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Checking Out the Inn Crowd



Envisioned as "the townhouse of a private collector," the Chambers hotel on West 56th Street, which is set to open by March 1, is crammed with more than 500 works of art. The hallways on each of the fourteen floors have their own full-scale installations commissioned from luminaries like painter James Siena and film director John Waters. During a hard-hat tour, we were surprised to find that what appeared to be signs of ongoing construction (distressed plaster walls, visible plywood seams on the ceiling, dangling sprinkler pipes) were actually design elements, intended to conjure up an artist's loft -- and bolster the hotel's built-in premise that the new downtown is uptown. If this hotel strikes out, it won't be for lack of star players: It's being financed by the owners of the Mercer, the designer is David Rockwell, and Town, the lobby restaurant, will be run by Geoffrey Zakarian, formerly chef at Patroon and 44.

Expected guest profile: Out-of-town shoppers who don't like to be further than spitting distance from the Fendi flagship; art aficionados.

The room: The desk is a sheet of glass laid atop two leather-bound sawhorses. Windows are almost floor-to-ceiling. Light fixtures are industrial brushed aluminum. Glassed-in showers in every room: Some have a hand-tiled soaking tub fit for a Roman emperor -- or several starving artists. Bumble and Bumble bath products.

Service: Selling a downtown vibe at Four Seasons prices means going the distance on luxury extras. Guest phones have a direct-dial line to an Henri Bendel personal shopper who can bring merch to the room for private perusals.

Insider info: The twelfth-floor duplex suite's terrace offers a stunning river-to-river skyline. In the doubles category, corner rooms have the best views.

15 West 56th Street (212-974-5656; 77 rooms, from $375 to $1,500; suites start at $800.

Transforming an old garage into a functioning stack of bedrooms has taken longer than anyone imagined. By February 1, however, guests will be able to rest their heads on the hotel's crisp Frette sheets. Architect Stephen Jacobs (the Library; Hotel Giraffe -- we're noticing a pattern here) has fashioned a front courtyard filled with white birches. As guests enter the lobby, they'll be greeted by a staff turned out in navy uniforms by eighties godfather Nino Cerutti. The reception area will be on the second floor, adjacent to a lounge and bar with an asymmetrical marble fireplace. This is the first hotel interior by Thomas O'Brien of the famed design firm Aero Studios. Thom, the new restaurant from Jean Marc Houmard and Michael Callahan of Indochine and Bond Street, will serve -- surprise! -- Asian-American fare. The duplex penthouse loft with a four-poster king bed and two private garden decks is the hotel's crown jewel.

Expected guest profile: West Coasters, Virgin Atlantic frequent fliers, deep-pocketed Wall Streeters.

The rooms: Each room is assigned one of three earth tones (inspired by a mosaic unearthed in Pompeii, no less), from a brown to a khaki to a rich burgundy. The platform bed with a full-wall leather headboard is the focal point. Desks are passed over in favor of wood tables with skinny chrome legs. All have the so-called Thompson Chair, based on an English Deco chaise O'Brien found in London three years ago. Expansive marble bathrooms will be equipped with Philosophy products.

Insider info: A few rooms from the fifth to the ninth floors are available before the official opening date.

60 Thompson Street (212-431-0400; 100 rooms, from $370 to $625; penthouse price available upon request.

Towering above Bryant Park, the landmarked American Radiator Building immortalized by Georgia O'Keeffe will be reborn this month as a boutique hotel that will no doubt poach some regulars from the St. Regis and the Four Seasons. The spare modern furnishings were custom-designed by the hotel's architect, David Chipperfield. The lobby bar, which looks out onto the park, dominates the ground floor, and the front desk is tucked off to the side. If it seems like an afterthought, it's because guests are escorted directly to their rooms and checked in while they unpack. (Celebrities take note!) Next to the hotel's gym are two spa "suites" for post-workout rubdowns, scrubs, and soaks. The requisite high-wattage restaurant, Ilo, will be run by star chef Rick Laakkonen. The 70-seat private theater will be rented out for movie premieres. And guests can knock back some single malts at the cellar bar.

Expected guest profile: Media moguls, creative directors, and fashion titans. Don't bother trying to get a room during the tent shows.

The room: If the fresh flowers, Tibetan rugs, and cashmere blankets fail to impress, the fact that a 24-hour butler who mans a full pantry on each floor should. Need a drink? A hot bath? Foie gras sandwich? Just ring for Jeeves. Travertine marble baths with separate tubs and showers are stocked with Molton Brown bath gels.

Insider info: A few west-facing rooms have prime views of the Empire State Building.

40 West 40th Street (212-869-0100; 77 rooms, from $575 to $975; suites start at $6,000.


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