Naysayers who vowed New York would never spring back post-pandemic might be shocked to see just how much the metropolis is thriving. Restaurants and bars, opening at a rapid clip, are flourishing yet again, forcing customers to compete for coveted tables on Resy. Hotels (of which there are 120 in the pipeline representing 22,836 rooms, according to Lodging Econometrics), which are increasingly tailored to locals as much as visitors, are also sprouting up in response to the city’s renewed energy.
New Yorkers love the bustling urban life, but over the past few tumultuous years, they’ve also come to appreciate hushed, nature-filled getaways a short drive away. One go-to destination is Long Island’s East End, which is buzzing with laidback developments. On Shelter Island, for example, the Chequit celebrated its 150th anniversary last year with a revamp by New York studio Glen & Co. Architecture. “Spiritually, Shelter Island has an amazing rhythm. It is perfectly peaceful and tranquil,” says founder and president Glen Coben. Hampton Bays draws in visitors with the Inn Spot, a collection of waterfront bungalows exuding a surf aesthetic, as well as Canoe Place Inn & Cottages, a centuries-old inn now part of the Main Street Hospitality portfolio that was revitalized by Brooklyn studio Workstead.
Besides the Hamptons, New Yorkers have also been flocking Upstate, and independent, authentic hotels are following suit. Here, we take a glimpse inside a few of the most recent properties to arrive in Manhattan, and several destinations of the beloved weekend escape.
According to STR, there are 18 hotels under construction in Manhattan, meaning another 4,000 guestrooms are on the way. Some of these are high-profile projects like the Warren Street Hotel in Tribeca. The newest addition to the Firmdale Hotels collection, it will combine London-based Kit Kemp Design Studio’s whimsical interiors with an industrial-style new-build from local firm Stonehill Taylor.
Likewise, there are plenty of renovations, such as Martin Brudnizki Design Studio’s transformation of the old Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side into the first U.S. property from Corinthia Hotels. These are only building on the momentum of the past two years. From brand launches and New York debuts (RH Guesthouse, Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s, Aman) to independent standouts (the Wall Street Hotel, Nine Orchard) and extensive renovations (the Algonquin), the city’s offerings are thoughtful and raising the bar on what hospitality means today.
The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad
The game-changing Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad from Flag Luxury Group debuted last year. The boutique development firm’s relationship with the Ritz-Carlton brand is long, tracing back to southern Florida in the late 1990s. There was the Coconut Grove location (which included the first Ritz-Carlton residences), for example, as well as the golf club and spa in Jupiter, and the pivotal Miami hotel in South Beach, a restoration and invigoration of a Morris Lapidus-designed building.
“That’s when we noticed that the Ritz-Carltons that had been done in the past all had the same Bostonian Queen Anne style, regardless of whether it was in Buckhead or California,” recalls Flag Group president and COO Dayssi Kanavos. “We pushed to create what we thought at the time would be the next-generation Ritz-Carlton, more relevant to its surroundings versus having the same exact design everywhere.”
Kanavos and her husband Paul, Flag Group’s chairman and CEO, “know the brand inside out,” she says. So, when they realized that the Ritz-Carlton demographic was skewing about 10 years younger and the existing Manhattan location on Central Park South wasn’t ideal for capturing that growing market, they knew it was time for a change. The booming NoMad neighborhood was just the right setting to launch a contemporary edition of the brand.
The result is a lustrous Rafael Viñoly-designed tower lined with 250 soothing guestrooms that Cristian Pinedo of Miami studio Susurrus International outfitted with marble, leather, and sculptural, floating chandeliers. Its food and beverage program, overseen by Michelin-starred humanitarian chef José Andrés, truly animates the space. A branch of Zaytinya, his well-known Mediterranean restaurant in Washington, D.C., is here, and soon the Bazaar (designed by Lázaro Rosa-Violan, who also handled the verdant lobby bar), which has sprung up in several cities, will arrive. Andrés is also behind the lobby bar and rooftop lair Nubeluz.
Sam Bakhshandehpour, president of José Andrés Group, says that Flag Luxury Group’s vision, “inspired by the heritage of the brand dating back to the partnership forged between César Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier, immediately resonated with us. We shared the desire to create stunning, design-forward, environments for each bar and restaurant, tapping world-class design partners. They have raised the bar by having such distinctive approaches, making it a wildly different experience depending how you enter, where you are dining. That variety and creativity makes this a standout development.”
In contrast to the Susurrus-crafted retreats, the food and drink offerings are vibrant. Kanavos had previously worked with Rockwell Group and is thrilled to see how the local firm took Zaytinya in a new direction from the original through ombre curtains, a barrage of blues, and behind the bar, a striking, curving wall of glass discs that reinterprets the Evil Eye. It’s just as alluring on the roof, where London- and New York-based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio made Nubeluz glow, as Kanavos puts it, through features like an illuminated onyx bar. “When you’re in there, you want to touch everything, the velvet and the peacock walls.”
