By Terry Trucco
At a glance: If boutique hotels are known for small rooms, the Franklin Hotel is the ultimate boutique. Rooms in this chic little bed and breakfast hotel are so tiny there could be a size requirement for guests. But with colors Marie Antoinette would adore and a cozy Left Bank air, this can be an enjoyable place to stay if you like being in a quiet, residential neighborhood and square footage doesn’t matter.
The place is evocative with a tale of two cities vibe. One moment it feels like a small, narrow gauge hotel in Paris. The next it’s London: the tiny ice blue sitting room and smart little breakfast room with skirted tables could be in an English town house, from the gently-worn, pillow-strewn sofa to the fresh flowers.
Unfortunately, the Franklin needs to hit the refresh button — fast. With rooms this small, everything needs to be perfect, and the hotel looked tired, worn and unloved on a recent visit. Worse, a large apartment building is going up next door. If you’re sound phobic, know that construction is allowed by the city on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on weekends only in an emergency. But 7 a.m. jackhammers are no one’s idea of a vacation.
Given its location and size (50 rooms), the Franklin at its best is ideal for a quick shopping trip or a romantic weekend — without the kids. I’m a fan, so I hope a spruce up is planned asap.
Rooms: King-bed rooms are almost spacious (for New York), but queen-bed rooms range from small to minuscule. The smallest have queen-size beds but no closets (a full-length mirror hides a compact rod holding hangers and the hotel bathrobe). As for bathrooms, the toilet and stall shower are behind a door but the sink (cute but teeny) is on full view, opposite the bed, as in a classic London bedsit.
Move up a couple of price notches and you get a full-size bathroom with everything behind one door including a tub/shower combo. Regardless of size, rooms come with Deborah Turbeville photographs on the pale blue walls, flat panel TVs, Frette bathrobes and, in keeping with the building’s vintage, crystal chandeliers.
Food and drink: There’s no restaurant but a buffet of breakfast cheeses, Danish pastry, juice and coffee is served daily in a dining area outfitted with small, round, skirted tables. At 5 pm, wine and cheese are offered; the room fills up fast and sounds like a cocktail party (arrive early as nibbles disappear quickly).
Amenities: Free WiFi. Pets under 30 lbs. are welcome free of charge provided they stay in a kennel-box in your room and don’t wander around the lobby biting ankles. No fitness room, but guests get passes to the New York Sports Club nearby. Complimentary shoe shine.
Surroundings: A boring block (a huge parking garage is next door) in a residential neighborhood but near good stuff including the William Doyle auction house, Museum Mile (the Metropolitan, Guggenheim, Cooper-Hewitt and Jewish museums to name a few) Central Park and, if you don’t mind walking, Barneys, Bloomingdales and the plenteous restaurants and shops the East Side offers. The subway station and bus stops are a block away, and taxis prowl the area religiously.
Back story: The Franklin opened for business as a hotel in 1931 (that vintage neon sign is the real deal). And though it has gone through various incarnations, it has been a hotel ever since. I stayed here for the first time in the early 1990s shortly after a renovation to review it for The New York Times, and though I had the smallest room on offer, I felt like I’d stepped into a Jean Rhys novel, in a good way. A renovation in 2008 bumped the luxury up a notch, if not the square footage. But that was ten years ago, and the hotel is in dire need of attention.
Keep in Mind: Window air conditioners. Most rooms have no views (and curtains should be kept shut). Daily $12 service charge. Due to the construction of a large building next door, a construction apron is built over the Franklin’s entrance (see photo),