By Terry Trucco
When a hotel closes its doors to renovate, you expect to see something dramatic on the other end. So what went on during the year that the St Giles Tuscany New York was shuttered?
Lots, but a bit of background before we proceed. This vintage structure in the middle of a tree-lined Midtown block started life as a pied-a-terre apartment building, a nod to its agreeable locale just south of Grand Central Station. After a stint as the pleasant but frowsy Doral Tuscany, a link in a bygone, moderately priced hotel chain, it was spiffed up to become the W Tuscany, with walls in moody taupe and gray and votives ablaze in the lobby.
I spent a night shortly after the W opened and recall my room’s palatial square footage and
iconic view (the Empire State Building loomed out my window). But this homey building never quite cut it as a hard-partying W. In 2010 the W Tuscany and W Court, a sister hotel down the block, were dropped by W and snapped up by Britain’s St Giles group, a chain of modest London hotels looking to go upscale and international.
Which brings us, three years and a multi-million dollar renovation later, to the Tuscany New York, a St Giles Hotel, to use its refurbished name. Everything is new, from the lobby’s ash floorboards and artfully mismatched furniture to the raised white hallway ceilings. The upbeat look tweaks tradition with a wink at eclecticism and mid-century mod. But the feel is of a small hotel, polished but not flashy, stylish but not arch, contemporary but comfortable in its prewar brick skin. A hint of the old pied-a-terre vibe remains.
The Tuscany flips the prevailing boutique model that balances small rooms with spacious lobbies and bars. Space is lavished on the 124 rooms — the smallest are just under 400 square feet, and suites clock in at 700 square feet and up.
In contrast, the lobby and an adjoining eating area – breakfast room by morning, bar by night – are compact. But their open layout, light walls and pale floors create an expansive feel that makes the most of the less than palatial dimensions.
Credit designer Jeff Lincoln, a Kips Bay Show House veteran best known for residential interiors, with the clever carve-up of the space. You enter through a vaulted, white stone vestibule that’s sleekly rustic – a nod to the real Tuscany, perhaps?
A big white swoop of a check-in desk stands on one side and the Audrey lounge on the other, where the mirrored backdrop you see at breakfast slides open to reveal a well-stocked bar at night. (The lounge is named for Audrey Hepburn who either lived in the building or on the block, depending on who you talk to.)
Keep walking, and you reach twin seating areas – fraternal twin areas, to be precise. Four contemporary wing chairs surround a witty footed coffee table on your left, and on your right, a sofa and suite of chairs are ideal for checking your messages or chilling with your bags before your ride to the airport arrives.
Upstairs, the identically dressed rooms sport the same spirited mix of textures seen in the
lobby. A wood-floor entry leads to the carpeted sleeping area. Creamy leather frames the TV and oak panel headboards, the latter so massive they had to be hoisted in through the windows, says Kenneth Hung, hotel general manager.
The new bathrooms, equally stylish, are blanketed by three walls of white subway tiles and gorgeous gray/green glass bricks on the stall shower wall. But sizes vary, and some bathrooms are teeny.
Not so the suites, which look like one-bedroom apartments with chic king-bedded bedrooms and snazzy, mid-century-mod-inflected sitting rooms big enough to host a small business meeting, a family movie night or a canoodling couple. A discreet cabinet outfitted with a stainless steel mini-fridge and a microwave oven doubles as a kitchenette.
But the showstopper in the suite I saw was a wildly colorful accent wall blanked in the image of an abstract painting, blown up and translated into wallpaper. The zingy image is different in each of the eight suites, so repeat visitors will never be visually bored. My guess is first-timers won’t either.
Rooms start at $299 and include free WiFi.
Tuscany New York, 120 East 39th Street between Lexington and Park Avenue South; 212 685-1100.