The architect Anda Andrei stops me on my way up the stairs. I'm supposed to be clandestinely headed to the washroom at the new 11 Howard Hotel, but the Romanian-born Andrei insists we start our tour of the property. Dressed simply in a Céline-esque coat, a pair of skinny blue jeans, and pointy-toed flats worn with black fishnet ankle socks, Andrei is a vision of an architect straight out of Nancy Meyers's imagination. She worked on 11 Howard—the latest venture from real estate mogul Aby Rosen—in tandem with the Copenhagen-based design firm SPACE.
The building's previous life as a Holiday Inn (and before that, a post office) informs the layout of the new luxury property in unexpected and remarkable ways—the staircase off the lobby is pragmatically inspired by New York City fire escapes; hallways are lined with sconces in the spot where their more humble predecessors once cast an unflattering glow.
Here, a few of our favorite lessons learned:
Limit Your Color Palette
This is the most obvious design tenet employed throughout the hotel, and it pays off. Each of the 221 guest rooms are limited to warm gray hues with a dash of brass and marble for good measure. A rose-hued blanket custom-designed for the hotel by Society drapes across the foot of each bed while blue velvet curtains frame the views of SoHo below.
Think: Humble Materials Meet Glorious Details
"It's the way we dress, it's the way we live," says Andrei of the elevated mix of simple materials used throughout the interior. "The color is a natural dye; it's smoked, not painted or chemically treated. There is something about the honesty of these materials that ultimately, even used, they might look better than new. It's not all distressed and it's not all polished—it's a balance."
Use Furniture That Multitasks
One easy design solution SPACE and Andrei employed in the smaller rooms: Multitasking furniture. When a second end table wouldn't fit beside the bed, they placed a desk to one side so that guests would have somewhere to set a drink. Wall-mounted lamps provide directional task lighting without the footprint of a floor or desk lamp.
Reduce, Reuse, Restyle
To make efficient use of the entire piece of marble that is the bathroom counter, Andrei and SPACE refined the piece that was cut out for the sink and repurposed it as a tray. It rests on the console below the television as the perfect perch for an ice bucket.
Make Your Space Smarter
In lieu of a front desk, the hotel lobby features iPads atop monolithic tables arranged like a sculpture garden. In a year or so guests should be able to check-in on their mobile devices—though staffers dressed in custom-designed SPACE uniforms are still on hand to assist. In each guest room, a tablet can be used for luggage assistance, room service, or concierge requests.
For more, see 11howard.com.