Gramercy Park Hotel, Manhattan, NYC, NY ****

Q: What is it? A: A very boutique-y but quite large, (185 rooms), Manhattan hotel. Designed by Julian Schnabel, it features works of art by Warhol, Hirst, Haring, and of course, Schnabel himself.

The lobby, designed by Julian Schnabel. “It is a study in careful contradictions – jazzy but purposeful” says the hotel website.

The lobby, designed by Julian Schnabel. “It is a study in careful
contradictions – jazzy but purposeful” says the hotel website.

So you are not staying in a suite? Then expect rooms to be nice, well designed and coming with all the amenities you need. Also, expect them to be very small.

So you are not staying in a suite? Then expect rooms to be nice, well designed
and coming with all the amenities you need. Also, expect them to be very small.

A typical bathroom at Gramercy Park Hotel. Small and with lightbulbs.

A typical bathroom at Gramercy Park Hotel. Small and with lightbulbs.

Crystal champagne glasses. A little more posh than your average minibar.

Crystal champagne glasses. A little more posh than your average minibar.

The rooftop terrace. Here’s where you eat the breakfast where the banana for your cereal will cost you $6.

The rooftop terrace. Here’s where you eat the breakfast
where the banana for your cereal will cost you $6.

In one of the lounge rooms on the top floor you will be served fresh morning papers.

In one of the lounge rooms on the top floor you will be served fresh morning papers.

Light Bulb Cieling created by Annika Newell and AGNY for the VIP lounge on the 18th floor.

Light Bulb Cieling created by Annika Newell and AGNY for the VIP lounge on the 18th floor.

The former Gramercy Park Hotel must have been a cool place. Humphrey Bogart lived in the hotel. Babe Ruth was a regular in the bar. Notable guests in more recent days included Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and the Clash.

The story in short:
The previous hotelier who made the place famous died in 2003. Business wasn’t exactly booming and the hotel was sold. The big news was the buyer: Ian Schrager. The hotel world waited in anticipation. Schrager was about to put in a whopping 200 million dollars and pull of his first stunt since he left the hotel group he’d created. In addition, this time it wasn’t about converting a former office building into a social scene. This time the place had a history that Schrager was at least a little committed to preserve. No room for long-time design partner Philippe Starck. Enter Julian Schnabel.
Schnabel is a filmmaker and an American artist. After graduating, he sent an application to the independent study program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His application included slides of his work sandwiched between two pieces of bread; Schnabel was promptly accepted.

The result? It’s certainly no Sanderson.
There are 185 rooms. Dim corridors. The room number is to be found in the carpet. And… it doesn’t at all feel like entering a room in a ‘design’ hotel. It’s a highly designed environment, though but a more ‘traditional’ hotel room with a twist. My room was small and the bathroom minimal, although it was functional (which is more than you could say about… say St. Martin’s Lane). You open a panel and – very nice – an iPod dock plus crystal glasses for the minibar.
In the public areas the Schrager/Schnabel twist gets the most visible. The hotel world’s most photographed sawfish rostrum for instance. Heavy planks of wood. Paintings by Warhol, Basquiat, Hirst, Haring and Schnabel himself. And finally, the rooftop terrace. It’s intimate. It’s greenhouse-like. And the efficient and formally clad waiters make it one of the most pleasant places to have breakfast in New York.

The new Gramercy Park Hotel is a very cool place indeed.
Service is impeccable. Location is great. So why not the fifth star? Well, maybe I’m just Cheap Charlie, but the pricetag is just slightly too high – at least if your paying out of your own pocket. At least I’m getting a little annoyed when a banana on your cereal is an extra $6, (just don’t ask me what the total price for that breakfast was).
If you’re going there, I’d recommend to pay even more. The Superior rooms are superior but too small (20,4-25,5 metres according to the floor plan). Get yourself a Deluxe room. Or a Loft instead. And prepare to keep a stoneface when you see the bill.

Gramercy Park Hotel
2 Lexington Avenue
New York NY 10010
United States

+1-866-784-1300

Click here to book the Gramercy Park Hotel through TabletHotels.com!

Since the end of the year 2010 Ian Schrager has parted with the Gramercy Park Hotel to develop the Edition brand for the Marriott hotel chain. What that will mean for the, ahem… vibe and daily operations? Only time will tell.

Trivia:
The Gramercy Park is Manhattan’s only private park (guests at the hotel have access to the park – the hotel will hand out about a dozen keys on a first come – first serve basis). In the film Notting Hill, a famous actress (played by Julia Roberts) is shown starring in a film called Gramercy Park. Incidentally, this was also the name of the production company for the Notting Hill movie. You need to love Wikipedia for telling you things like these.

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