How Gramercy Park Hotel Redefined Its Signature Cool for a New Generation

Gramercy Park Hotel is the coolest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. And I don’t mean “cool” like the W Hotel-type of cool, where bright pink neon lights are considered the height of decor. And I certainly don’t mean that Ace Hotel-type of cookie-cutter cool, either, because no amount of mason jars will ever justify overpaying to stay at a hostel. No, Gramercy Park Hotel is cool like New York City is cool: Unafraid to make a statement (or cause a late-night scene) yet understated in all the right places. Gramercy Park Hotel as been a New York institution for almost 100 years plenty of mentions in the pop culture history books: Humphrey Bogart married Helen Menken on the rooftop, Cameron Crowe filmed scenes for Almost Famous in the lobby, and everyone from Mick Jagger to John Waters have taken up residence.

The hotel’s newfound cool is fairly recent, however, and can be traced back to 2002, when the then-owners subleased it to the Roxy nightclub. The hotel’s it-factor then skyrocketed in 2006, after the hotel was sold to real estate developer and art collector Aby Rosen and Ian Schrager, the Studio 54 co-founder who practically invented the concept of a “lifestyle hotel.” Together, they recruited noted filmmaker Julian Schnabel to be the hotel’s official art director, as well as British architect John Pawson. The dream team gave Gramercy Park Hotel a stylish makeover that retained the property’s “haute bohemian heritage” but for a new generation. Rosen took over full ownership of the property in 2010.

Today, staying at Gramercy Park Hotel is akin to entering one of Schnabel’s own movies: Visually-striking, dramatic, and eclectic. Like art, the hotel’s revamp elicits an emotional response that plays quite well into its ambiance and reputation. It’s no surprise that another filmmaker, the equally-daring Lena Dunham chose to set an entire episode of her HBO series, Girls, inside the Penthouse Suite on the 17th floor.

I also stayed on the 17th floor, but in a Lexington King Room with views of Lexington Avenue. My guest room had a seating area with a hand-stitched leather table, a sapphire Louis XV chair and ruby red velvet curtains begging to be touched. Instead of a mini-bar, all 190 guest rooms and suites at Gramercy Park Hotel have mahogany drinking cabinets with crystal glasses and full bottles of top-shelf liquor. Inside the bathroom, bundles of oversized light-bulbs hang over the black marble vanity filled with luxury products from Aesop.

The rooms are also equipped with a Bluetooth-enabled, vintage-looking speaker from Marshall, designed specifically to complement the look of Gramercy Park Hotel rooms. Even the water bottles here are one-of-a-kind: Evian glass bottles that stemmed from a limited-edition partnership with famous designers like Christian Lacroix and Alexander Wang. The luscious furniture, luxury touches, and old-world charm meets modern sensibilities made me feel like a glamorous vampire with only the best selection of Spotify playlists.

This refined point-of-view is embraced throughout the whole property, with evocative spaces you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. The rooftop terrace offers a secluded garden oasis for swanky cocktail parties with views of the glistening New York City skyline. As for the on-site restaurant, Maialino offers classic Italian fare in a warm and elegant setting. Then there’s access to the gated Gramercy Park across the street. Guests of the hotel can ask the friendly doorman for a coveted key to the only private park in Manhattan.

Back inside, the lobby has eye-catching chandeliers, smoked wood beams, and a 10-foot fireplace. Not to mention a museum-worthy permanent collection of contemporary, including works by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Fernando Botero, Richard Prince, Keith Haring and Schnabel himself. The art on display is rotated every six to eight months. Currently, you can see some of David LaChapelle’s most iconic celebrity photos, on display until September.

But your sight is not the only sense that gets stimulated upon arrival. Gramercy Park Hotel welcomes you with its own signature scent, as well. Called “Cade 26,” Le Labo created a candle for the common areas that smells like stepping inside an enchanted forest. You can purchase the candle from the GPH online store for a cool $150.

The scent traverses from the lobby to the two adjacent bars, the Jade Bar and Rose Bar. The Jade Bar is GPH’s take on a hotel bar, while the Rose Bar surely transcends the category, to say the least. The Rose Bar has become a local hotspot that attracts New York City artists, designers, literati and other intellectuals.

Part of its allure comes from the monthly Rose Bar Sessions. These free, invite-only live shows give artists the chance who perform in an intimate setting for hotel guests and friends. Recently, the electric live Sessions have included performances by Rufus Wainwright, Børns and Ra Ra Riot. The Rose Bar is also a popular destination for after-parties. Recently, it has hosted fêtes celebrating New York Fashion Week and art fairs like the Armory Show and Frieze New York.

Gramercy Park Hotel’s long-held love affair with art, music and fashion has made it a cultural institution. But the most important artist to have ever influenced the property is without a doubt Julian Schnabel. His best films are about fellow artists like Basquiat, Reinaldo Arenas and Lou Reed, so his fascination for artists who lived out loud is well-documented. Gramercy Park Hotel is an extension of Schnabel’s fascinations as an experience for all the senses.

Oscar Raymundo
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