My first thought upon seeing the freshly renovated Time Hotel was what did the architects think when they saw what they’d be working with? With oddly shaped public spaces, ho-hum views and guest rooms that can be politely described as compact (the smallest are a mere 180 square feet), this modest 193-room hotel built in 1927 could either stymie its renovators or inspire them to be really creative.
I’m here to report that the latter won out. From the moment the glass elevator deposits you in the lobby on the second floor, it’s clear the team at Rockwell Group, a firm known for snazzy New York properties like Edition New York, W Union Square and Yotel, saw The Time for what it could be — a jewel box showcasing some mind-tweaking design.
To be fair, Adam Tihany, the high-profile architect who oversaw the hotel’s previous incarnation in 1999, had a similar reaction. One of Manhattan’s pioneering boutique hotels, The Time entered the millennium sporting high-concept design, teeny rooms packed with cool toys, restaurants and lounges with a nightclub vibe and a hip one-word name. I spent a night shortly after the hotel opened and appreciated the juice glass filled with red apple Jelly Bellys, the perfect color complement to my apple red room. But boutique hotels tend to age in dog years, and the Time had felt outdated for a while, particularly those guest rooms in primary hues.
No more. A glass cube elevator outfitted like a surreal Hall of Mirrors whisks you to the airy second-floor lobby, and the fun begins.
With pale wood floors, blush cream walls and graphic pops of brown and green, the aptly named Day Lounge is serene and stylish, enhanced by a clever — and unexpected — space-maximizing floor plan: two large sofas stand back to back, woven leather club chairs face windows outfitted with window seats and a long high table made for coffee or a laptop stands in the back. With mint green side tables evoking leafy plants, the lounge calls to mind a garden, never mind that you’re staring at the Ambassador Theater, long-time home to Chicago (cast members often migrate to the Time’s’s bars after the show).
Next up is a moody night lounge with a bar, separated from the day lounge by heavy pleated curtains that look noir and architectural at once (they lace up, like a corset). A second lounge in the back provides additional club chairs and small tables for cozying up over a drink, proof positive that The Time still has the heart of a nightclub.
But the rooms are the showstoppers, even the little ones. If the Time’s previous rooms were about color, these are about geometrics. Against a rich charcoal backdrop, you see circles (mirrors, bedside tables, lamps like spotlights) and rectangles (a pale wood desk top, the ridged backdrop behind the bed, the hardwood floor). My favorite rectangle is the glass armoire. Don’t know how a see-through closet would work at a residence, but it looks great with a couple of white bathrobes inside. And my favorite circle? The mirror (it doubles as a TV).
Playing off the muted palette are pops of color, like a pinky coral chair back, and texture (the chair back is quilted). But the best grace note is the custom lamp found in most rooms — a clear glass orb with tiny mint green human figures congregated at the base (we won’t say trapped).
The suite I saw offered even more options, including a stylish sitting area with a boldly patterned rug warming the wood floor, a contemporary sofa and a witty, two-toned side chair shaped like a gigantic triangle. But whether small or (somewhat) spacious, the Time’s rooms with their dark walls feel like sleek urban cocoons. You can hole up with your work, a good book or a Playbill before collapsing into your white-sheeted bed.
More proof that size isn’t everything. (And if it is, there’s a three-story penthouse with a 500 square foot terrace that’s bigger than most Manhattan apartments.)
The Time Hotel, 229 West 49th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue; 212 246-5252.