For most frequent fliers, those time-zoned-out souls who spend days and nights in a foggy existence of canned oxygen, complimentary but weak coffee, and spiced dry-roasted almonds—there is no hotel like home.
Then there is Richard Christiansen, a human exclamation point and the driving force behind the young, thriving, fashion-centered ad agency Chandelier Creative (whose office was featured in this magazine earlier this year). Growing up on a farm in rural Australia in the eighties, Christiansen was besotted with American television; foremost among his fascinations was Dynasty’s high-camp Ur-bitch Alexis Carrington, played (of course) by Joan Collins. No matter which mood or husband she favored at the moment, Alexis was eternally faithful to one thing: hotel life. The young Christiansen was hooked.
“First, she lived at La Mirage,” explains Christiansen reverently, as if reciting the Stations of the Cross. “Then, after that burned down, she moved into the Carlton.”
Some new Manhattan transplants get to know the city by going to museums, shops, and bars. Christiansen’s early days in New York were spent in hotel rooms (alone). His cramped and crowded first apartment had no privacy; at one point he had five roommates. To escape, “I would save up, and once a month or so I would check into a hotel for the weekend. I wouldn’t tell anyone,” he said. “I’ve been in every bathtub in the city.”
But Christiansen’s dream of a Dynasty lifestyle wasn’t fully realized until last year. While on a photo shoot in Hong Kong, he was glancing through New York real-estate listings online and spied a discreet ad for a small one-bedroom apartment at an address that he recognized as the Bowery Hotel (he’d just spent the weekend there). “I had my staff run over with a laptop and show it to me on Skype,” he said. He instantly claimed it.
It’s not the grandest apartment. What hotels call a “junior suite,” and what a Realtor might list as a SM 1BR W/AMZNG VUS, it comprises a modest living room/kitchen, a bedroom, and a bath. The views, though, are breathtaking, looking north and east over the city with little obstruction.
“It’s incredible at night,” says Christiansen. “That’s when you really see the beauty of this place.”
Christiansen’s singular style, however, is best appreciated in broad daylight. In the main room, trompe l’oeil button-tufted wallpaper is played against the steel-framed windows, and grand hotel touches like a vintage globe, a velvet sofa, stacks of books, and old Vuitton trunks contrast with new-media favorites like a sculptural steel lamp and a collection of skateboards. (He skates, but badly.)
“I think of the whole hotel as my apartment,” he says. “I know all the staff by name. The maître d’ is my surrogate brother. It’s so nice when I come home and call down, and he knows that I want a ginger-spice cocktail with no cayenne pepper.”
Cocktails from room service. Pretty luxe. “I know,” he says. “My accountant is going to kill me.”
As playful as Christiansen seems, he’s all business. He takes clients to the hotel restaurant. While using his bed as a packing table for trips, he got the idea for his line of menswear, Commonwealth Utilities. The bathtub is his idea lab: He fills it up and gets in with a stack of magazines and wine, and goes to town. “Anything I like, I tear out,” he says, “and I bring it all to work.”
A simple, boxy space with spectacular vistas, Christiansen’s apartment packs just enough décor punch. Colorful sofas, vintage trunks, and stacks of books have eclectic companion pieces: a modernist steel lamp, a Victorian glass-domed mourning reliquary.
Christiansen installed the upholstered velvet headboard. He can use the room service, but most days he makes his own bed.