Kanavos adds, “We definitely pushed the designers to give us that oomph,” and it’s that extra dynamism that Bakhshandehpour believes is an asset. “We don’t use the term ‘hotel dining’ to define our restaurants as we look at them as an extension of the Ritz-Carlton experience rather than just an amenity to the guest,” he explains. “Hotels and restaurants have a symbiotic relationship and both benefit by working toward the goal of becoming an anchor to the local community. These restaurants and bars are our tribute to the great city of New York, each telling their own story through food, drink, and design.”
Virgin Hotels New York City
Not even two blocks north, an entirely different experience awaits at the just-opened 460-key Virgin Hotels New York City. The lifestyle brand’s eighth location fuses architecture from Stantec with interiors by local firm MARKZEFF. “Richard Branson has been doing business in the city for almost as long as he’s been doing business: over 50 years. The Virgin flag hasn’t appeared in the city in such a big way since Virgin Megastores, but we’re back and the timing couldn’t be better,” explains Teddy Mayer, vice president and creative director of Virgin Hotels.
Above the cozy, wood-clad chambers and suites, the hotel boasts the 2,800-square-foot glass-walled Sky Loft lounge event space on the 38th floor (and a rooftop cocktail bar on the 39th). All-day, indoor-outdoor dining venue Everdene, with its wooden-beam ceiling, lush greenery, and expansive patio is where the sculptural “double-height, glossy Virgin red stair,” as Mayer describes it, leads to the bluish green-hued Pool Club above. “Draped in matching red carpet this is the photo-op spot. It is distinctive, set off like a piece of art within the lofty space finished in natural oat tambour and polished concrete.”
Le Méridien New York, Fifth Avenue
Nearby is the Le Méridien New York, Fifth Avenue (sister to the Central Park original) designed by local firm Gene Kaufman Architect and Paul Vega and Vennie Lau of Edgewater, New Jersey-based design studio VLDG. The 165-room new-build draws from the neighborhood’s rich textile past, marrying, for instance, geometric patterns with contrasting colors. It also celebrates glamorous travel, intrinsic to the Le Méridien brand ethos. “Creating a space to meet different ‘moods’ for people to explore, to converse, to rest, and a Parisian-inspired home away from home were pivotal,” explains Vega.
His favorite aspect of the design? The communal circular wood slat lounge seating. “One can quietly sit there, lap-topping, cocktailing, lost in thought, or with a small group. Either way, you always feel visually connected due to the inward facing seating layout, creating a sense of one’s connection to this community of like-minded citizens.”
The Grayson Hotel, close to Bryant Park, marks the inaugural hotel in Hyatt’s Unbound collection. Courtesy of Los Angeles-based Marcello Pozzi Architecture & Design and New York studio the Setting, the new-build debuted last fall starring 296 guestrooms that blend cool steel and glass with warm pops of lacquered wood, rattan, and gold.
F&B offerings from Apicii hospitality group are also the Grayson’s biggest driver, manifested in a quartet of spaces overseen by chef Jonathan Benno and brought to life by Brooklyn practice Dutch East Design. Ground-floor, all-day dining spot Harta links to Bar Harta above, while the compact mezcaleria Bar Cima wows with rooftop views. Taco Garden Tacalle is forthcoming. “The unifying thread is the property’s compatibility with the variety of food and beverage destinations at one address. Each concept occupies a space in the building that is perfect for it,” says Dutch East Design partner Dieter Cartwright.
Although tiles, reflective materials, and hand-applied finishes all weave their way through the different venues, they each have their own personality. Take Bar Cima, whose low mirror-clad and color-splashed ceilings are a considerable departure from Tacalle. “The taco joint occupies a sliver of open space, essentially an alleyway at the bottom of a canyon created by our two neighbors, Cartwright explains. “Their sheer walls could be overpowering, but instead we’ve made the most of every square foot, turning those walls into vivid murals.”
Few New York properties transport guests to a bygone era of heady counterculture than Hotel Chelsea, where avant-garde artists, writers, and musicians once lived together. Situated in an 1884 structure, the 155-room hotel is now owned by Sean MacPherson, Ira Drukier, and Richard Born, who collaborated on the Jane, the Bowery, and the Maritime hotels. Although giving it a modern sheen was a priority during last year’s reboot, the team didn’t want the hotel’s enthralling heritage to be forgotten either.
