There’s a brand new hotel in Manhattan that’s so new that it’s not even finished. But that’s not keeping guests away. Or nosy travel enthusiasts like me.
So how exactly does one find out about a hotel like the brand new LIFE Hotel, located at 19 West 31st Street in the NoMad part of town (NOrth of MADison Square Park, for those in the know)?
In my case, they simply started following me on Twitter and seeing their bio mention being located “in the former LIFE Magazine building” had me itching to see if history and luxury could unite.
I was recently up in NYC (it’s a quick 3 hour train ride from my hometown of Baltimore) for the New York International Auto Show and was staying close to Penn Station. After I had worn out my feet and camera lens (or so I thought), I headed back near the station and realized I had a lot of extra time before my train.
Turns out I was within walking distance of the LIFE Hotel so I decide to scout it out.
I found it! But as you can see, I had to go looking for it. Even though I knew it was open for business, it looked a little incomplete and as I walked into the entrance, I wasn’t sure if I was even in the right place.
The temporary entryway is exactly that. A temporary venue allowing guests to enter the building with flowers and a little artistic license to greet you. The entryway is actually in the process of being renovated in order to make it fully handicap accessible.
But inside didn’t make me feel any more sure of where I was.
More artistic graffiti but this time, it served a purpose. The temporary wall displayed the vision of the large, open space lounge and restaurant under the hand of Chef Michael Vignola. Along with the vision were signatures and messages from visitors from all over the world.
Across from the wall was a lounge, of sorts. Again, it was temporary in nature.
Just beyond the entrance were a few elevators and a makeshift table where I politely asked if I had reached reception. Then things started looking up.
It was reception! And when I told them I was a travel blogger interested in a possible room tour, they immediately accommodated me!
After a short wait, I was greeted by Erin Pepper, VP of Brand and Experience for LIFE Hotel. I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide. It was clear that Erin knew a lot about the history and renovation of the building and also the vision for the hotel.
Built in 1893, it became home to LIFE magazine in 1895 where it served not only as the offices for the magazine but also the residences for the staff members. And that’s where we started. On the upper floors where the former residences existed.
When renovating, they uncovered hidden gems like these columns that had previously been covered up. And they retained as many of the original features as possible, including this marble topped staircase.
At the top of the stairs, we headed to my favorite room on the tour, the Premium King room with sleeper sofa. This room has a short hallway with closet and a small staircase leading to the elevated room.
The bathrooms, as with much of the rest of the accommodations, consist of a total remodel with a definite nod to its historic past. New, modern conveniences designed with respect to the character of the hotel.
There are multiple room types in the 10 floors, 98 room hotel. In fact, no two rooms are alike. So it would take multiple stays at LIFE Hotel to see it all.
The other rooms I was able to see were equally as beautiful mixing modern elegance with old world simplicity all while embracing what makes the era of the building unique.
As with the columns, beautiful wood molding was found throughout the building. It was either restored or replaced with period-style molding for a rich, clean, elegant feel.
The flooring also looked to be close to the original style of the building. It’s all new but keeps with the theme.
The only thing that surprised me was the lack of LIFE magazine anywhere in the building. I expected to see magazine covers scattered throughout. It turns out that the connection LIFE Hotel between and LIFE magazine is simply in the commonality of the building.
But if it’s LIFE magazine history you’re looking for, it’s rumored that LIFE magazine contributor and famed illustrator Norman Rockwell stayed in the building from time to time. Wouldn’t it be cool to sleep where Norman slept?
LIFE Hotel is positioning itself as a value boutique hotel and once everything is completed in late spring (to include the lounge, restaurant, and downstairs speakeasy), I don’t think they’ll have any trouble filling the unique rooms. And I hope to be in one of them!