I’ll get straight to the point – the room was delectable. My favorite hotels are ones where you can open the door and slip into a different life. And the life on offer at The NoMad? I felt like I had walked into a fin de siecle Parisian pied-a-terre with contemporary plumbing and a hint of time travel.
White walls, black moldings, sash windows swathed in white curtains that kissed the floor – yes. But what pumped my pulse was the claw-footed bathtub parked nonchalantly next to the polished mahogany writing desk. Proust would have felt at home here once he figured out how to work the TV and iHome docking station.
An amiable porter in a Thom Brown-inspired suit, his long hair pulled into a curly topknot, had accompanied me to my room. Though able and willing to carry my modest overnight bag, I was glad he was there to show me around. The room was oddly confusing.
In the entry, painted black and no bigger than a gasp, a stack of leather trunks hid the minibar and safe. The stall shower stood demurely behind a heavy blue brocade screen planted opposite the king-size bed. On the wall next to the shower a mirror in a gilded frame hung above the washstand.
But where was the toilet? For a heartbeat I wondered if I’d made a horrid mistake and it was down the hall. (At $325 for an Atelier room, full facilities are expected.) But no. My guide turned a brass knob to open the screen’s cleverly camouflaged door and – voila — a pint-size water closet appeared, with black walls, a dual-flush Geberit toilet and a fetching little sink in the corner.
Long before it opened in 2012, the NoMad Hotel beamed out across the radar. There’s the pedigree. The hotel is the first born of the Sydel Group headed by Andrew Zobler, a former partner at Andre Balazs Properties and head of acquisitions for the Starwood Group.
Commandeering the restaurant are chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind Eleven Madison Park. And as the first American outpost of Paris’s Maison Kitsune, a mash-up of smart fashion and cool rock, the shop doesn’t even take a pass at typical hotel sundries.
But the hotel’s appearance, embracing classic decorative flourishes rarely seen in contemporary New York boutique hotels like opulent textiles, oriental rugs and polished mahogany furniture, is what makes the NoMad feel original.
Taking their cues from the boisterous elegance of the century-old building’s Beaux Arts exterior, the developers tapped Jacques Garcia, a French architect and interior designer known for conjuring atmospheric Parisian properties like the Hotel Odeon Saint Germain, and turned him loose on the former office building. The result: a new interior that looks old, or at least old the way 21st-century guests might imagine it. (Anyone who has visited Paris’s Carnavalet Museum knows Proust didn’t sleep in a king-size bed.)
The lobby sets the mood with a pair of dark, textile-enriched parlors suspended in time somewhere between Edith Wharton and Scott and Zelda. Heavy gold fringe skirts the wildly patterned velvet sofas and club chairs. The big window looks ready for a retro night on the town, dressed in pleated white fabric shades and swag curtains that channel Fortuny. But the rooms are just an elaborate scene setter — and a pass-through where guests, many flanked by wheelies, perch while waiting for a taxi or dinner companion.
After checking in – a breeze — I asked the ponytailed porter if there was someplace to curl up with a book outside of my room. “There’s the Library, but that’s mainly for drinks,” he said. Ah yes, I’d had drinks there with a friend the previous week. It’s delightful, a fantasy library with books marching up the double-height walls and a curved library stair. The cocktails were appealing, too, if pricey. But unless you order a drink or afternoon pastry, which I didn’t want, it’s not a place to hang out.
But my room proved ideal for holing up. The Frette bathrobe was thick and comfy. The pillow-top bed, dressed in crisp Sferra sheets and backed by a handsome brown leather headboard, was the full Goldilocks – not too soft, not too hard. And the reclaimed maple floor, polished to a high-beam gloss, was, in a word, gorgeous, as was the pale Herit rug that warmed it.
Amusing details appeared almost everywhere — the painted metal waste-basket, a stylish take on an Edwardian coal bin; the square bedside tables enveloped in black velvet; the shallow polished mahogany bookcase that supported the flatpanel LG TV.
The TV, unfortunately, wasn’t so amusing. I could only get a handful of channels and nothing premium. (The words No Signal are downright hostile.) A call to the front desk brought up an engineer within ten minutes. He fiddled with the set, said he’d adjust the it from a master control, then paid a second visit, all in vain. Long story short: the front desk offered to move me to another room the next day — but I was only staying the night.
So in my Proustian Parisian flat I did low-tech Proustian things. I took a bubble bath gazing out the window (and up at the Empire State Building, its topknot lighted green). I read into the wee hours, curled up in a distressed leather chair straight out of a London supper club. I slept like a log.
And the next morning I ate a big breakfast – an excellent, if pricey, Crab Benedict ($22) with good, strong coffee. In the dining room, another glamorous fabric-swathed lair with chairs upholstered in gold silk brocade, a steel gray sky beamed through the skylight. That channeled Paris, too.