“While upgrading Hotel Chelsea’s dilapidated infrastructure, we strived to maintain the character and spirit,” says MacPherson. Artworks by notable, one-time tenants are an homage to the past, some guestrooms flaunt restored fireplaces and stained-glass windows, and the 1930s live on at Spanish restaurant El Quijote via the preserved bar, ceilings, floors, and expansive mural.
The Lobby Bar, from Sunday Hospitality, is the grandest addition, sporting a marble bar and plush velvet seating backdropped by vintage chandeliers and original wood-paneled walls and mosaic floors. Here, notes Charles Seich, Hotel Chelsea’s food and beverage partner, the menus were “designed to respect the endlessly classic essence of the Hotel Chelsea and what we think a timeless hotel lobby bar should be.”
Upstate New York
As upstate New York continues to be a sought-after destination for city breaks, it’s not surprising that new properties are rejuvenating the scene. The region took an especially stylish turn in the summer of 2021 when Piaule Catskill, the first hospitality venture from the eponymous homewares label, introduced its 24 prefabricated cabins—minimalist floating structures intentionally designed to maximize the landscape—by Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects.
Then last year, others arrived. Nearby, in Tannersville, Lost Boys Hospitality Group and San Francisco design studio Field Theory unveiled Hotel Lilien in a formerly neglected 19th-century mansion. Its 18 one-of-a-kind guestrooms mix the likes of restored wood paneling with velvet furniture and woven wool rugs. In Hillsdale, meanwhile, bordering the Berkshires, New York restaurateurs Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman opened the 14-room Little Cat Lodge. Emanating a cozy, contemporary alpine air, its design, distinguished by such touches as custom furniture fashioned out of locally sourced maple, comes courtesy of the local Love is Enough studio’s Loren Daye. Similarly, Hudson Valley and the Catskills are fast filling with even more eye-catching but laidback sanctuaries.
Sixty-five refreshed Airstreams, 10 cabins, and 10 BaseCamps featuring custom rugs and local artworks, dot the 37 acres in West Saugerties comprising AutoCamp Catskills. Opened last summer, its centerpiece is the Clubhouse informed by Hudson Valley farms that Workshop/APD (the New York firm also designed AutoCamp’s first East Coast property in Cape Cod) outfitted with exposed post-and-beam interiors, skylights, and a covered porch.
For its first location in the U.S., a partnership with veteran hotelier André Balazs, hospitality group Habitas chose Staatsburg, a village just outside of Rhinebeck. Although Habitas is renowned for its low-impact modular construction methodology, this time around there are 30 guestrooms found in a neo-baroque manor house and adjacent lodge and stone house. Wellness rituals, an outdoor agora for concerts, and Social, the restaurant where family-style meals unfold, all foster the Habitas community mindset.
The just-opened, 50-room Camptown in Leeds is the follow-up to Ray Pirkle and Kim Bucci’s Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, designed in collaboration with Workstead. Camptown, the owners’ inaugural project under their Ramshackle Studio brand, was originally built in the 1930s and sits on 22 wooded acres with a sauna, firepits, and soon, a pool and adjacent bar.
“Most hotels with cabins that have opened recently in the Hudson Valley tend to slant in a hyper-modern Scandinavian direction,” says Bucci. “Camptown’s 26 log cabins with knotty pine walls and unique layouts were already inherently charming, so our goal became to infuse modern Shaker elements without scrubbing away the sense of history.” To honor that existing beauty, she adds, “we specifically played with color and space because there was already so much shape and texture that had been used throughout the decades.”
Wildflower Farms, Auberge Resorts Collection
From the get-go, Christie Ward and Staver Gray, founders of New York studio Ward + Gray, knew they wanted the recently opened Wildflower Farms in Gardiner to have a residential allure, like guests “were stepping into a country house,” as Ward puts it. “All of the finishes feel worn.”
With architecture handled by LA-based Electric Bowery, every detail at the 65-room property, many of them subtle—like the sconces perforated with Queen Anne’s lace or the side tables that reference the star patterns glimpsed in the sky above—permeate a distinct human touch. Consider the handmade Zellige and travertine tiles. The latter, used in the lobby and the central atrium housing a massive fireplace, “are honed, but they’re also tumbled. So, they are all a little chipped and meant to seem as if they were always there,” explains Ward.
On Ward and Gray’s various visits upstate, they took photographs of the local flora and fauna during all four seasons, and those images have since inspired rugs made by artisans in India and Pakistan. Botanicals also manifest in framed lobby art. “They’re gigantic—over five feet tall and they’re just beautiful statement pieces that bring the outdoors in,” points out Gray.
Together, the pair designed more than 600 custom items for the project, including outdoor pillows crafted in Portland, Oregon, from multiple fabrics sparked by the sight of quilts at an upstate antique market. “If we couldn’t find something that we wanted,” says Gray. “We invented it.”