Royalton – Midtown Manhattan, NYC ****

Q: What is it? A: The classic luxury hotel on 44th Street that was one of the original Ian Schrager hotels. Philippe Starck’s iconic design has sadly been wiped out of the public areas, but guestrooms still provide a journey back to 1988.

Royalton – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – the entrance
”And so she was charmed to find that her countryman Philippe Starck had made the phantoms visible in his renovation of the old hotel.” Quote from ”The Afterlife of Emerson Tang: A Novel” by Paula Champa.

Royalton – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – bedroom
I stayed here for the first time in 2000. Since then, bedrooms have been kept surprisingly intact, (note the mahogany cabinet) although they removed the bedside fax machine. And the iPod docking-station is ”new”.

Royalton – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – bathroom
Quite the 80s experience, although the room I had 14 years ago didn’t come with a round bathtub. And it certainly didn’t come with the feeling of being inside of a discotheque mirror ball. You know, that kind of bathtub feeling…

Royalton – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – the restaurant Forty Four
Restaurant Forty Four used to offer dining as pretentious as the former design. Now, the menu has been simplified in a rather burgerish way. The surrounding neighborhood is a happy hunting ground for foodies, though.

Royalton – Midtown, Manhattan, NYC – the lobby
Back in the days, the whole wall to the right was lined with those ”softly glowing horn lamps overlooking a ship’s deck worth of seating” (Paula Champa again), designed by Mr. Starck. Now gone. Roman and Williams are the firm behind the new design.

The old lobby of the Royalton is sadly gone.
Detected nostalgia in the captions above? You’re right. I’m one of those who think that the old design; the hotel world’s first lobby turned into a cat-walk – yes literally – was a timeless icon. But Morgans Hotel Group’s new owners, business-people lacking the vision of Ian Schrager, wanted something new. So in 2007, Roman and Williams (Ace Hotel, The Standard High Line) were brought in. That was the end of horn-shaped lamps and polished mahogany. Look above! The new design? Not unattractive. Certainly not iconic.

At the Royalton they still know how to run a hotel.
Front desk, still tucked into the left wall (most first-timers will pass it!), is as friendly and efficient as ever (thanks for the unexpected upgrade!). The doormen are cheerful and full of energy (they should be!). The Forty Four restaurant, with rather low culinary ambitions (mostly burgers and BLTs) but nice staff is a smooth operation. All together very competent without being totally amazing.

Surprise! Rooms are very much Starck. Still.
When I enter my room, I’m traveling in time and detecting a few signs of the room not being brand spankin’ new. It’s still more 1988 than 2014, which works fine for me (they removed the fax-machine, though). The mahogany cabinet around the bed is still there. My bathroom is something extra with its round tub section with mirror mosaic walls. Sinks and mirrors are still 1988. The experience is way different from the lobby. Maybe only architectural buffs like me will notice, but still…

We have lost an icon.
I will stay here again. And again. It’s a fine hotel. But when the Royalton opened on October 10, 1988 it changed the hotel world forever. It was copied by thousands. Starck in an interview: ”I’m always moving on. Life is life” but he also mentions the calls he’s getting from people telling him how much they miss the old Royalton. If I had the man’s number, I’d call too. I write this with the ZTT-recording ”Absolutely Immune” by Act (1987) in my headphones. When I visit Pearl & Ash on Bowery, hipsters nod nervously to a well-cured 80s playlist (including Bryan Adams). One thing the Morgans Hotel Group should have noted: Even if the clock stops, it still shows the correct time twice per day.

44 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
United States


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