63 W. 38th St., New York; 646-664-0310, refineryhotelnewyork.com; 197 rooms starting at $399 (U.S).
"Does anyone still wear a hat?" Elaine Stritch first posed the question in 1970 in Stephen Sondheim's Company – and the short answer is: no. The upside to the decline in women's headwear, however, is that a former millinery factory just a few blocks away from where Stritch sang The Ladies Who Lunch has been recently transformed into one of New York's hottest new boutique hotels: Refinery Hotel.
Close to the Broadway district's theatres, but at a safe distance from the chaos of Times Square, Refinery Hotel is found in the heart of the Garment District, a square-mile slice of Midtown Manhattan sandwiched between 5th and 9th avenue. While not many garments are made thereabouts these days, costume designers and Project Runway contestants alike still flock to the 40,000-square-foot Mood Fabrics (225 W. 37th St.) for fancy fabrics and trims; if you feel like it, you can buy yourself some white sheets there and then re-enact Ghostbusters at the New York Public Library (5th Avenue at 42nd Street), which is just around the corner from the hotel.
Architects Stonehill & Taylor went full industrial chic in recycling what was known as the Colony Arcade Building into this gorgeous hotel full of loft-style guest rooms – from warm wood, to exposed pipes, to water tanks and inner fixtures reworked into the ceilings and furniture. All around are reminders of the original purpose of the 1912 factory – whether the glimmering wall of antique hat-shaping tools hanging behind reception (they look like melon ballers), the scissors-and-spools patterned carpet in front of it, or a picture of a woman in a pillbox hat painted right on a wall. (Much of the original art in the public spaces has a QR code underneath, so you can learn more about creator and provenance.)
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Mingle at the Refinery Rooftop – a spacious bar with an indoor-outdoor patio and retractable glass roof that affords a Jay-Z-worthy view of the Empire State Building – and you'll find a well-dressed crowd in the evening quaffing artisanal cocktails that, according to the hotel website, might "cleanse your palate, shift your mood, or evoke a childhood memory with every sip." If alcoholic beverages do bring back memories of childhood, the bartenders – like all the staff here – are friendly without being ingratiating and will surely will help you through that trauma.
Refinery Hotel is best used as a jumping off spot for cultural excursions (did I mention Kinky Boots and Rocky: The Musical are a hop, skip and a jump away?) rather than for cocooning (you won't find any in-room spa treatments here). But with handsome rooms featuring 12-foot ceilings, comfortable couches and a well-stocked mini-bar complete with a respectably sized bottle of Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, you may be tempted to invite friends over and show the space off like you're Mad Men's Pete Campbell with your own swinging pied-à-terre in the city. Before Pete's wife leaves him and takes the children and he gets kinda sad, that is.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Located on the first floor, Parker & Quinn Restaurant – an eatery that straddles the line between bistro and pub – serves breakfast, brunch and is open until 11 p.m. all week long. Executive chef Jeffrey Forrest is, naturally, into the seasonal and the handcrafted; indeed, his staff apparently butcher the animals on offer, "from the ranch, from the coop and from the pen" as it says on the menu, themselves. Everything I had there was perfectly pleasant – notably a shaved prime rib sandwich that was recommended – but with 14 subway lines within walking distance and a world of restaurants within reach, P&Q is more of a convenient stop than a destination in itself.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
Leaning back in my room's chair on oddly placed casters after a triumphant day of theatre-going, I suddenly found myself on the ground admiring the underside of one of the custom-made desks crafted in homage to the Singer sewing machines once used by the hat makers here. And this was before I even touched the whisky. I'd prefer my next visit to involve fewer sore bottoms, but otherwise, it's easy to see why this stylish hotel was named one of the Top 25 in the U.S. this year by TripAdvisor – and I can't think of more stylish place to stay close to Broadway.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.