A New (York) Kid on the Block: The Warren Street Hotel


It’s been a while since I was last in New York. It was pre-Covid, even pre-Trump. It was vibrant, intoxicating, positively fizzing with energy. New York, truly, has a character utterly unique among cities. In the time since, while it hasn’t had nearly the amount of hardship others have had to endure – Los Angeles and their homeless camps, the increase in crime in San Francisco – I’d heard parts of the city had started to lose their shine; midtown was getting grubby, the subway was becoming risky, one should avoid the quieter streets at night. It sounded like a throwback to the 70s. Could I expect the New York I remembered when I was last there?

Two weeks ago, I returned, for the first time in nearly ten years, and, fortunately, nothing of what I’d been told came to bear. In many ways, New York has been immune to the hardships that seem to be impacting other parts of the States. And if arriving in TriBeCa, a neighbourhood that was always an old favourite, was a reflection on New York now, it was a welcome back to the New York I remember. Helped, in no small part, by the opening of a new hotel that definitely blows any misconceptions out the water.

TriBeCa (photo by Marley White, courtesy of NYC Tourism)

The Warren Street Hotel is the latest in the portfolio from Firmdale, a clutch of desirable boutique properties who are very much doing their own thing; including the Charlotte Street, Covent Garden and Soho Hotels in London, and Crosby Street in New York. Come to think of it, when it comes to naming, if you’re going to stick your flag in the ground, why not take that of your location and make a statement.

And, if Warren Street is anything to go by, they certainly do that. As my cab rounds the corner, a vision of glass and steel in aquamarine blue stands proud of the muted tones of its neighbours. These windows are not just floor-to-ceiling, but full width. Entering my 10th floor suite, that window, making up the entire wall in both the lounge and bedroom, practically upstages what then makes these properties for sheer statement factor, that of their interior design.

Firmdale’s creative director is the designer Kit Kemp, and walking into the lobby it’s as if she greets you in person. You enter a riot of colour; vivid primes, abstract prints, contrasting patterns and arresting artworks. It’s an absolute visual feast. What’s more, there’s something about walking into a room designed by Kemp that not only feels inviting, but is utterly conducive to what you would do at home if you could. It’s bold, but not brazen. It’s eclectic, but not quirky. There are several signature touches; textured fabrics – the linen wall coverings are wonderfully tactile – beautifully framed pictures, and red accents; in this case, two scarlet painted chests of drawers in the living room.

Couple that with eclectic artwork and objects d’art, Kemp’s own Tall Trees toiletries and Spode china in the hidden kitchenette – and an absolutely gorgeous bed with a gargantuan headboard – and you have a room you really don’t want to leave. Kemp’s book, ‘Every Room Tells a Story’, sits on the coffee table, and as I unpack and discover the amenities, it makes me consider every element, more than I’ve done in any hotel room I’ve entered. But it’s only when I pull up the blind, revealing the view, that I realise what an enviable position I’m in. There in front of me is One World Trade Centre, soaring above the buildings immediately in front of me.

The site itself is a mere handful of blocks away, and after a must-have cup of tea, brewed in a teapot (yes, you read that right) from the kitchenette, and served in that Spode china, I wander down to the site. The area is transformed from what you might have imagined before; the new building (although now 10 years old) – soaring, striking, elegant – looks over the memorial; a cascading sculpture created in the footprint of the former buildings. Amid the modernity that’s now very much absorbed into the area, with shopping, restaurants, new attractions like the Oculus, and the 9/11 museum, there is a solemnity to it, most notable from the occasional white rose placed in the names to mark the birthdays of those lives lost.

The Oculus at the World Trade Center (photo by Brittany Petronella, courtesy of NYC Tourism)

I wander back via the Hudson and Rockefeller Park, for a glimpse of Liberty in the distance, and venture north into Chelsea and the West Village. I’m in town, too, during the Biennial at The Whitney Museum of American Art, somewhere I’d never visited in spite of my times in the city; symptomatic, too, for tourists who come just to tick off the Met.

Amid its collection of works by leading artists like Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, and Georgia O’Keeffe, the Whitney Biennial is the museum’s flagship exhibition and leading survey of contemporary American art, and has been, remarkably, for over 90 years. The 2024 edition, entitled Even Better Than the Real Thing, features 71 contemporary artists exploring and interpreting critical and timely issues, providing many a talking point for the city’s cognoscenti. In this case, subject matters include gender identity and AI.

Among several stand-out works, a memorable favourite, almost hidden away on the 3rd floor, is that of Pippa Garner’s satirical take on our consumerist culture with her ‘impossible inventions’; countless madcap ideas sketched out in the style of retro magazine adverts. Two hours of art and a long morning on foot makes for a welcome stop at the museum’s new Frenchette bakery, too, for a pizz’ete and an energising yuzu soda.

There’s much else new besides. Since my last visit, the now much-trodden High Line had opened, conveniently, a stone’s throw from the Whitney, and having been given a different perspective on the city, I drop off at Chelsea and call in on the certainly-not-new Chelsea Market. It’s been a ubiquitous staple of New York visits ever since my very first back in, ahem, the mid noughties. That said, it’s changed considerably since I was last there. Grocery outlets and market produce are still on offer but it’s now very much the preserve of trendy eateries and boutique shops, but very much retains all its red brick charm.

It’s very easy to simply keep walking around the city, my Garmin clocking 16,000+ steps as arrive back at the Warren Street hotel, collapsing into an armchair in the lounge, clamouring for the succour of a most welcome drink and snack from the honesty bar. It’s a reminder that it’s impossible to try to do everything in one day, and as I eye up dinner in the restaurant, I’m already considering the next day’s adventure.

New York, I’m back, baby, and I’m loving you all the more.

The Warren Street Hotel, 86 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007. A superior room starts at $875 per night. For more information, including details of other properties in the Firmdale portfolio, please visit www.firmdalehotels.com.

The Whitney Biennial runs until 11th August 2024. For more information, please visit www.whitney.org. For more information about the World Trade Center, including what to see and do, please visit www.officialworldtradecenter.com. For more information about the Chelsea Market, including details of shops and eateries, and for details of what’s on, please visit www.chelseamarket.com.

For inspiration on things to do in New York City, and to start planning your trip, please visit the official tourism website at www.nyctourism.com.

Hotel photos by Simon Brown