For those seeking a high-end hotel experience in a fabulous New York neighbourhood, the Dream Downtown is hard to beat. It's the latest Vikram Chatwal hotel venture to offer sumptuous reverie and playful chic – certainly the perfect weekend getaway for the bourgeois-bohemian, where an Andy-Warhol-meets-Austin Powers-inspired aesthetic marries the finer things in life.
Frank Fusaro of Handel Architects has captured the surreal feel of the Dream Hotels' brand in a revamped classic Albert C. Ledner building. The block-like structure and portal windows of the 1966 National Maritime Union building (a stone's throw from the New York Port Authority) have been retained, while the exterior has been newly clad in stainless steel – inspired by Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror installation. When light hits the exterior, the circular windows appear to float in midair.
As attractive as the hotel's exterior is, the room interiors are to die for. In my 285-square-foot "Silver King," where the incredibly comfortable bed took up most of the space, it was hard to tear myself away from the luxe, calm and volupté of the place, even with Chelsea art galleries beckoning through my window. The equal parts loft and Warholian Factory-inspired rooms feature aluminum-foil-clad walls, with layered slivers of silver and mirrors that amplify space and offer a sparkling spectrum of greys, purples and chrome. Custom chrome headboards are a nod to the exterior, while teak elements throughout and deconstructed patchwork Tabriz rugs soften the industrial aesthetic. Some of the rooms have Juliet balconies, while most of the 12 suites have private patios.
Whom you'll meet
The clientele ranges from upper-caste Indian friends of the Chatwals with cut-glass accents, to a Cuban filmmaker known as the "king of the Meatpacking District" to an Italian anarchist turned fashion photographer. But be forewarned, on weekends the lobby turns into a DJ-led party lounge, and the young and the restless move in. It's a place where you can party with rock stars (in the exclusive basement Electric Room, a high-end speakeasy frequented by the likes of Mick Jagger and reached through the graffiti-art-adorned parking garage), or retreat to the quiet comfort of your room and lock yourself away in luxurious solitude.
The hotel straddles New York's Meatpacking and Chelsea districts and is within walking distance of The High Line, SoHo and the West Village. A block away, the Chelsea Market offers a wide range of eateries and boutiques. Art galleries abound, and around the corner, on Eighth Avenue, the Joyce Theater offers top modern-dance performances by the likes of the Martha Graham Dance Company.
In contrast to the hotel's ephemeral design, its Marble Lane restaurant is an earthy, retro-inspired steak house, tempered by great green salads.
What to choose? The 1,500-square-foot fitness facility, the glass-bottomed pool that peeks into the lobby? The 350-thread count Egyptian-cotton bedding? No, it's PH-D, the penthouse lounge, which offers a sophisticated nightlife (especially on weeknights, when the bridge-and-tunnel crowd is least likely to make the scene). With its noteworthy views of the Empire State Building and other iconic New York edifices, it is also the perfect spot for a late-afternoon drink.
Dream Downtown; 355 West 16th St.; 212-229-2559; dreamdowntown.com. 315 rooms from $395.