I can’t think of any New York City hotel lobby that’s had more redesigns in recent years than the Paramount, the 1920s French Renaissance pile in the Theater District.
First came the blood-red rug edged in leather — the textile equivalent of a player — that was paired with mile-long benches upholstered in floral fabric. An enormous donut-shaped crystal chandelier hugged the ceiling for a Las Vegas meets Bavaria effect.
A year later the rug was out, replaced by a black-and-white checkerboard model similar to the one Philippe Starck created when he famously redesigned the hotel in 1988 as a cheeky temple of chic on the cheap. The bench florals were jettisoned for white leather. The furniture was tweaked. But the place still wasn’t quite right.
With a design as redolent of shoulder pads and lip gloss as Starck’s – somewhere someone is still happily plugging in his purple plastic Paramount cocktail lamps – it’s no surprise that the hotel’s new owner, the flashy real estate developer Aby Rosen, ordered up a fresh start.
Earlier this year the hotel emerged from a grand-scale, $40 million makeover embracing the rooms, the restaurant, the lobby, the works. From the look of the public spaces, at least, glamour can be bought — and it’s a savvy investment.
The new look comes courtesy of Meyer Davis Studio, whose CV boasts the Nolitan hotel as well restaurant Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel.
The designers expunged all remaining traces of Starck’s designs, from the lobby’s angled staircase and centered seating area to the concrete wall sprouting red roses in the foyer. Designers Roman & Wilson did much the same in 2007 when they reinvented the Royalton, an even more iconic Starck creation that, sadly, had aged as gracefully as power suits.
Turns out the Paramount lobby is cavernous. With dark woods, strategically placed table lamps and spotlights, splashes of richly veined stone and sculptured chandeliers the room is a lush, 21st-century riff on mid-century modernism. The attention-grabbing centerpiece is a stainless steel fireplace on the back wall, the ultimate bright shiny object.
An enormous rug in wide blue and white stripes hugs much of the sandy gold floor, tiled in a herringbone pattern.
What I like best are the seating areas that turn an indoor football field into a salon. The room is packed with these intimate furniture groupings, with four big ones and additional sofas, dusty blue club chairs, lipstick red side chairs and even a tufted lounge bed scattered about. Most memorable are the two navy velvet banquettes that face each other, their scooped out centers sculpted to look like a gigantic 60s/pop art daisy.
It’s an updated take on the old-style hotel lobby at its best. You can plop onto sofa with your iphone. You can engage in a long conversation on hip hop like two cool guys I saw. You can peruse coffee table books like Reuel Golden’s New York, as did the woman in a purple puffer jacket (she took in every page). Or snooze, like the teenage boy sacked out on a tufted lounge bed.
You can also grab a couple of macarons and a coffee from the new Corso Coffee off the lobby – former home to Dean & Deluca – curl up in a club chair and take in the floor show, which is what I did. (The smoky espresso was heavenly.)
Bored? You can shop. The Free & the Brave, stocked with New York tchotchkes and other cherry-picked amusements, occupies a corner of the lobby with a full-fledged store next to the new Paramount Grill.
In recent years, the classic, free-form hotel lobby, intended for guests but open to anyone in search of a place to meet up, sit for a bit or just drink in an engaging atmosphere, has morphed purposefully into a targeted setting. (We get it — real estate is costly.) There’s the work/network lobby, like the Ace, with laptop jocks seated at its library table. And the pay-to-play lobby, like the Algonquin, where you won’t feel comfortable unless your order a drink. In a members lobby like the Mercer, you won’t be staying for long if you’re not a guest. And though big on design, the stylish mini lobby, like 6 Columbus, is too tiny for you to do much more than wait for a taxi.
So cheers to the Paramount, a welcome throwback that feels new. This time they’ve got it right.