Updated: Feb 20, 2014
id: luxury pied-a-terre hotel
cool detail: wood-burning fireplaces in most rooms
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: The Lowell reminds me of Holly Golightly’s take on Tiffany’s – it’s the kind of place where it seems nothing bad can happen.
This quiet 1927 brick tower, solid but stylish, looks and feels like a smart East Side apartment building -- and often serves as a residential hotel for the well-heeled Brits, Europeans and Hollywood types who frequent it.
A liveried doorman stands out front. And comfort is in abundance upstairs, where rooms, bedecked with Chinese porcelain and 19th-century prints, seem more like pieds-a-terre than typical hotel rooms (most are suites and many were refurbished by Los Angeles decorator-to-the-stars Michael Smith).
The Lowell doesn’t have a trendy bone in its well-heeled body, and from the look of the guests, that’s just fine. The small, stiff lobby, an odd, off-putting note, feels like a doctor’s waiting room, albeit one outfitted with French Empire-style furniture. It does not encourage lingering –or onlookers. And that’s probably the point. Although I should add the lobby is being renovated. Stay tuned.
Rooms: Think English country house with better heating and A/C. The specialty suites designed by Michael Smith are stunners, notably the Garden Suite which has two terraces (one for drinks, one for dinner), wood floors, a brushed metal four poster bed, a sparkling white kitchen and a flatpanel TV by the soaking tub in the white marble bathroom. Newly renovated marble bathrooms with soaking tubs and glass-lined stall showers are in many -- but not all -- of the suites. (Ask before you book.)
Rooms, from doubles to the penthouse suite, are individually decorated in soothing hues, are spacious (by New York standards) and come outfitted with up-to-date kitchenettes, flatpanel TVs and Frette sheets. Request a wood-burning fireplace; this is one of the few hotels to offer them in guest rooms.
Food and drink: Breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails, weekend brunch and pre-theater dinners are served in the second-floor Pembroke Room, a cheery, ice-blue, fabric swathed lair so Brideshead it’s almost a spoof. The room qualified as one of the most tranquil spots on the East Side when I stopped by for tea on a Friday afternoon. In fact, I had the place to ourselves save for a table of three women, straight out of Sex and the City, and a mother and her five-year-old, who seemed less-than-thrilled with the pink lemonade.
A sky-high price -- $44.95 -- meant sky-high expectations. But, in the mood for an escape, I reveled in the exquisite appointments (classic Picard gold-rimmed china, hotel silver teapots and tea strainer), superb scones, egg cups filled with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and orange marmalade, perfectly brewed tea (our favorite, Lapsang Souchong) and the gently hovering service. (And the slightly over the hill petite fours? In a different league, sadly.)
The Post House, the hotel's manly steak house and a power hang-out for decades, closed during the summer of 2013. So far, sadly, it's high-rent space is empty.
Amenities: Lavish. WiFi, daily shoeshine, Fiji water at bedtime, drink of your choice at check-in -- all comp. Bulgari toiletries; iPod docking stations. Pets allowed, no charge. The second-floor gym isn’t huge, but it’s civilized with a smart selection of machines, a wall of mirrors, complimentary fruit, water and magazines, and windows that overlook the pretty block of East 63rd Street below.
Surroundings: Prime real estate if you think like Holly Golightly. Central Park, Midtown businesses and serious shopping (Barneys, Bergdorf’s and Tiffany’s) are steps away. Madison Avenue and its environs burst with well-known restaurants. The Whitney Museum of American Art is up the street on Madison Avenue, while Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, anchored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is easy to reach. Rockefeller Center, Times Square and the Theater District are slightly further afield but easy to get to. The subway station is a five-block walk, but the bus stop is steps away.
Back story: The Lowell started life as a genteel residential hotel and, though guests can now stay for just one night, its mission hasn’t changed much. Privacy is a selling point, one reason the hotel scores a healthy complement of bold face names. When Madonna checked in after her divorce from Sean Penn, she had the hotel outfit her suite’s second bedroom as a mini-gym with a treadmill, Stairmaster, free weights and ballet barre. The equipment stayed, and the room was christened the Gym Suite for a while, but these days it is once again a classic two-bedroom suite.
Keep in Mind: Parts of the hotel feel outdated, but as the hotel is in the throes of a renovation -- including the outdated lobby -- that may soon change.
What We Saw:
Monique » The fireplace suites sound great! I want one for my next visit.
steve » Sounds like a great place. Fascinating about Madonna.