At a glance: Situated on a scrappy Times Square block, this stylish boutique hotel stands out like a Broadway diva in a high school play.
The flashy sign, bold door hardware and planters that look like snake charmer baskets are more contemporary – and chic – than much that you see in Times Square. But the interior, radically refurbished in 2009, is what makes the Muse cool.
Make that California cool. Yes, the lobby mirrors, framed to become wall art, morph into images of New York City and back to mirrors again faster than you can say Through the Looking Glass. But the materials (lots of mosaic stone and colored glass) and a restrained palette (steely grays, earth tones and ambers shot with blue) read Northern California (the makeover was orchestrated by Puccini, a San Francisco design firm).
With a glassed-in forest of blanched branches on one side and an open view of the wine bar on the other, the compact lobby feels bigger than it should. And I love the faux fireplace – a large sculpture of a log that supports a video screen beaming images of a roaring fire.
But with seating limited to two velvet club chairs and backless leather benches, it’s not conducive to lingering. I watched a laughing party of anniversary revelers, the women sporting tinsel tiaras, alight briefly before heading upstairs on a Saturday night.
Detail: Not to be outdone by the Algonquin, which has had a hotel cat for generations, the Muse has a hotel dog, a Teacup Pomeranian named Ginger.
Rooms: Dressed crisply in black, white and whisper blue, rooms have a surrealistic vibe that reminds me of the Salvador Dali dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Each comes with your own personal muse — a stone bust of Thalia, Greek goddess of comedy. The sleek standard-size cocoon I saw, not spacious but big enough for two people, had a king-size bed crowned by an imposing tufted leather headboard. I liked the generous desk, black Venetian blinds and ebonized wood floor in the entry. And I really liked the curvaceous black and white wing chairs and mirrored wall in the more spacious corner king-bed room I also visited.
Bathrooms, clad in polished black stone, have tub/shower combos and are dashing but compact.
Food and drink: I love the look of Nios, the restaurant (formerly District) and wine bar (wine bottles behind glass are stacked like books in a library). With a communal table in the front, stylish wood tables in the back and a dining room in the rear, all rustic and contemporary, you get the setting of your choice. A $35 prix-fix menu is available pre-theater. Arriving for drinks post-theater, I sipped a $9 Sidecar, delicious though not overtly alcoholic, and my companion seemed happy with his $10 organic Pinot Grigio.
Btw: The hotel sommelier, aptly named Emily Wines, was profiled in The New York Times.
Amenities: L’Occitane bath products. Pets stay free of charge. WiFi costs $13 a day (free for Kimpton In-Touch members). The gym is newly refurbished but the size of a pocket; guests eager for bigger digs and fancier toys than free weights and the basic machines can use a nearby Balleys gym free of charge. Cribs available. Complimentary wine happy hour in the lobby at 5 pm. Animal print bathrobes.
Surroundings: Though the block is a mish-mash — the Comfort Inn stands across the street, an Irish pub is next door — the Muse is in the thick of things if you crave theater. The Laura Pels Theater is across the street, and it’s a short stroll to most theaters and the TKTS booth. Grand Central Station, the Public Library, Fifth Avenue shops and Rockefeller Center are walkable. Lincoln Center is three stops away on the subway. The subway station is several blocks away; bus stops are steps away.
Back story: Like many boutique hotels, the Muse occupies a space not originally intended as a hotel. The Leavitt Building, an attractive brick and limestone structure, started life as an office building. In 2000, it was revamped into the Muse, a high-style boutique with a high-concept David Rockwell-designed restaurant, a glamorous lobby, portraits of muses galore (a black and white of Marilyn hung behind the check-in desk) and rooms dressed in rusts, burgundies and blues. But the Muse didn’t quite click.
In 2006 the property joined the Kimpton Group, a San Francisco-based boutique hotel chain known for stylish hotels with good service. Rooms and hallways received an extreme makeover in 2007, and the new lobby and restaurant were unveiled in 2009.
Keep in mind: Street sounds can be heard in some rooms. The hotel does not stock roll-away beds.