As part of a decade-long polishing, New York City’s fast-evolving neighborhood of NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) has seen a hotel boom, most recently welcoming a Virgin Hotel and the city’s second Ritz-Carlton. Joining their ranks on October 16 is the 153-room Fifth Avenue Hotel, which opens in a landmark bank building and a new 24-story glass tower. The flagship property of the new Flâneur Hospitality group represents one of the few independently owned boutique hotels in the neighborhood. The hotel is taking design cues from its namesake thoroughfare’s Gilded Age past, back when the avenue was lined with the mansions of financiers and industrialists.
Here, on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 28th Street, stood the grand 19th-century estate of socialite (and legendary party thrower) Charlotte Goodridge. In 1907, it was sold and replaced with an imposing brick and limestone bank designed in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo by McKim, Mead & White. If you don’t know the turn-of-the-20th-century architecture firm by name, you know it by reputation: It reshaped the New York City landscape with such buildings as the Brooklyn Museum, the old Pennsylvania Station, the Columbia University campus, and the Washington Square Park arch.
Hotel founder Alex Ohebshalom’s family acquired the building nearly five decades ago. Over the past 10 years, in the process of reimagining it as a luxury hotel, he sought to “pay homage to the legacy and lifestyle of those who, like Ms. Goodridge, entertained grandly on Fifth Avenue.” Rather than match the stately exteriors, the new hotel draws on the plot’s residential roots and “is meant to feel as if you are entering the private home of a world traveler,” Ohebshalom tells AFAR.
Ohebshalom turned to his own extensive travels for inspiration. He credits, for example, “the rich and vibrant colors and exquisitely intricate textures” of Morocco, Laos, and Myanmar with setting the hotel’s eclectic palette. In conceptualizing the hotel’s aesthetic, he teamed up with designer Martin Brudnizki, whom he had discovered after staying in one of his properties in Miami. “I appreciated how vibrant and residential he made a public space feel,” he says of the Stockholm-born designer, whose work can be seen around town at the Beekman and Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s New York. “It was all very whimsical, as if being in a jewel box.”
Behind the hotel’s limestone facade is a maximalist riot of colors and textures that reference the go-for-broke exuberance of the late 19th-century Gilded Age. Expect jewel-toned chandeliers with crystal baubles that look like fruits and flowers and melting hard candy, arched green windows that serve as room dividers, statement rugs that burst with oversize floral patterns or tiger stripes, inlaid bar carts with lizard-shaped handles, and vanities with colorful Chinese dragons painted inside their doors.
Equally as expansive is the hotel’s art collection, which includes works by 20th-century American photographers William Klein, Gordon Parks, and Melvin Sokolsky and glazed Venetian ceramic masks by Spanish artist Jaime Hayon. Also hanging on the walls is a deconstructed portrait of Baudelaire by American mixed-media collage artist Michael Mapes, made from old stamps, dried fruit and flowers, gel capsules, and tiny photographs.
“The collection is intended to be a modern-day cabinet of curiosity, to spark imagination and conversation, wonder and delight,” Ohebshalom says. “Close inspection is rewarded as one slows down to scrutinize the details.” Among his favorite works is a specially commissioned tapestry by California-based multimedia artist Pae White called Bugz & Drugs, which depicts ladybugs, dragonflies, and grasshoppers swarming around plants like poppies and cannabis.
In the wood-paneled Portrait Bar, which is lined with portraits depicted by artists like Queens-based photographer Alanna Airitam, expect both modern and classic cocktails (bar director Darryl Chan describes the St. James in London as “afternoon tea meets English milk punch”) alongside a menu of elevated snacks, including crispy oysters with celery root remoulade. For something more substantial, book a reservation at Café Carmellini, from celebrated New York City chef Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde and the Dutch fame. The French Italian menu features such lavish dishes as rabbit cacciatore and lobster cannelloni with caviar.
Ohebshalom hopes the sumptuous menu will go a long way toward getting guests to “slow down and enjoy themselves by feeling inspired and completely in the moment,” which is his aim of the entire guest experience at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. As he explains it, “That’s our idea of sublime luxury.” From $895