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 a newly bold color palette 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.
When hotels are this small, they need to be close to perfect. Alas, in recent years, the Franklin looked tired, worn and unloved, the hotel equivalent of a Jean Rhys heroine in all her faded beauty. But the hotel used its Covid closure time wisely, undergoing a top to toe renovation. The resulting refresh returns the Franklin to the game with eye-catching rooms outfitted in confident royal blue and white and a welcoming lobby seating room, never mind that it’s the size of a pocket. The Franklin is one of a kind, a place where you can imagine you live on the Upper East Side, hang out at the Met Museum and know every inch of Central Park.
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. You don’t come here for cutting edge modernism.
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.