10 New York Destinations for Design Lovers


May is a huge month for art and design in New York City, with numerous fairs and events taking place throughout the boroughs. The largest and most established include Frieze New York (Thursday through Sunday) followed by TEFAF New York (May 10-14), the NYCxDesign Festival (May 16-23) and, for major design aficionados, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (May 21).

But fairs and galleries aren’t the only places to see remarkable design in the city. Aesthetes visiting after a year’s absence will find an abundance of eye candy in neighborhoods like TriBeCa, Chelsea and the Lower East Side. And there’s intriguing design to be found in new hotels, restaurants, cultural institutions and even retail establishments. The ten spots below don’t fit into one neat category — some are over-the-top maximalist, others are ultraspare or Brutalist. But one thing is certain: They will provoke discussion and debate.

Fans of maximalism gravitate to Firmdale Hotels’ properties, which dot London and New York. The brand’s latest property, Warren Street Hotel, recently opened in TriBeCa, complete with a gray-blue facade, a bright yellow box on the roof and interiors by the company’s co-founder and creative director, Kit Kemp. Kemp is known for her more-is-more style that features layers upon layers of patterns, colors, objects and art, as evidenced at the London-based Firmdale’s two other New York City properties, the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo and the Whitby Hotel in Midtown East.

Kemp calls the interiors at Warren Street “bold but not frantic.” Like its New York sister properties, the Warren Street Hotel has unique rooms (no two are alike), picture windows with views of the neighborhood (and neighbors!) and a lobby restaurant and bar. 86 Warren Street, firmdalehotels.com

Located on the corner of 28th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Fifth Avenue Hotel is a blend of old and new. The old is a stately McKim, Mead & White-designed building dating to the early 1900s, once the home of Second National Bank, that now houses the hotel’s lobby, the Portrait bar, Café Carmellini and some guest rooms. The new is a 24-story tower devoted entirely to guest rooms. Martin Brudnizki Design Studio was tapped for the vibrant interiors; Brudnizki is a master of mixing various periods and styles, resulting in spaces which, as a news release put it, “embrace Bohemian romanticism, the glamour of the gilded age, and contemporary intrigue.” 1 West 28th Street, thefifthavenuehotel.com

Last summer, Cecchi’s Bar and Grill debuted in the former West Village location of Café Loup, a much beloved neighborhood spot. It’s owned by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina, a longtime fixture in New York’s dining scene (having worked at the River Café, Raoul’s and Le Coucou), which he detailed in his recent memoir “Your Table is Ready.” The restaurant was designed by Becky Carter, who repurposed and refurbished some pieces from Café Loup including the chairs, the tables, the substantial marble host stand and the chrome cash register. Every design decision, she said, was filtered through a lens of sophisticated “sexiness,” from the vintage light fixtures to the suspended screens resembling juggling balls to the curvaceous banquettes and the murals painted by the artist Jean-Pierre Villafañe. 105 West 13th Street, cecchis.nyc

There hasn’t been a new restaurant at the Hotel Chelsea since El Quijote opened in 1930. That changed last summer when Café Chelsea opened in the former site of Capitol Fishing Tackle Company, carrying over what Sean MacPherson, the hotel’s co-owner and designer, described as the “slightly other” and “louche” aesthetic of the famed landmark, once home to such notables as Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith.

The eatery is a spot-on mix of old and new, as seen in the main dining room, which features a restored skylight and pendant lamps that were salvaged from Lord & Taylor’s now-defunct Fifth Avenue store. Elsewhere, there are vintage chandeliers, a zinc bar, oddly realistic faux greenery and works of art that have belonged to the hotel for decades. 218 West 23rd Street, cafechelseanyc.com

Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship store — a designated National Historic Landmark — underwent a huge, nearly four-year-long renovation at the hands of the architect Peter Marino with interior architecture by the studio OMA, led by Shohei Shigematsu.

