fireplace Room, with an ornate fireplace from a chateau; the Bar, where mixologist Leo Robitschek works magic, and the Atrium, topped by a pyramidical glass roof. The Rooftop is only for private dinners, alas. But if guests can’t always embrace the great outdoors, they certainly can enjoy a lush immersion into the great indoors.

Refinery Hotel
In the West 30s, amid the Garment District’s crowded streets, is The Refinery, offering guests both indoor and outdoor sanctuary. On the 12th-floor rooftop, an indoor lounge area leads into a spacious bar with a retractable glass roof, which opens onto a spacious outdoor lounge, adorned with greenery and upholstered patio furniture. On a warm day, the vista of endless blue sky will make you think you’re at an exclusive seaside resort.

The 197 rooms, in blacks, whites and reds with dark wood furnishings, are spacious and well-appointed. Fine Frette linens and down (or hypoallergenic) comforters cover the beds, handmade wool rugs adorn the dark oak floors and original art graces the walls.

Formerly the Colony Arcade Building, housing a 1912 hat factory, The Refinery gives a nod to its Garment District roots with 12-foot-high loft-style concrete ceilings, desks with vintage Singer sewing machine-style wrought-iron legs, fabric-covered guest-room walls and halls adorned in black-and-tan tartan.

Winnie’s Lobby Lounge recalls the tea salon once run here by Winifred T. McDonald, who famously filled customers’ teacups with gin. The Parker & Quinn brasserie sports tufted leather banquettes, outsize mirrors and a long wooden bar. Enjoy the fine fare downstairs if you can tear yourself away from that incredible rooftop.

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