The rebirth of Hotel Chelsea – and three other legendary hotels
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As New York stories go, the Hotel Chelsea’s is good enough to have filled pages already. Opened in 1884 as one of the first Manhattan private co-ops (and, at 12 storeys, then the tallest building on the island), it evolved through the 20th century on a wild up-and-down trajectory involving multiple ownership changes, famous tenants (among them Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Jasper Johns, Betsey Johnson, Patti Smith and Bob Dylan), notorious film and photography shoots (Warhol’s Chelsea Girls; Madonna’s Sex), and a handful of legendary demises (such as that of Dylan Thomas, in 1953, who supposedly sank an entire bottle of whiskey in his final hours). With hotel guests partially subsidising long-term residents, and grand old (if virtually falling down) interiors, it continued to attract romantics until its sale and closure – as a hotel, anyway – in 2011.
Cut to spring 2022, and the Hotel Chelsea is open, once again, for business. After yet more ownership scuffles, tenants’ rights agitations that stalled all work for two-plus years, and the pandemic, it has quietly, partially reopened under owners Richard Born, Ira Drukier and Sean MacPherson. That’s a formidable New York triad – between them the three are responsible for The Mercer, The Bowery, The Jane and Maritime Hotels, the Waverly Inn, and half a dozen more seminal Manhattan addresses (MacPherson has been called “the man who shaped Downtown” by The New York Times).
What have they changed? Some original elements remain: artworks collected throughout the heyday ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, by the likes of Donald Baechler and Sandro Chia, for instance. Fireplaces in some rooms, stained glass in others. True to the building’s hybrid hotel-residence history, these still range hugely in size, from queen-bed studios to two-bedroom pieds-à-terre. But the vestiges of the past factor into a master refit: the Hotel Chelsea monogram is now inlaid into entrance halls, and embossed on doorknobs; bed linens are customised 400-thread (also with logo); the pieds-à-terre feature Lacanche cooktops and ranges in the kitchens.
Downstairs, the lobby and lobby bar are the beneficiaries of a careful polish. The mosaic floors and inlaid ceiling have been simply but meticulously restored, while plush solariums have been added to the lobby bar, where both hotel guests and anyone who books have access to a smart cocktail and small-plates menu. Rooftop spa and fitness centre, check (for summer); semi-private dining room in the original El Quijote restaurant, check. Another, eventual French-ish restaurant, check. Depending on one’s nostalgist leanings, the new Hotel Chelsea is either a travesty of history, or instantly on the must-do list. From $295; hotelchelsea.com
Vineyard Haven: west coast edition
Healdsburg, in the north of Sonoma County, keeps going from strength to strength, with farmers and restaurateurs, designers and artists contributing to the scene. The newest venture is The Madrona, opened last month – a c1880 ranch house-turned-restaurant and inn previously called Madrona Manor, which San Francisco interior designer Jay Jeffers bought in 2021 and has renovated as a collection of super-luxe guest rooms (in the main house) and private bungalows (scattered across the estate’s eight acres).
Jeffers hews closely to the late-Victorian bones and aestheticist spirit of the house, with rugs commissioned from local artists, plenty of ornate, ebonised-mahogany headboards, and hundreds of antiques (including many that featured in the property when Jeffers acquired it). One other key holdover from its previous iteration: chef Jesse Mallgren, who carried his Michelin star at Madrona Manor for 13 years, and will run The Madrona’s Dining Room and al fresco Palm Terrace. From $750; themadronahotel.com
Remaking La Dolce Vita on Capri
Trying to find an empty accommodation on the Amalfi Coast for summer 2022 already has a Squid Game-like element about it, so scant a commodity is availability. Good news for the Capri aficionados, where a bit more will come online next month in the form of Il Capri, a high-design update of a sweet but decidedly agé four-star hotel. The new owners – a French hospitality group founder and his Neapolitan wife, whose family has a historic presence on the island – have brought jet-setty style and boho chic to the 21 rooms and suites: wicker, soft colours that span the beige-to‑pink spectrum and tall windows framed in translucent linen.
But the real ambitions are for the public spaces, among them a 145-seat restaurant, Vesuvio, and the Caprirama Bar, with lots of outdoor/garden seating. And we’ve already earmarked a morning to explore its fabulous-sounding retail concept, stocked with vinyl from Neapolitan funk label Periodica Records, books published by La Conchiglia, the local Caprese boutique imprint and chic collaborations with old-world tailors Marinella and nouveau French fashion label Nomasei, among others. From €590; ilcaprihotel.com
90 Years young in Bermuda
Bermuda without Cambridge Beaches is, for many, unimaginable. The gracious 99-year-old resort, with four stretches of pinkish-white sand, two private coves and sweet guest cottages (a few of them dating back to the 17th century) dotting a 23-acre peninsula, embodies the charms of the island like almost no other address on it. As for so many such places, the past two years put the future in peril.
The new owners have made a massive investment, and tapped talent from New York to shape a new experience without forsaking what makes Cambridge Beaches special. Kellyann Hee brings Soho House-design‑team experience to the decor; St John Frizell, the co-founder of Brooklyn’s cult-cool oyster and chop house, Gage & Tollner, and its even cooler second-floor cocktail bar, Sunken Harbor Club, has opened a Sunken Harbor outpost here. There are new spa menus and water sports programmes, but, it’s promised, all the old gentility is still intact. From $495; cambridgebeaches.com
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