Now standing at 10 floors, which includes a new three-story glass addition perched at the top, the reimagined building (christened “The Landmark”) stretches 110,000 square feet and includes a winding five-story staircase that nods to the designs of Elsa Peretti; the Blue Box Cafe by the chef Daniel Boulud; and dedicated museum and exhibition spaces on Floors 8 and 9 (currently showing 70 contemporary artworks by 26 artists from Peter Marino’s private collection, including pieces by Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel and Rashid Johnson). Integrated throughout the building are works by other renowned artists, including Anna Weyant and Daniel Arsham. 727 Fifth Avenue, tiffany.com

When it opened last summer, Essx filled a gaping hole in the city’s multibrand retail landscape. Three fashion industry veterans, Laura Baker, Abe Pines and Yoel Zagelbaum, had a lightbulb moment during the pandemic, which resulted in Essx, a 7,000-square-foot concept store on an unlikely stretch of Essex Street. The decidedly minimalist yet intriguing neon sign in the window draws passers-by into the equally minimalist space, which employs strategic use of simple geometric shapes for display.

The store was created by the local architecture firm Leong Leong with the designer Yossi Shetrit, and it is filled with clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories by known brands like Wales Bonner, Comme des Garçons, Simone Rocha and Maison Margiela, as well as up-and-comers, all organized by “vibe.” 140 Essex Street, essxnyc.com

A cast-iron building built in 1871 is home to the buzzy designer brand Khaite’s first-ever retail shop, on a cobblestone street in SoHo just down the block from its original design studio. The building’s original architect was Henry Fernbach, and over the years it housed furriers, apparel factories and a parking garage favored by a bootlegging ring.

The architect Griffin Frazen reimagined the space for Khaite (he is married to its founder and creative director, Catherine Holstein), creating a Brutalist environment rich in materials like concrete and curved steel that incorporates natural light to dramatic effect. To wit: an evergreen tree planted in a corner deep into the space, positioned directly below a skylight. 165 Mercer Street, khaite.com

If one could visit only one new architectural marvel in New York, the Gilder Center would be an excellent choice. It was designed by Studio Gang with a quietly dramatic, undulating pink-granite facade set in a pattern meant to evoke geological layering.

Walking into the entryway, a five-story atrium topped by skylights, visitors might be tempted to look up. If they do, they’ll notice the organic forms above them — bridges and openings inspired by the canyons of the American Southwest. These features were created by spraying concrete directly onto rebar, without traditional formwork (the technique is called “shotcrete” and was, interestingly enough, invented by a museum naturalist).

The Gilder Center houses new exhibition galleries, classrooms and a library, and it serves an important yet not-obvious purpose: It fills in a gap among buildings, linking the museum’s entire campus for the very first time. 200 Central Park West, amnh.org

By day, the Perelman Performing Arts Center is a monolithic marble box that, while stately, sits in the shadows of the tall glass towers on the World Trade Center campus (and on top of multiple subway lines). But at night, the veined Portuguese marble, laminated on both sides with glass, becomes translucent, and the eight-story building positively glows.

The nonprofit performing arts center was designed by Rex, a firm led by Joshua Ramus. Inside are three flexible venues that can be combined or transformed into over five dozen configurations, as well as a lobby level designed by the Rockwell Group that features a terrace and a Marcus Samuelsson-helmed restaurant. The New York Times architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman, called it the “the most glamorous civic building to land in New York in years.” 251 Fulton Street, pacnyc.org

Those who attended the debut of International Objects’ inaugural exhibition last spring remember it well: That night, crowds waited in lines around the block to enter. That spoke volumes about the gallery’s founders (a four-person crew, including two artists, a graphic designer and a director at Salon 94), the show (which primarily featured artists and designers with a relationship to New York) and the location (Bushwick, in a building that the architects described on their website as “maximizing architectural effect with a minimal budget and material palette”).

The gallery’s third exhibition, “Extra Taste,” is on view through May 19. It features more than one hundred objects that, as the exhibition description puts it, “mine the iconographies and mythologies embedded in everyday consumer culture.” 53 Scott Avenue, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn; objects.international



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