By Terry Trucco
A lampshade that looks like a feathered hat. A coffee table perched on the legs of a beast. Silver rosebuds dancing across the ceiling.
This is the kind of lobby you either love or love to loathe, but really, a dash of whimsy never hurt anyone, especially when it’s this amusing.
The best hotel lobbies are a lot like stage sets, expertly produced environments where you step into whatever realm the hotel chooses to create. The Algonquin’s urbane, wood-paneled gathering place flaunts its history. The Ace’s tech-inflected scene is equally conducive to cocktails and laptops.
And the Mondrian SoHo? It’s a fantasy set, where you feel like you’ve taken a detour and fallen into the rabbit hole.
The other-worldliness is palpable, fueled by color (French blue and beige shot with silver) and surfaces – everything looks dreamy and a little surreal, especially when reflected in a wall of floor-to-ceiling blue mirrors. Hang out long enough in this feast of feathers, velvet and patent leather and you’ll wonder why luggage racks are cruising by.
The fantasy is real, or perhaps we should say intentional. Interior designer Benjamin
Noriega-Ortiz looked to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 escapist French film La Belle et La Bete, aka Beauty and the Beast, for inspiration. Voila. He fashioned the lobby as an enchanted castle, from the blue velvet wing chairs, a tad taller than expected, to the round blue poufs balanced on clawed feet. Though filmed in black-and-white, Cocteau’s notes described Belle’s dress as French blue, hence the intense color – cornflower on steroids.
A little French blue goes a long way (we’re not talking neutral navy). A close look at the lobby reveals more beige than blue, from the fabric-covered walls to the pale pickled wood floor, sans shellac; the finish is soft, not shrill. With key components wearing the identical shade of bleu, from side chairs and footstools to three powerful columns, it’s a heady setting.
Roses form a second B et B leitmotif. (Remember the enchanted flower in the bell jar?) Hence the rose-covered jars, stenciled roses on the ceiling and the round rug patterned with blue roses, a subliminal nod to Tennessee Williams.
As for basics, the lobby is large with plentiful seating (if you don’t mind perching on a silver Chinese garden stool or a patent leather bench). The equally fanciful restaurant and bar adjoin; no one demands that you order a coffee or a martini for the privilege of sitting in the lobby. As befits a hotel that opened less than a year ago, everything looks clean and unscratched. We wouldn’t choose this lobby for a business meeting or a serious tete-a-tete. Too playful. Still, if you want to escape the city or flee SoHo’s hoards, we can’t think of a better retreat.
Mondrian SoHo, 9 Crosby Street, New York 10013; 212 389-1000