In the crowded boutique hotel market, Morgans boasts an interesting claim to fame: it was the first original ‘boutique hotel’. The term was coined when Morgans was developed by the late French interior designer Andree Putman for Ian Schrager in the 1980s. (The hotel recently underwent a second refurbishment by the same Andree Putman, in 2008). Given the current 80′s revival, now felt like a good moment to see how it has fared the last decades. (In the interim Schrager has kept ahead of the hotel game with developments including the über-fashionable Hudson). The association of high-design and Mad Men location led us to expect – and fear – a serious dose of attitude so we were surprised when we discovered a rather simple, and even familial ambiance.
It’s ‘classic NY’ in a beautiful red brick building. Anonymous – there’s no hotel sign or name on the front door – which somehow gives you that wonderful feeling of coming back home at the end of the day. The sentiment is heightened by very cosy and intimate common areas, such as the 4th floor salon or the little outdoor terrace which is great spot to hang out if you can’t afford the penthouse on the same floor… (Ed– Hell, even if you can, why not slum it for a change?) On a sunny day, you can make the most of the deck chairs and the gorgeous views onto the Empire State building.
The staff members were friendly and professional, without overdoing it. The room service manager didn’t hesitate to join us in the morning at our breakfast table to help us with our program for the day, he also shared some very amusing hotel anecdotes – sorry, I can’t remember any of them! – and his favourite addresses. Breakfast, by the way, was lovely. Tasty and generous, and included in the room’s price.
As far as the clientele goes, it’s a good balance of European tourists and professionals working in the area, which gives it a nice local flavour. Oh, and Andree Putman is a regular client too.
We asked for a room on a top floor to get away from the traffic noise and access more natural light. Our room – #1401 – was like the hotel: simple and comfortable, very chic but still warm – not like an overdone design hotel which makes you feel like you’re sleeping in a stand at a contemporary art fair. The room was not huge, but spacious enough by NY standards, with enough space to store big suitcases and clothes. (Ed–if only we could say the same thing about the Hudson.) There was a large couch along the window (see view from our window below!), the bed was formidable and the bathroom small but well-appointed.
You can’t easily beat the location, right bang in Midtown, a block away from 5th Avenue, two blocks from the Empire State Building, three from Grand Central Station. Times Square and Central Park are around the corner, about 15 minutes walk away. It’s a great base to explore everything by foot.
The building next door hosts a convenience store which is, well, convenient, when you come back to the hotel totally knackered and want to get something – food, drinks, pharmacy – without going back out.
What We Love
the location, comfort and intimacy of the place, the friendliness of the staff. (Not to mention the legendary design pieces that pepper the hotel such as the armchairs and foldable lacquered tables by the 1930s designer Jean-Michel Frank.)
Room to Improve
WiFi wasn’t free except in the 4th floor salon – we think that’s a faux pas for a hotel of this standing.
Take possession of the 4th floor salon. Comfortably set-up with TV, books, magazines, hot drinks and free wifi, it feels just like home. Somehow no-one seems to use the space, so you could almost go there in your pyjamas. (Ed– Why not get in theme and perhaps pack a satin robe?)
237 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, United States
We racked our brains for something that captures the unique Morgans atmosphere that Michel describes. We were thinking, 1980s glamour, with a jazz undercurrent. The answer came almost too easily: Sade’s moody 80’s classic Smooth Operator from the aptly titled Diamond Life album. Synchronise your digital watch: here’s the video, complete with double-breasted jackets, oversized calculators and extra lashings of sax.
Reviewer • Michel Beziat
Michel Beziat is a freelance copywriter and journalist specializing in watchmaking. He lives (where else?) in Switzerland, in the lakeside town of Lausanne. In his spare time he collects antique Chinese furniture. Admirably Michel does not have a website, a blog, a Facebook or Twitter account. If you want to learn much more about him, you’ll probably have to visit him. In person. In Switzerland.