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A first look at the nature-inspired, eco-conscious 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

I didn’t get much sleep at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.

That’s not to say I couldn’t sleep. I simply chose not to at this gorgeous new hotel, which opened this week across the East River from Manhattan in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. Instead, I spent long stretches of my evening gazing out at the light-studded Manhattan skyline from my enormous bed, clad in a big fluffy robe (and big fluffy socks, too—a welcome amenity on a wintry day). I left that mesmerizing view long enough to soak in my marble-lined bathtub and then returned to it  while swaying on my en-suite hammock, feeling like I was living inside a postcard and falling in love again with the city I call home.

A corner suite at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is part of a flurry of new hotels arriving in this hip borough, and it’s bringing an exciting new dimension to hospitality in New York City. What sets the hotel apart—aside from those views, which extend from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is practically next door—is that these top-notch creature comforts come with a conscience. That translates into sustainable architecture, deep ties to the surrounding community and the riverfront park it sits next to, and a strong wellness theme that impacts everything from the sheets you sleep in (organic cotton) to your morning repast options (green juice).

The third property for the brand following Miami and Manhattan, the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is the first to be built entirely from the ground up. As a result, the architecture and design teams were able to use regional and reclaimed building materials for more than 50 percent of the 10-story structure—no small feat. Every scrap of material has a story: I was surprised to discover that the undulating wall sculpture by Jarrod Beck hanging behind reception is actually a collection of shingles that were blown off roofs in upstate New York during a tornado. The pine floor in my guest room? That was made from casks from the Old Crow bourbon distillery in Kentucky.
View from the rooftop, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Jonathan Marvel, the principal of Marvel Architects who worked on 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, told me recently about the extra effort it took to find the right materials. He and 1 Hotels founder and CEO Barry Sternlicht and in-house SVP of design, Kemper Hyers, spent many a meeting around conference room tables piled high with different reclaimed materials to sift through. “Kemper told us right off the bat that if it can float in from the river and land on the shore, then it can stay in the hotel,” says Marvel. “The great thing was that nobody came with a fixed idea in mind, so there was a lot of experimentation.”

The result is a sexy mash-up of natural and industrial elements. In the lobby, a network of plants covers a 25-foot concrete wall with steel grating. Within the curve of the sleek wooden stairwell at the hotel entrance, there’s a mountainous sculpture of 6,000 rugged obsidian rocks by local artist Rachel Mica Weiss. The natural-meets-industrial aesthetic continues in the 194 guest rooms, where there’s a Brooklyn artisan behind virtually every chair, rug, and light fixture—a showcase of local innovation and creativity. One table by local furniture maker Benchmark was made from throwaway chips of wood, but it resembles something closer to limestone.

The lobby of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Also scattered throughout the rooms: thoughtful, eco-conscious details, which never feel preachy. A spout with a metal wheel handle (so fun to crank!) pours triple-filtered water into green glass carafes repurposed from wine bottles, removing the need for plastic water bottles, and recycled cardboard hangers reveal their previous lives with labels (homework; love letters). Nobody wags a finger at you for taking a luxurious bath, but a five-minute hourglass timer next to the rain shower, fashioned out of fallen cypress from an underwater forest in the Florida wetlands, is a polite suggestion to keep your shower on the shorter side. There may be kombucha and vitamin shots in the minibar, but there’s also beer and wine—not to mention a snack bag you can order when the midnight munchies strike, which includes M&Ms, Coca-Cola, and Cheetos (the hotel donates a part of the proceeds from your junk food binge to Action Against Hunger).

For New Yorkers like me who don’t always need to spend the night, there are things in the works for the months ahead. Those amazing views will be the centerpiece of the 4,000-square rooftop area, which will debut in May with a lounge and an infinity pool. A day spa from organic, U.K.-based Bamford Haybarn will open in June, and a chef-driven restaurant, still to be announced, will follow. Currently, light bites are served at the hotel’s Neighbors café, which serves locally made cookies, pastries, and other items, along with a small selection of Brooklyn-made souvenirs. (Schmolives, anyone?)

The green wall in the lobby of the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Eco-conscious practices can often come with a higher price tag, but they should be a cornerstone of luxury hospitality. And I love that those practices are a nonnegotiable part of this growing brand—and that they’re being executed in such a stylish way. I know I’m not the only traveler who would appreciate a hotel that has gone the extra mile to help enable guests to embrace these values. As 1 Hotels expands to Silicon Valley, Salt Lake City, Mexico, and China in the coming years, I can’t wait to see it make an impact on the way we travel. From $315 per night.

Below, check out our behind-the-scenes virtual tour with the design and architecture teams behind the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.

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1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: An Insider’s Tour
The architects and designers of the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge offer a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel.
By Jenn Flowers, AFAR Staff
Courtesy of 1 Hotels
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    Homegrown Designers
    The guest rooms at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge showcase homegrown talent. “Practically everything that you see is made in Brooklyn,” says Waad el Hadidy, one of the key designers behind 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. “The bed, the closet, and the table were handmade by Benchmark, the lighting fixtures are Lukas Lighting, and the soccer ball-shaped leather ottoman is furniture maker Moses Nadel. All of them want to experiment and try out new things that are more sustainable. That white table near the window that Benchmark made, for example, is made with OSB, oriented strand board, which is made from leftover shredded pieces of wood, but it looks like limestone.”
    Courtesy of 1 Hotels
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    Industrial Touches
    These glass blocks that line the walls of a suite were handmade by local glassblowers Romina Gonzales and Edison Zapata. “They used actual bricks that lined the furnaces of their studio and cast them,” says Hadidy. “They essentially blew the glass into a stack of bricks. You’ll notice that each brick has a different number that represents the temperature for the particular furnace that brick was used for.”
    By Jennifer Flowers
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    Letting the Outside In
    The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge sits right next to Brooklyn’s new riverfront park, which became a central factor in the design of the hotel. “One of the first things we decided architecturally was that we wanted people to stand outside and take in the park and take in the city,” says Jonathan Marvel, the principal of Marvel Architects who worked with Starwood Capital on the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. “We couldn’t afford balconies and didn’t want to clutter up the facade with them, so instead we chose a sliding door window system that allows you to have the air come in. Open it, and all of a sudden the city skyline is right there—you can practically reach out and grab it.”
    Courtesy of 1 Hotels
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    Casual Luxury
    For Adam Rolston, the creative director of INC Architecture Design who led the interior design of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, the polygonal shape of the building posed a unique challenge. “We are architects and we really like to line things up,” says Rolston. “But the unusual shape of the building encouraged a kind of casualness of things coming together.”
    Courtesy of 1 Hotels
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    Raw Beauty
    Natural materials, from concrete columns and beams to untreated wood, dominate the aesthetic of the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. “Nothing gets painted,” says Jonathan Marvel, the principal of Marvel Architects who worked on 1 Hotels Brooklyn Bridge. “We believe that paint is not a material. We want the intrinsic colors and textures to play off each other.”
    Courtesy of 1 Hotels
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    Reclaimed Materials
    More than 50 percent of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is made up of reclaimed materials—no small accomplishment for the team behind this new-build property. “The challenging thing about building with reclaimed materials is you can’t just pick up the phone and order it,” says Kemper Hyers, the SVP of design for Starwood Capital Group, which developed the 1 Hotels brand. “Over the last five years that we’ve been working on this project, the minute something cool became available, we bought it and held it.” That includes bourbon casks from Old Crow Distillery in Kentucky, which were used for the guest room floors (pictured).
    Courtesy of 1 Hotels

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