At a glance: Normally I hate low ceilings, but this swanky, moderately priced boutique prompts second thoughts.
The low ceilings in the cool, white-on-white lobby and restaurant give the rooms 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, usually, hot pink orchids.
On a visit I sat opposite a black-clad twosome from London, in town for Fashion Week, who sipped champagne while waiting for their room to be readied and complained about the flight. They looked utterly at home.
Rooms: The smallest are plus petite 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 creamy walls, snowy beds and huge, suede headboards bedecked with abstract-print inserts. A trim little cabinet next to the desk holds a glass-fronted mini-bar. TVs are flatpanel, and a Bose radio/CD player is next to the bed.
A comfy push-button iJoy massage chair is a perk in the larger rooms. Bathrooms, fronted by frosted glass panels that call to mind shoji screens, are roomy and have slate counters, stainless steel washbasins and marble floors. Warning: the back wall of the sleek tub/shower combo is a mirror.
Food and drink: With glass walls painted turquoise and big windows facing West 55th Street, Amuse, the hotel restaurant and bar, looks like a super-glam fish tank — or a sophisticated backdrop for The Little Mermaid.
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. Breakfast was pleasant and quiet with attentive service. The grease-free $15 scrambled eggs, scallion potatoes, turkey bacon and wheat toast were fine but not thrilling, and excellent coffee was poured into a gleaming metal cup.
But the place jumps at night when small plate nibbles supplement the American cuisine and the house drink, shot with Midori, is color-coordinated to match the benches.
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, Henri Bendel, Tiffany’s 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. And I repeat, the smallest rooms are extremely small.