By Terry Trucco
At a glance: Normally I hate low ceilings, but the Shoreham, a swanky, moderately priced boutique with a spectacular Midtown location, prompts second thoughts.
The low ceilings and cool, white-on-white walls give the lobby and restaurant the glamorous, intimate feel of a 1930s nightclub. And the walls’ gently curved corners, reminiscent of an ocean liner, enhance the time-travel allure.
Following a radical redo in 2005 that gobbled up the building next door, the hotel’s main floor grew (and calls to mind a Matryoshka doll — just when you think you’ve seen everything, another room pops up).
Besides a check-in area with video art winking on the wall, there’s a gallery, restaurant and, hidden in the back, an enormous sitting room with modular banquettes, stainless-steel columns, newspapers and magazines galore — and, if you’re lucky, hot pink orchids.
Alas, all things get old. The Surrey is ripe for a fresh-up. In the meantime, this is a smart place to consider if you don’t want to shoot your budget and you don’t mind a few quirks. Trade-offs, trade-offs.
Rooms: The smallest are extremely small and best for one person (the queen-size bed eats up most of the space). But in-between rooms are big enough for two (if you’re not too space hungry), and the penthouses have decks. The Deco-modern look is clean and appealing, buttressed by cool white walls and snowy beds with mint green throw pillows and huge, suede headboards bedecked withabstract-print inserts. Furniture is mostly built-in with clean lines and a contemporary mix of wood and metal.
The bathrooms, fronted by frosted glass panels that call to mind shoji screens, are roomy and have slate counters, stainless steel washbasins and marble floors.
Food and drink: With glass walls painted turquoise and big windows facing West 55th Street, the hotel restaurant and bar, looks like a super-glam fish tank — or a sophisticated backdrop for The Little Mermaid.
Open for breakfast and dinner, the room feels like a lounge, even at breakfast. Modular Knoll benches dressed in cool lime green pleather pull up to low brushed-steel Parsons tables topped with glass.
Amenities: Complimentary coffee and espresso available from a machine near the lounge. Sparkling water or champagne at check-in. Machines in the gym, outfitted by Italy’s Technogym, sport individual TV screens. The ground-floor gallery sports video artworks and is used for parties, gatherings and art exhibitions. Free WiFi. Pets under 25 lbs. allowed, free of charge.
Surroundings: Prime Midtown West. Fifth Avenue shopping is just around the corner (Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany, Uniqlo and Saks). The fabled Museum of Modern Art and terrfic Paley Center Museum of Radio and Television are steps away. Rockefeller Center, Broadway theaters and Central Park are also nearby. Lincoln Center and Time Warner Center’s uber-mall of shops and restaurants are slightly further afield but walkable. Bus stops and the subway stop are nearby, and taxis are plentiful.
Back story: The Shoreham, built in the 1930s, was a sleepy, moderately priced Midtown hotel with just 85 rooms when we first stayed here in the early 1990s. A renovation in the mid ‘90s gave it a welcome dose of glamour; bathed in beige and cream, it had a soigne style vaguely reminiscent of the ‘30s. My room back then, a stylish little suite with glass shoji-style doors, brought Fred and Ginger to mind.
Willow Hotels, managers of the Mansfield and the Franklin, initiated a radical redo in 2005 that added rooms, upped the luxe level and annexed the former Caravelle restaurant next door, expanding the lobby, creating the restaurant/bar, fitness center and gallery, and introducing the glass shoji motif, which I love, in the bathrooms. The hotel is currently managed by the Denihan Group, which handles the Affinia hotels and the Surrey.
Keep in mind: Back rooms on low floors have abysmal views. On a recent visit, carpeting in the room I saw looked worn. And I repeat, the smallest rooms are extremely small.