The New York Palace is back in smart splendor following a 2-year, $140 million renovation. The unveiling took place on September 17, 2013 with a celebration attended by several hundred guests, including Mayor Bloomberg. The standing/kneeling/anything-but-sitting rockjazz pianist ELEW performed in the repaved outdoor courtyard, which has been newly repurposed for public use.
The Palace dates back to 1882 when the then-rising architects McKim Mead & White, in a magnificent introduction of the Renaissance style to New York, combined six individual town houses into a cohesive U-shaped block for financier Henry Villard and five neighbors. At the time, the central court was a civilized amenity (a carriage turnaround) in a still unfashionable part of town largely owned or occupied by religious and educational institutions, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street. Today, the courtyard is an invaluable gift to the city as it is the only open space on Madison Avenue for over a mile in either direction.
The 5-story “Villard Mansion” complex, a NYC landmark, was saved from demolition in the mid-1970s through lengthy negotiations to build the 55-story Helmsley hotel tower immediately to the east. The combined property was subsequently sold to the Sultan of Brunei before Northwood Investors purchased it in 2011 and undertook the current top-to-bottom renovation. In a working arrangement that was as risky as it was complex, four separate interior design firms were engaged, as were two construction companies, and two different project management firms.
With the exception of a lack-luster lounge off 51st Street, the results are stunning, with new restaurants, shops, and four new bars, including one wrapped in long, almost liquid, flows of metal. The main lobby, with its monumental stairs and fireplace, has been purged of over-the-top excess. It builds on the second floor to a warmly colored frieze depicting the Industrial Revolution in New York (reminiscent of the murals in nearby Rockefeller Center) and a great hand-blown glass chandelier. Old and new merge seamlessly in gold, marble, and elegant sophistication.
All of the 909 guest rooms/suites were redesigned to be more stylishly residential than is customary in today’s hospitality industry. The idea was to provide world travelers a sense of home while simultaneously delivering the full connectivity of a high-tech office and, of course, all the services of a first-class hotel.
Floors 41-53 house the exclusive Palace Towers, effectively a hotel within a hotel, with its own discrete lobby and elevators and some of the city’s most spectacular accommodations. Among the most remarkable -- and expensive -- is the 2-bedroom Metropolitan Suite which, according to its designers at BBG-BBGM, is richly accented with color, texture, and high-focus art to create a “living gallery in the sky.” It works, beautifully.
Topping this is the 5,000-square-foot Champagne Suite, also designed by BBG-BBGM. The $25,000/night triplex unfolds into 8 rooms, six baths, a private terrace, and glass-walled “cellar” stocked with vintage Dom Perignon. A bubbly glass chandelier and champagne-themed decor make for an interior worthy of, well, a modern palace. Best of all are the sprawling views. Here, as elsewhere in the Towers, it’s easy to feel the heady thrill of New York, surrounded by some of the city’s most iconic buildings in the very heart of midtown. It doesn’t get much better.
Who did what:
BAMO San Francisco
Redesign of Palace Towers: rooms, suites & lobby
BBG-BBGM, New York
Comprehensive master planning for public spaces; new hotel entry façade; design of selected suites and mansion interiors; Tavern on 51; Rarities Lounge; project management & coordination
Champalimaud, New York
Remodeling of main lobby & guest reception, Trouble’s Trust bar, Lobby Lounge
Jeffrey Beers International, New York