Renwick Hotel Redesign Focuses on Whimsical Luxury, Modern Design

The Renwick Hotel was once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Thomas Mann.

The Renwick Hotel was once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Thomas Mann.

“I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” That was the dream of F. Scott Fitzgerald, one-­time resident of what is now The Renwick Hotel in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Were he to return today to the brick building built in 1928 as a residence for artists, intellectuals and authors, Fitzgerald could do all that and more.

He would see travelers seeking unexpected design and artistry. His mind would grow contemplating the graffiti-­style mural in the lobby. And he would live in a room with hand painted window shades of the New York City skyline and bathroom ceilings tiled in Art Deco geometric motifs. He would even find ceramic mugs imprinted with a quote from “The Great Gatsby”.

The creative spirits of Fitzgerald and other resident art icons and literary legends, such as John Steinbeck and Thomas Mann, live on in the new Renwick, thanks to the design by Stonehill & Taylor Architects.

Named for James Renwick, Jr., the architect best known for his design of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, The Renwick is a product of a partnership between Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Asset Value Enhancement (hotelAVE), and Meadow Partners, a real estate investor and asset manager. They engaged Stonehill & Taylor, the New York City-based architecture and interior design firm, to deliver a focus on whimsical luxury with a modernistic approach designed for business travelers and leisure­-seekers alike.

“We utilized the hotel’s artistic legacy as a springboard for the design concept,” says Kim Edwards, senior designer. The firm wanted to recall the artistry of the 1920s but filter it through a modern lens. The genesis was the emerging modernism of that era, especially influenced by abstract expressionism, Italian futurism and Constructivism.

To that end, The Renwick spotlights functional art sourced from 19 local New York artists who were tapped to create pieces for the hotel. Interestingly, there is no framed art.

The hotel commissioned Brooklyn­-born rising artist and doodler Gregory Siff, who splits his time between Los Angeles and New York, to paint the lobby mural. Known for his graffiti­-like style that blurs the lines between Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Street Art, Siff’s work at The Renwick is, at once, emotion, immediate, and personal — a nod to the creative thoughts of an artist at work.

That creative spirit flows through to the property’s 173 loft-­style guestrooms and suites. “We sought to create guestrooms with a residential feel that would meet the needs of a contemporary architect or artist, both as homage to the building’s history and as a solution to limited public spaces for work and relaxation,” Edwards notes.

The Renwick guest rooms feature hand-painted shades and easel-inspired furnishings.

The Renwick guest rooms feature hand-painted shades and easel-inspired furnishings.

Custom furnishings reference items found in an artist’s studio. Touches include easel­-inspired television stands, desks and vanities reminiscent of the artist’s workbench, nightstands intended to mimic flat file cabinets and a patterned carpet that simulates paint­-splattered concrete. Origami kits hang from pushpin corkboards above the desks, inviting guests to create an unofficial mascot of New York City in a paper­-crafted pigeon. Guests are encouraged to create their own art using an in­-room post card and mailing it in the original mail chute for a chance to have their piece displayed.

While visually stimulating the senses, the guest rooms embrace comfort too, especially when it comes to the bathrooms.

“The entire bathroom product is a big deal to our customers. We are focused on bringing the business traveler to our hotel and the bathroom plays a role in having a travel director accept us into their travel program,” says Susan Richardson, director of sales and marketing for The Renwick.

Stonehill & Taylor brought a New York City urban vibe into the guest bathrooms, utilizing white subway tiles outlined along the perimeter with black tiles, as well as concrete­-like tile floors. The ceilings feature a custom wall covering of muted blue with pale grey geometric line work. “This ties into the underlying concepts of art in unexpected places and utilizing the basic element of drawing the line in different ways and forms,” Edwards notes.

When it came to selecting just the right bath fixtures and fittings to support the specific “1920s meets 2015” feel of The Renwick, Stonehill & Taylor opted for DXV, a portfolio of the decorative plumbing fixture and faucet manufacturer American Standard. DXV, now part of the LIXIL Water Technology Americas business unit, was a natural fit for The Renwick, given that its collections re­-imagine the design movements of the past 140 years since American Standard Brands have been in business.

Guest bathrooms have a New York City urban vibe with white subway tiles outlined along the perimeter with black tiles and concrete-like tile floors.

Guest bathrooms have a New York City urban vibe with white subway tiles outlined along the perimeter with black tiles and concrete-like tile floors.

DXV fixtures and fittings do not merely reproduce styles from each era. Rather, they are inspired by historical designs, reinterpreting them in light of today’s aesthetic and performance demands. Each of the DXV movements, Classic, Golden Era, Modern and Contemporary, includes bath fixture suites and complementary faucet collections.

“In this case, the fixtures were more about subtle design and function that played well with the other elements in the space,” Edwards says. “We like how the streamlined design supports the overall design.” For example, the contemporary design of the DXV Lyndon two­-piece toilet highlights forms and emphasizes symmetry and precision. This dual-flush elongated toilet demonstrates style with its smooth­-sided concealed trap-way and activation button on the tank lid.

“The vanity is reminiscent of an artist’s workbench,” Edwards explains. It incorporates the DXV Percy widespread faucet highlighted with geometric lever handles. The vanity features the rectangular American Standard Boulevard under-counter lavatory.

“The fixtures are quality and the clean lines are modern,” Edwards points out.

“The shower experience in particular is valued by guests. Water pressure, hot water, intuitive controls, height of the shower head, hand shower ease of use and whether the shower controls can be operated prior to getting in the shower all can make or break a guest’s stay,” Edwards notes. For the best guest experience, Stonehill & Taylor designers selected the American Standard multifunction rain showerhead that delivers relaxation on demand with the three spray patterns: gentle rain, hard rain, or massage spray. It is complemented by the DXV Percy personal shower set and hand shower, accompanied by the DXV Percy lever handle diverter trim.
Renwick guests are treated to a bathing experience in tubs accented with DXV Rem deck mount tub faucet with multifunction hand shower.

“Touring the showroom and gaining a better understanding of the collection and company was helpful during the model room process. Quick turn-around on pricing and responses were key in our time crunch. The rollout was seamless as far as I know. We didn’t hear of any issues with pricing, lead times, missing or broken components. No news is good news!” she adds.

Hotel staff are impressed as well. “The room attendants and maintenance staff like the layout and design of the bathrooms and their fixtures,” Richardson notes. “They find them easy to keep clean and from a maintenance perspective, it is easy to get to most of the mechanicals when needed. The subway tiles are simple to wipe down and the in-tile drains are a nice feature.”

Back in the lobby, scrawled on the mural is another quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I hope you live a life you are proud of.” Yes, the entire team that reinvented his artist residence can be proud of the masterpiece they recreated.

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