Shortly after I spent the night at the Crosby Street Hotel, I came across the April issue of Elle Décor. Inside I spotted the London townhouse of Kit and Tim Kemp, owners of the Crosby. Gazing at their fancifully sophisticated, color-drenched house awash in bold florals and even bolder stripes it seemed I’d never left the hotel. In fact, a shiny lamp base comprised of stacked silver balls looked like the one in my room.
I love hotels that flaunt the owner’s style. To my eyes, Kit Kemp boasts the most singular vision of any British hotelier this side of Anouska Hempel, creator of Blakes, the original boutique hotel. But what different styles.
With hot weather hues and an impish spin on classic elements of British interiors, like dog paintings and chintz, Kemp’s cheery whimsicality is miles from Hempel’s worldly theatricality. But like Hempel, she understands comfort, luxury and the importance of never creating the same room twice.
She also understands visual entertainment. You never know what you’ll
see around a corner. A bookcase shaped like a polar bear? Warhol-style portraits of the Queen? A see-through sculpture of a towering head? Beats a wall of pay phones and luggage racks.
The downside of a hyper-individualized vision is all but inevitable — quirks. A few can amuse, but too many – or the wrong ones — kill the magic. Just how quirky is the Crosby Street Hotel?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. I arrived at the hotel after 5 pm on a Sunday evening to find my room wasn’t ready. Huh? But there was good news, the stylish woman behind the desk all but exhaled. I’d been upgraded – “twice,” she stressed — to a junior suite. (I had booked a superior room, at $495 the hotel’s least expensive.) As a peace offering, a glass of champagne awaited at the bar.
“What kind of champagne would you like?” the bartender asked after I explained my temporary homelessness. A flute of Veuve Clicquot Brut appeared followed by a bowl of sweetened walnuts and, as if reading my mind, a tall glass of water. “Welcome to the Crosby Street Hotel,” he said with a wink.
Sipping bubbly from my perch at the bar I liked what I saw. Built from scratch on the site of a parking lot, the hotel occupies a smart, well-proportioned building in synch with its hip/industrial SoHo surroundings. The lobby, spacious and spare, looks like an art gallery – another quotation from SoHo’s past – with white walls, pale floors, a small seating area and fanciful sculptures of dogs.
Exuberant Carnaby Street hues blanket the dining room and bar, which open onto a sprawling courtyard. Grass-green walls, striped banquettes, orange slipper chairs and dark wood tables are lighted by hanging glass orbs. No minimalism here: the room presents a contemporary homage to a Victorian townhouse, with artworks marching up the walls — a sculpture comprised of old-fashioned black telephones, those portraits of the Queen.
Filled with a mix of stylish locals and visitors, the room pulsated pleasantly. A guy putting the moves on a mini-skirted blond sat next to me, not far from a couple sipping wine and conversing in Swedish.
A friend and I had signed up for the Crosby’s Sunday Night Film Club, a $50 three-course dinner followed by a movie in the hotel’s basement theater (127 Hours, which I hadn’t seen). All was quirk-free until we sat down at our table. The wait was interminable, even after we paid a visit to the host.
Eventually, a server appeared, harried but pleasant, and the food eventually followed. The asparagus soup was delicious. Ditto my companion’s steelhead trout with spinach and fingerlings. But not so my pork belly with braised cabbage — too fatty, too greasy. Fortunately, we both loved the dessert – an apple crisp concocted as a sundae, crowned with maple walnut topping and vanilla ice cream. We gobbled it up, dashed downstairs, more rushed than we expected, and plopped into a pair of orange leather seats, just as the theater dimmed its lights.
The Crosby theater is terrific – great sound system, comfy chairs, a superb projector. Had Academy members watched the movie here, James Franco might have scored the Oscar.
Thrilled to head upstairs instead of back to my apartment I happily poured into my room (the clever magnetized “key” resembles a rock from a hot stone spa treatment). With pale fabric walls the color of summer wheat and a merrily striped sofa beneath the wall-mounted flatpanel TV, the sleeping area was comfortable though not huge. But the gray marble bathroom was enormous, outfitted with a glass-enclosed stall shower, a soaking tub that faced a compact flatpanel TV, a dual-flush toilet and a bidet. Contemporary sybaritics, in other words.
The room looked like an upbeat spring day. Big embroidered flowers bloomed on the headboard, throw pillows and the life-size dressmaker’s mannequin, an unexpected sculpture. A burnt orange club chair complemented the fearless stripes on the sofa and ottoman. Celery-green curtains edged in glass beads, like dewdrops, framed an enormous paned window that overlooked the rooftops and water towers.
I liked the artfully mismatched décor: the hammered metal side table, framed pastel quilt, black-and-white pearl-inlaid chest. And cheered the little luxuries – Lefory Brooks bath faucets, the British-style towel warmer, the bathroom’s plexi-glass stool, ideal for parking the zapper while I took a bubble bath. As for the calorie-free turndown goodies — Voss water, two flavors of lip balm and a flask of soothing lavender to spray on the pillow – who needs mints?
I didn’t need lavender to sleep. The room was silent, an enormous pull-down shade blocked the light, and the oh-so-English skirted king-size bed, dressed in heavenly sheets, oozed comfort.
All was well, but one last quirk lurked – an obscenely early 11 am check out. I didn’t want to leave, and so I didn’t (well, not right away). Stashing my bag, I repaired to the enormous drawing room. An updated riff on a classic red Victorian sitting room it sports rosy mauve fabric walls, sofas galore and over each of the two mantles, an enormous portrait of a dog. I curled up with the newspapers and helped myself to the fruit jellies set out on a tray. Nice place, quirks and all.