NEW YORK STYLE SANCTUARIES
Kit and Tim Kemp have created some of the world’s most deliciously lovely hotels.
The husband and wife team started out in their native England, with the Dorset Square Hotel in 1985. Now, over three decades later and under the Firmdale umbrella, the Kemps operate 10 hotels, eight of them in the United Kingdom and two across the pond, in New York.
Its New York location notwithstanding – minutes from iconic city attractions like Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – The Whitby exudes pure British flair. The 86-room hotel is a style sanctuary in the middle of Midtown Manhattan’s busyness, showcasing the design touches that have come to characterize Firmdale hotels: brilliant color schemes, abundant contemporary artworks and richly patterned textiles. “I work with and am inspired by many contemporary artists and designers and like to use a mix of their work in my own interior schemes,” says Kit Kemp.
The 16-floor hotel was built from the ground up, and while it certainly looks new, it also feels timeless, as if it’s been a pillar of New York for generations. The ground-floor Whitby Bar, for example, with its striking 30-foot pewter bar and warehouse-style windows, is already a haunt for local businesspeople and celebrities. “The Whitby Hotel is a breath of fresh air,” says Kemp. “When you open the doors you should be able to say ‘wow I’ve arrived,’ and ‘it’s something that I’m going to remember,’ and somewhere that you want to return to time and time again.”
Few people knew, back in 2009 when the property first opened, that the Crosby Street Hotel would come to capture the spirit of a neighborhood and represent its entire way of life. “Crosby Street Hotel is in Downtown Soho, down a cobbled street, which used to be a warehouse district filled with artists,” says Kemp. “They have since moved out, but it is this artistic heritage that inspired Crosby Street Hotel.” Art first greets guests outside the hotel entrance, on the street itself, in the form of a majestic feline. “Our latest pet is Crosby the Cat, an oversized sculpture by Colombian artist Botero that sits outside on the street. He has already become a landmark that belongs to everyone in the area.”
Like The Whitby, the Crosby Street Hotel is home to an iconic bar in which all three daily meals are served – in addition to a very British afternoon tea. The Crosby Bar connects Crosby Street to Lafayette Street, complete with high ceilings, grey oak floors and massive windows that allow abundant sunshine to pour in. The bar’s outdoor seating area, set on Lafayette Street, is a quiet haven – an idyllic spot to enjoy cappuccino on warmer New York days.
“The hotel has two top signature suites, The Crosby Suites,” says Kemp. “They’re spacious spaces, with floor-to-ceiling, warehouse-style windows, letting in plenty of light and with spectacular views over the New York skyline. I have just finished redesigning one of them in beautiful fresh fabrics and colors. Reflecting on the Crosby Street Hotel and its enduring appeal, Kemp says that the property has “settled into its space like someone settling into a very comfortable armchair… It’s actually a home, a home away from home.”