Cool Hunting 2009
Top hoteliers reveal the best new design discoveries in London, Texas, New York City, Buenos Aires & Mexico City.
Alex Calderwood, music impresario and partner in the Ace Hotel Group
In 1999, using the skills he honed as the head of record label Sweet Mother, Calderwood and friends launched the Ace Hotel Group, combining two BT-friendly goals: stylishness and affordability. The first site was a renovated Seattle flophouse, and today their vision is a proven success, with Ace Hotel locations in four cities, including a new outpost in Manhattan's Flatiron neighborhood. Each property reflects a sense of place—green woolen blankets in Seattle; cowskin rugs in Palm Springs, Calif.; garment racks used as closets in New York—while a cool practicality threads them together. Top projects The Ace Seattle flagship made a hot commodity of $99 rooms that don't skimp on visual appeal; branches in Portland, Ore., and Palm Springs expanded on that formula. Last February, Ace New York transformed the turn-of-the-century Hotel Breslin into a contemporary refuge, with ebonized wood, shiny subway tiles, and retro-looking Smeg fridges. This fall, the Breslin, a restaurant run by the owners of the downtown gastropub Spotted Pig will open off the lobby.
His NYC favorites
Project No. 8
In the newly booming area where Chinatown meets the Lower East Side, this 2-year-old boutique stocks clothing, accessories, drawing tools, and a random assortment of items from around the world. "It's one of those unique places that you have to go and discover to understand," says Calderwood, who recently reached out to Project No. 8's owners to open a second store—called No. 8a—on the ground floor of Ace New York later this year.
A "young, independent spirit" attracted Calderwood to the wood-paneled café, which opened this past spring in the garden level of a 19th-century NoHo town house. Co-owner Carlos Quirarte, formerly of Earnest Sewn jeans, has covered the honey-colored shelves with the kind of gear he loves—everything from soaps to knitting needles to teas.
At this tiny second-story, gallery-like shop downtown, owner Alisa Grifo displays each utilitarian piece—like rubber stamps of President Obama's smiling face or simple birch-and-pine baskets from Finland—with a witty description. "It's all so cleverly curated," Calderwood says.
150 Greene St., 212/204-7100, mossonline.com
Housing Works Thrift Shops
housingworks.org for locations
City Opera Thrift Shop
222 E. 23rd St., 212/684-5344, nycopera.com
Ace Hotel New York
20 W. 29th St., 212/679-2222, acehotel.com, from $169
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
16 W. 29th St., 212/679-2222, thebreslin.com, entrées from $20
Project No. 8
138 Division St., 212/925-5599, projectno8.com
26 Bond St., thesmilenyc.com
95 Spring St., 212/226-8601, kioskkiosk.com
In the aftermath of Argentina's 2001 financial crash, a storm of factors—expensive imports, a culture of craft—caused design to blossom throughout the country. Now aided by an influx of expats, it continues to flourish in Buenos Aires: Browse shops like Tienda Puro Diseño, an outpost of furniture and accessories by up-and-comers, or take a street-art tour with Graffitimundo. At day's end you'll deserve a meal at Tegui, a restaurant with updated Argentine cuisine where the strict black-and-white design makes for an art deco effect.
Patricia O'Shea and Tom Rixton, a PR executive and a music producer turned hoteliers
When they opened Home Hotel in 2005, O'Shea, a B.A. native, and Rixton, a Brit, were blazing a trail with one of the city's first boutique hotels. The entrepreneurs are lifelong collectors (mid-century modern furniture, vintage wallpapers), and the interiors they create are eclectic reflections of those passions. Top project Home Hotel uses glass and cement throughout the airy 20-room property. Severe lines are softened by the couple's own floral wallpapers, and there's a pool and garden on-site. On the horizon The recession has stalled plans for a countryside or beach branch, but in the meantime, they've unveiled two loft-style rooms with kitchens.