For anyone who has ever lived in New York, Times Square becomes a place to avoid. It’s loud, crowded, and you never know when an off-brand Elmo will try to accost you.
Though harrowing at times, the allure is still obvious. Even seasoned New Yorkers will risk the noise and tourists for the bright lights every once in a while. The W New York – Times Square took this into account and embraced it when renovating its Living Room bar area and lobby for the first time in 15 years.
Last week, the HD team risked the safety of their Brooklyn enclaves to check out the new, $10 million space. Partnering with Josh Held Design, the Starwood Hotels & Resorts team aimed to bring back all the best parts of Times Square—the gilded 1920s and ’30s, the neon-infused ’70s and ’80s, and the more mainstream aughts.
In the old space, “when you walked off the elevator [to the lobby and W Living Room], you don’t know where to go or have a sense of space,” explains Josh Held. To remedy that, a new die-cast metal screen acts as a stage drape (nodding to the nearby theater district) and helps break the space into three key parts: the chronicles of light in Times Square; Intermission, which features semi-private rooms for working or socializing; and built-in tufted skybox-inspired banquettes with chandeliers and wallpapers offering matrix of gold pixels. “We wanted to create spaces that speak to the communal environment and the VIP,” says Ted Jacobs, vice president of global design for the W, St. Regis, the Luxury Collection, and Le Méridien Hotels.
An abstract piano acts as a communal table for guests, below which the carpeting reflects sound waves. Beyond sits the bar, where a neon installation whose animated elements light up as the day progresses, spans its 40-foot length, paying homage to Times Square’s history (including some of its more provocative parts).
However, the main inspiration for the $10 million redesign is, unsurprisingly, New Year’s Eve, which is when Times Square becomes the epicenter of New York. A digital installation behind the DJ booth is a countdown clock to January 1st, while a glass and brass “ball” referencing the New Year’s Eve ball in shape and texture functions as a screen during the day, sliding open at night to reveal the luminescent DJ booth that changes color depending on the viewer’s angle.
Leading to and inside the women’s restrooms is a commissioned hand-drawn mural by Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based street artist Lady Aiko depicting the history of the neighborhood.
Times Square is not often seen as an oasis, but the redesigned W Living Room as somehow become a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle outside, while still embracing those very tenets that make Times Square unique unto itself. And, even better, there are no costume characters to scare you away.