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NYC's Beekman Hotel
Designed as offices for lawyers and small businesses needing proximity to municipal facilities, the redbrick building embellished with terra-cotta opened in 1883 with the anticipation of enormous profits. Lasting success proved elusive, however, and the small floor plates, typically Victorian, stumped a succession of landlords. Since the grand courtyard became recognized as a fire-safety worry, it got boxed off and forgotten. Enclosed by walls in lath and plaster, the onetime balconies became featureless corridors, and the offices emptied as the surrounding neighborhood declined. “The building was in flux for decades, because it was almost too expensive to dismantle,” Randolph Gerner notes.

The hotel has two public entrances. Visitors arriving to drink and dine, either at top chef Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells or at seminal restaurateur Keith McNally’s Augustine, can come through the original front doorway to enter the courtyard lounge, where walls are a mottled green, and sofas sport velvet upholstery. Meanwhile, travelers with luggage enter around the corner and stop at the reception desk, which is upholstered in Persian rugs and lit by bronze lamps with elaborate fringed shades. Proceeding to the elevators involves passing through one end of the lounge, behind a run of bookcases conceived as cabinets of curiosity. As Martin Brudnizki explains, “Hotel guests can glimpse all the fun without having to walk through it.”

Gutting the onetime offices yielded guest rooms and suites with a loft look. “Some of the windows are huge, each sash 3 feet high,” GKV principal Benita Welch notes. Oak floorboards are wide and distressed—reminiscent of period rooms at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum—and ceilings are painted a fashionably foggy Thames gray. Brudnizki calls his aesthetic inspirations equally British and American.

Furnishings appear to have evolved stylistically over decades, as if outmoded pieces had been occasionally swapped out for more fashionable updates. Nightstands are purposely mismatched. Lampshades aren’t perfect pairs, because the lamps aren’t either. One lamp always has a base in the form of a cobalt-glazed Fu dog—Brudnizki grew up to embrace his mother’s affection for Chinese ceramics. The Fu dog, cast especially for the Beekman, contributes to an overall effect we’ll call mischievous historical fiction. “Layering styles and periods gives a very residential angle. I didn’t think the rooms should feel like hotel rooms,” he explains.

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