In this era of hyperlocal inspiration and ever-changing city maps, “authentic” doesn’t just mean what’s right outside the hotel’s front door.
To feel real, local means understanding what’s ingrained in the mentality of the people who live or work in the neighborhood—not just the architecture or the landmark reference points. Getting into their heads and learning all the cultural cues and lifestyle hacks that shape the unique character of the locale is the minimum daily requirement for distilling non-Instagram moments into wow design.
Just ask the design team who crafted the look of Hotel 50 Bowery: Christopher Alvarado, senior director of design and development services, Two Roads Hospitality; and senior designer and project manager Margarita Velez-Mantovani, Wimberly Interiors. In the still-gentrifying Bowery neighborhood, their concept for 229-key hotel—the first New York outpost for Two Roads’ Joie de Vivre Hotels unit—draws not only on its Chinatown neighborhood and the hotel owners’ long history there, but on aspects of Asian architecture and design that would have been top of mind for the first immigrants to the neighborhood, as well as more modern and down-to-earth references that would appeal to the influx of Asian travelers coming to this Chinatown (New York has several others, including in Flushing, Harlem and Brooklyn).
“For example, the light fixtures in the hotel lobby give a nod to the incense cones that hang from the ceilings of temples omnipresent throughout Asia (especially the Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong), but also play off the fact that Chinatown remains a haven for lighting showrooms,” says Velez-Mantovani. Adds Velez-Mantovani: “The lobby also features a traditional Moon Gate, a Chinese architectural element often found in gardens, filled with amber seeded glass that provides a peek into the adjacent restaurant.”
Conjuring up some urban magic in the rest of the hotel required the same combination of blue-sky and grounded thinking. Case in point: including space for the Museum of Chinese in America to curate exhibits (which can also be booked as a private event space) puts a truly authentic spin on respecting the past, while more modern pieces by New York artists serve as both art and décor.
But creating an environment that complements, not drowns, the pieces took some restraint. Streamlined shapes and a muted palette are key, says Velez-Mantovani. That left only one other element in which to put the emphasis.
“Lighting was such an important part of this project,” she says. “It couldn’t just be an architectural fixture or utilitarian in anyway. Our goal was to achieve a layering of low light throughout both the hotel and the restaurant. The illumination isn’t only lighting the space but through the layers highlights the textures and the details, allowing them to shine through. During the day, light floods the spaces due to the floor to ceiling windows, which helped provide moodier lighting, showcasing both the interiors and the stunning city views.”
For projects like this, taking the pulse of a market like New York also means paying close attention to the guests who are expected to inhabit the spaces. “We initially identified who our aspirational guests would be—which ranged from the entertainment industry to international travelers to foodies—while taking into account that we would also have to cater to a predominately Asian traveler. I think knowing these expectations up front allowed us take on some of these challenges head on,” says Alvarado.
The message? Take more than a New York minute to get real about the project before opening up Pinterest.
Two Roads Hospitality
Two Roads Hospitality: Christopher Alvarado, senior director of design and development services; Wimberly Interiors: Noel Cuvin, creative director and associate; Margarita Velez-Mantovani, project manager and senior designer; Rebecca Weinstein, former senior designer and associate
Peter Poon Architects
Carver & Associates
Town and Gardens (landscape)
ART & ACCESSORIES
nAscent Art NY
Silver Hill Atelier
Ti-Tone Communications (Consultant)
BATH & SPA
HB Architectural Lighting
Shaw Hospitality Group
Ian Ingersoll Cabinetmakers
Valley Forge Fabrics
Cree True White Technology
CS Illumination (distributor)
Cowtan & Tout
Design and Direct Source
Elements of Architecture
Get Real Surfaces
Shaw Hospitality Group