This Kit Kemp-Designed Hotel Is a Polished, Boutique Gem Hidden in Upper Midtown Manhattan

The stretch of upper Midtown Manhattan that borders Central Park is sort of like its own luxurious little world. It has high-end shops — from Bergdorf Goodman to basically every big-name designer (Gucci, Van Cleef, you name it) — and cultural institutions such as the MoMA. And, of course, it’s just steps away from the largest and most famous green space. In terms of hotels, travelers have many options as well. Though most icons, like The Plaza and The St. Regis New York, exude an old-school sense of grandeur. Visitors seeking a smaller, more contemporary boutique place to stay will absolutely love The Whitby, one of two Firmdale Hotels in the Big Apple (the other being the impeccable Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo).

Designed by British interior icon Kit Kemp, this hideaway on 56th Street at the corner of 5th Avenue exudes her trademark mix of composure and whimsy. The lobby resembles an art gallery with carved alabaster sculptures by Stephen Cox and a 

rainbow-hued loom woven by Hermione Skye.

The 30-foot-long powter bar with baskets hanging above and protective Hercules statues and painting-clad restaurant bring in a crowd of in-the-know locals and travelers. For professionals, it’s often a meeting point for a tête-à-tête, while Manhattanites come to nosh on green gem lettuce Caesar salads and porcini-encrusted diver scallops. In the back, the light-drenched orangery shows off pink walls, wrought-iron chandeliers, and hand-etched porcelain vessels that depict iconic New York City landmarks. There’s also a lovely little leafy patio off the side with a few bistro tables. 

With book-filled built-ins, a fireplace, and sofas that make you want to sit down for a while, the drawing room provides the ideal spot for guests to catch up on work or just pass the time between appointments during the day. In the evening (or whenever you clock out), the intimate space beckons with an honesty bar stocked with top-shelf bottles. 

Upstairs, the 86 accommodations ooze pied-à-terre energy with a masterful use of color and texture. The individually designed bedrooms feel like sumptuous residences with patterned wallpaper, oversized embroidered headboards, floor-to-ceiling windows, and plush beds. All the snoozing quarters on the higher floors have tubs in the white marble bathrooms for a relaxing soak at the end of the day. Many boast outdoor terraces with skyline views — an unexpected and impossible-to-pass-up perk in Manhattan. Suites add separate living and sleeping spaces. Occupying the entire top floor, the splurge-worthy penthouse takes the crown with its spacious layout, residential panache, and sweeping veranda. 

While we don’t typically focus on event spaces, there are always cases worthy of exception and The Whitby is one of them. The lower floor houses a giant, 130-seat theater illuminated by neon lights. It’s yet another example of the delightfully surprising aspects of the hotel, which is in and of itself rather remarkable if you think about the fact that somewhere this cool and charming exists in Midtown. 

Top Takeaways

Location: New York City, New York

Rating: Five-Star

The Vibe: An eclectic and inviting, fabric-swathed oasis in upper Midtown Manhattan. 

Food + Drink: The eye-catching restaurant and bar serves food that’s as artfully presented — and delicious — as the setting would suggest for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t miss afternoon tea featuring warm sips and bubbly, plus scones with clotted cream, finger sandwiches, and cakes. 

Amenities: Restaurant/bar; drawing room; state-of-the-art theatre/screening room; event spaces; gym; concierge

Our Favorite Thing About the Hotel: Nobody does textiles quite like Kit Kemp. Also, the mannequins in each bedroom are a playful and totally on-brand touch. 

5 Nearby Attractions: Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman, Carnegie Hall, MoMA, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Any Personal Neighborhood Recs? If by some stroke of luck, you’re able to snag a table reservation at Polo Bar, go out and buy a lotto ticket. Jokes aside, this Ralph Lauren restaurant lives up to the hype with a classic yet decadent menu and an upscale atmosphere to match. When the mood calls for a fancy and fanciful fine dining experience, order the degustation menu at Caviar Russe.

Rooms: 86 individually designed bedrooms and suites

Pricing: Rooms start at $995/night  

Closest Airport: LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

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