There’s something whimsical and fairytale-like about the Mondrian SoHo hotel from the moment you step off the sidewalk of Crosby Street onto the gravel walkway leading to its entrance. I’m welcomed in by a young man in dark blue jeans, a faded black t-shirt and a dark woollen hat, a set of keys clipped to one side of his belt and a walkie-talkie on the other. He swings open the front door as he asks me how I’m doing, and I walk into what appears to be Wonderland.
Everything in the lobby is blue and white, including a giant fluffy lamp shade, several bulbous columns and a few blue armchairs. A woman dressed like she is about to go for a walk in the English countryside talks on a mobile phone in one corner, a mongrel dog by her side, and an elegantly dressed couple sashay past me towards the incredibly eye-catching Isola Trattoria and Crudo Bar, which occupies a huge conservatory complete with hanging greenery and crystal chandeliers.
Check-in takes place on the first floor – another young man with a bushy beard and a nose ring grabs my bag and dashes up the short staircase ahead of me. I feel decidedly uncool.
At the reception area the blue and white theme continues, with a splash of silver woven in for good measure. The interior design, by Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, was apparently inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et La Bête. It is fantastical and quirky for sure, but at no cost to the chic atmosphere and acute attention to detail. Several smiling young people behind the white reception desk welcome me to the hotel and show me up to my Deluxe One Bedroom Suite on the 15th floor.
Entering the suite is another “wow” moment. The contrasting electric blue carpet and bright white furniture are interrupted only by the polished chrome of the work desk, and the incredible views of the city that beckon from the floor-to-ceiling windows on the far wall.
The silver desk is bare except for an iPad loaded with information about the hotel and the surrounding neighbourhood. There is no clutter, just a writing pad and pencil next to the phone, placed at arm’s length on a shelf beside the desk. A wall lamp has one simple and easy-to-find switch staring out from the wall. I feel very at-home.
The upholstery is also white with pale blue stencilling on the frame of the sofa and armchair. On a plain white table in the middle of the living room sits a tall orchid in a glass vase. From 356-400 square feet, the living areas in the one-bedroom suites are small but ample; the uncluttered design emphasises the space.
In the bedroom there’s an iPod docking station on one of two chrome bedside tables with a card placed on the pillow, also white with blue detailing, with a welcome message: “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Don’t overdo it.” The quotation is attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, circa 590 BC, and seems to capture the essence of what Noriega-Ortiz was thinking when he designed the suite.
As the Mondrian SoHo is the tallest building in the neighbourhood, the suite looks out over amazing views of Manhattan, with the Empire State Building to the north, the Hudson River straight ahead to the west and the new One World Trade Center to the south. The area directly below and around the hotel is SoHo, the former artists’ quarter that is now one of the trendiest parts of downtown New York, where ideas ferment from creative agencies and designer clothing and contemporary arts are created in the boutiques and studios that occupy the mainly low-rise buildings.
If you tire of the views, which you won’t, there are two LG LCD televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, both wall-mounted. In the bathroom, the blue is gone and the all-white marble space is reminiscent of the simplest of spa suites, with an antique-style mirror on the wall and MALIN+GOETZ products.
There are two doors in the suite, one leading to the main corridor by the lift, and one that leads to a small anteroom shared by two other doors, so larger families could create a three-bedroom suite with their own hallway should they wish.
If you’re planning a tour of new New York, where creativity and collaboration are part and parcel of daily life, you couldn’t do much better than spending a few nights at the Mondrian SoHo – a masterpiece in its own right. n
THE IMPORTANT BIT
What: Deluxe One Bedroom Suite
Where: Mondrian SoHo, Crosby Street, New York, US
Cost: from US $439 per night (low season)