Last year Time Square’s Paramount hotel underwent major surgery. And not a moment too soon. Once quirky and cool, the Paramount was conceived in the early 1990s by hotelier Ian Schrager and designer Philippe Starck as the hotel equivalent of Target, offering chic on the cheap. A decade later, cheap had trounced chic, and the place was a dirty, neglected mess.
As countless actors know – we won’t name names – not every facelift is a winner, and the Paramount’s results were decidedly mixed. On the plus side were the spiffed up rooms, less clever than before (how do you top headboards fashioned as gigantic, gold-framed renderings of Vermeer portraits?) but cleaner and more comfortable with central A/C and heating.
But a lobby conceived as a sleazy bachelor pad with dark, heavy furniture, weird floral-upholstered benches and a blood-red rug edged in leather? The transformation was especially sad since the lobby had once been a showpiece of sorts with a rug patterned like a chessboard, witty furniture in light-hearted hues and colorful plastic cocktail lamps.
Times change and there was nothing sacrosanct about Starck’s concoctions. We like the moody blue lobby by the talented design firm Roman & Williams that replaced the Starck original at the Royalton, one of his most iconic and, by the time it disappeared in 2007, dated creations.
Fast forward to this week, our first visit to the Paramount in several months. With benches upholstered in white leather, artfully mismatched furniture and an enormous chessboard rug, the lobby looked clean, stylish and, dare we say it, classy. And the hulking donut-shaped chandelier, an updated mid-century modern take on a disco ball, looks like an asset at last.
“Guests who used to stay here complained about the red rug,” a desk attendant told us. “It made the room too dark.” Indeed.
Some day the management may vote for an esthetic clean sweep, like that at the Royalton. In the meantime, the Paramount lobby looks better than it has in ages.