Though it’s lost much of its edge since the days when starving artists squatted in the neighborhood’s then-abandoned (but now historically preserved) cast-iron industrial buildings, SoHo — short for South of Houston — still draws the young, beautiful, and moneyed in droves. Here are the design-conscious neighborhood’s best boutique hotels.
Tucked away on a quiet cobblestoned street one block from Broadway, the 86-room, 11-story Crosby Street Hotel stands out among lower Manhattan's increasingly crowded market of downtown boutiques. Its design team clearly paid obsessive attention to color, texture, and detail -- from the 10-foot-high Jaume Plensa sculpture in the lobby to the deep sofas in the drawing room to the textured wallpaper in the rooms, the hotel is beautiful. With standard rooms starting at 340 square feet, the Crosby's rooms are significantly more spacious than the 240-square-foot rooms at the nearby Mercer. They're also significantly more expensive.
The 114-room James New York may be located at the southwesternmost corner of Soho, but the hotel has adopted the neighborhood's character as its own, which you can see in its interior design (inspired by Soho's airy, formerly industrial lofts) and its use of local products. It also honors the neighborhood's cultural heritage as a hub for artists and other creative types: New York artist Matthew Jensen curates the hotel's art installations and the hotel purchases all of its books from a non-profit art bookstore and gallery. Some of these details might escape guests' attention, but others, like the free Wi-Fi and free lobby snacks (don't miss the free coffee and scones in the morning and wine and cheese in the afternoon), will not.
Celebrities, European tourists, West Coasters, business travelers, and local hipsters gravitate to this downtown hotel, known for its hip boho-industrial design and thrice-weekly DJ parties. At 353 rooms, Soho Grand is far larger than both the Crosby and the James (and what we would ordinarily consider a boutique hotel), but its chic interior design, youthful downtown vibe, and hip bar, lounge, and restaurant secure its place on this list.
In a city where the hottest new club or restaurant is lucky to have a six-month shelf life before reinvention is necessary, SIXTY SoHo has managed to stay relevant through the years for its discreet, accommodating service; stylish (but not flashy) rooms; and restaurant and bars that are able to back up their attitude and exclusivity with high-quality products. SIXTY has limited amenities (for example, it doesn't have a fitness center, like our first three picks), but the 86-room hotel's location amidst prime shopping, dining, and all-night debauchery helps keep the unassuming 13-story tower high on the cool meter.
Young, moneyed entertainment types, celebrities, and business travelers frequent this 75-room red-brick Romanesque revival building that sits in the heart of fashionable SoHo. Like other chi-chi celeb-friendly New York boutique hotels like the Crosby, the Mercer offers trendy design, exclusivity, and highly personalized service. The Christian Liaigre-designed lobby, featuring high 14-foot ceilings, doubles as a late-night lounge for young players in New York's entertainment and fashion industries. The on-site restaurant, renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Mercer Kitchen, draws well-heeled customers with high-end, adventurous dishes. The rooms, with their steel doors, high ceilings, and understated design, feel like luxurious versions of the neighborhood's many studio lofts. But they're missing the numerous specialized details found in the James' minimalist rooms, such as natural linen bedspreads, turndown treats from local chocolatier Kee's, and floor heating in the bathrooms.
NoMo is a combination of "nostalgic" and "modern" and this 264-room hotel aims to have an aesthetic that unites the two. It has beautiful rooms with white-and-blue decor, high-tech amenities -- like large flat-screen TVs and iPads -- and floor-to-ceiling windows, many with jaw-dropping views. They're small, though, with entry-level units clocking in at 190 square feet (the Mercer's rooms start at 250 square feet). NoMo's fitness center, though small and in the basement, has state-of-the-art machines with personal screens and headphones. There's an on-site restaurant and bar in a pretty conservatory space with windowed ceilings.