The New York Hilton Midtown is known as much for its storied past as it is for its guestrooms and meeting spaces. Lucille Ball lived there. The Beatles stayed at the hotel before their career-making performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in a guestroom.
Indeed, travelers coming to New York expect awe-inspiring experiences. As a recent transplant from Cleveland, I found that the large skyscrapers and constantly alive city can both overwhelm and excite. But how does a hotel, enveloped by its history, stay relevant in a city that rejects the status quo? With the help of Dallas-based Looney & Associates, the Hilton Midtown completed its first phase of renovations, refurbishing 187 guestrooms and 41 suites on five floors.
It definitely is a sight to behold as managing editor Katie Kervin and I had the chance to tour the renovated rooms along with other journalists for a media event this week. Like all good reporters, we did our due diligence: tasting hors d’oeuvres and sipping the signature Champagne drink while taking in all the work put into updating a massive hotel while retaining its character as a New York City stalwart.
The most noticeable element is the warm gray and blue color palette. The hallways are awash in the ashen tone, leading you to guestrooms that mimic the soothing hue. Although sleek and contemporary—a theme throughout the evening—the rooms are also inviting and reminiscent of home.
“People want that comfort [of home] when they’re traveling,” Ken Jarka, our tour guide for the evening and Hilton’s hotel manager, says. “They want the luxury of home.”
The look in the one-bedrooms suite, guestroom, and presidential suite we toured all highlight the “minimalist and soothing” ambience created by Looney for Hilton. The design philosophy melds together aesthetics and function. Couches and chairs in the suites transform into beds, which were added as a convenience to Hilton’s transient guests; only 20 percent of the hotel’s guests are business travelers, Jarka notes.
“We get family and transient business,” Jarka says. “We push the king room for the business traveler on Monday through Thursday, and for families on weekends.” It’s important that “the rooms function in both ways,” he adds.
The home-like feel is perceived in the 55-inch televisions, the upgraded wifi, the Electric Mirror in the bathroom “that doesn’t fog up,” in the decorations that fill the hotel room—books, vases, and other tchotchkes that make the rooms feel lived in but luxurious. Perhaps the most striking design element is the lack of artwork on the walls. Instead, the window that looks outside into the bustling New York City streets that act as the always-changing canvas for guests.
Artwork throughout the hotel is locally based, as well. Photos of taxis waiting on street corners and the Statue of Liberty line corridors as a reminder to guests that they’re staying in the second greatest city in the world (behind Cleveland, of course).
All hotels eventually need to a facelift, even one as storied (and as big) as the New York Hilton Midtown. But one thing that remains constant at this hotel is that its past and experiences penetrate the space, making all guests feel a part of its history.