Monday, May 18, 2015

NYT: Ian Schrager on Hotels and Pulling Rabbits Out of A Hat

New York Times: Travel
May 6, 2015

By Julie Earle-Levine

Ian Schrager, the Bronx-born, Brooklyn-raised hotelier, will unveil his latest property, the New York Edition, in the landmark Metropolitan Life Tower on Madison Avenue on May 11.

Mr. Schrager, who first came to prominence with Studio 54 in the 1970s, is collaborating with Marriott International on Edition brand hotels. There are three — in London, Istanbul and Miami Beach — and soon there will be one in West Hollywood, Calif.

“We have a bunch of Editions going all over the place, some in China and one in Reykjavik, Iceland,” said Mr. Schrager, the creative force behind some of the world’s most stylish hotels, including Morgans in New York, the Sanderson in London, the Delano in Miami Beach and the Mondrian in Los Angeles.

His book “Ian Schrager: Works” was released earlier this month. Following are edited excerpts from an interview with him at his new hotel.

Q. What can you tell us about the new Edition?
A. It’s inspired by New York City’s turn-of-the-20th-century private clubs, Fifth Avenue’s Gilded Age mansions and Stanford White’s architectural masterpieces. Guests come into a dark oak-paneled foyer, like an upscale New York apartment building in the 1920s. It’s a fusion of old and modern. We have this sculptural spiral staircase. We are still in this neutral palette of taupes, ivory and white. But this is probably the last time we’ll do a neutral palette.
Neutrals are one of your signatures. Why the change?
I think I’ve taken it as far as it can go. It will still be simple. A quiet luxury. A new luxury. The sensibility will not change. But the second New York Edition [in Times Square; scheduled to open in 2017] will be black and white. We don’t want to run the risk of repeating.
Why alter a successful formula?
I have to keep moving and reinventing myself. Because I am in the theater business, I have to keep pulling rabbits out of a hat. I don’t want to have a “look.” I’ve done three or four hotels with this kind of design vocabulary for different cities.
How are you mixing old with new at the Madison Avenue hotel?
We will have pops of color on seat cushions, and maybe an ornate Baroque mirror. We want to take a little bit of the decorative ornateness we have on the second floor and bring it down to the lobby, but still be simple. When we did Gramercy Park Hotel we had Julian [Schnabel] do the lobby and he’s a maximalist, and we had John Pawson do the apartments and he is a minimalist, but to me they work together in spirit.
The New York Edition seems to have a relaxed, laid-back vibe.
The whole idea is to have it feel like you are staying in the guest room of a private home, rather than a hotel room. The [30-foot-long, hand-forged] steel fireplace in the lobby is very personal to me. The idea came right out of my apartment. In the rooms, you can see my bed, but it’s higher, and has a classic motif, English library. This [points to a lamp] comes out of my house in Southampton. I love the room. This is my aesthetic. This is my sensibility. You can’t really improve on this as far as I’m concerned.
Will there be a night life and bar component?
Yes, there’ll be a restaurant on the second floor overlooking Madison Square Park, by London’s hottest young chef, Jason Atherton. We have three intimate dining rooms — each room only fits about 30 people — a parlor with a billiard table and a library serving cocktails. Each room has its own color and theme, with velvet chairs and banquettes in rose, green and blue, and modernist, large chandeliers.
What’s different with hotels from when you started?
I think the distinction between personal life and business life is kind of blurry now. The new generation business hotel is where you network and do business, in the same way you went to play golf at a golf club in the country, but at a city business hotel.
You had a very positive response to Miami Beach Edition. Is it a hard act to follow?
Miami was kind of a spectacle and had so much muscle behind it — an outdoor area, a skating rink, a nightclub — we don’t have that here. I was concerned about it. I didn’t want it to be a letdown. I wanted New York to be a jewel box. To be really sophisticated and it is. It has a modern sensibility even though some of the things here are more than 100 years old. It doesn’t have a look, it has a sensibility. It’s a cool place, playful with young energy.
What is young now?
Young at heart. I’m 68! If you are lucky you don’t lose that.