At a glance: This brute white-tile-and-concrete Chelsea building, punctuated by ten floors of round windows, looks like a hospital — or a giant notebook attacked by a hole puncher. But inside beats the heart of one of the coolest, cleverest — albeit not new — boutique hotels in town.
The name and navy blue color scheme come from the original tenant, the National Maritime Union. But the old salts never hung out in digs like these, even if the place has the ungainly proportions of a building never intended to house a luxury hotel (consider the minute rooms and lobby shaped like a bowling lane).
That ocean blue lobby, dark and nearly a block long, has a luxury liner vibe with mid-century modern inflections. The navy velvet club chairs call to mind the deck chairs occupied by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember. The fireplace, with andirons shaped like anchors, is sleek, concrete and Fifties moderne. And the addition of low wood Danish modern bookcases helps create discrete seating areas.
But occupants are pure 21st century, tech-conscious and low-key stylish (except during Fashion Week when the sartorial display revs up). Hugs to the room’s bespoke textiles: the sofa fabric depicts maps of Manhattan, and carpeting is patterned with the hotel logo – life preservers. And the porters’ summer footgear? Deck shoes.
Rooms: Snug but stylish, done up in nautical navy, cream and teak. Standard rooms, ideal for one, tight for two, look like sleek little ship’s quarters. Basic features include a round window, like a porthole, curved corners and a queen-size platform bed berthed in a teak built-in that also holds an iHome alarm clock and phone. You can pull up an upholstered side chair and check your-email at the little round table under the porthole or try out the long desk (a flat- panel TV occupies one end).
The bathroom, outfitted with C.O. Bigelow toiletries, is small but smart; the ubiquitous turquoise tiles are round, like little portholes, and the glassed-in stall shower makes the room seem bigger than it is.
Food and drink: La Sirena, a super-sized Italian brasserie created by celebrity chef Mario Batali and his business partner Joe Bastianich, opened in 2016 in the vast space, ground floor long occupied by La Bottega, Breakfast, lunch and dinner are Italian-inflected, and offerings are ambitious, much as you’d expect from the creator of Eataly. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells gave the place two stars (very good) but said dishes weren’t as adventurous as they might be.
Amenities: Free WiFi, complimentary newspaper. The basement fitness center is mirrored but small, with just the basics (free weights, treadmill, bike). Bicycle rentals are available (the Riverside Park bike path is nearby). Pets allowed (refundable $100 deposit).
Surroundings: Downtown cool. The Meatpacking District, jammed with restaurants, bars and shops such as Jeffrey, Stella McCartney and a branch of the Apple Store, is nearby as is the new High Line elevated park. Chelsea Market, an old Nabisco factory turned food emporium and home to the Food Network, is across the street. Greenwich Village starts several blocks south. Slightly further afield are art galleries, the Joyce Theater and Chelsea Piers (bowling alley, uber-gym, ice rink, driving range). The subway station is a hike, but bus stops are steps away.
Back story: Distinctly unglamorous. The hotel’s International Style building was designed by Albert C. Ledner, a New Orleans architect, in 1966 as headquarters for the National Maritime Union, with guest rooms for members (hence the porthole windows). When the sailors abandoned ship in 1987, the building was purchased by Covenant House to house teenage runaways. Nine years later, it was sold to the New York Service Center for Chinese Fellows, a student center run by the Chinese government.
The property owes its good looks and cool style to its owner/creators, Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson (the team behind the Bowery, Jane and Lafayette House hotels) and to veteran hotel developers Richard Born and Ira Drukier (the Chambers Hotel, the Blakeley), also owners. Designer Vanessa Guilford, who worked with Born and Drukier on the Pod and Pickwick Arms hotels, created the clever interiors. The Maritime opened in 2003.
Keep in mind: Those pictures of spacious-looking rooms on the website show the penthouse, not the 120 rank-and-file rooms.