In general it’s true that we’re skeptical about the idea of hotel chains. But we tend to forget our principles when we’re talking about the Firmdale group. Their eight London hotels are eight of the best hotels anywhere, and they can’t help but be similar; aside from the obvious fact that they all share the same city, they all just as obviously share the same general philosophy of what a hotel ought to be — which they owe to their owners, Tim and Kit Kemp. And a part of that is visual, a natural family resemblance based on their all having been decorated by the very recognizable Kit.
Now if we didn’t greatly admire the (smallish, intimate, service-oriented) Firmdale philosophy, and consider ourselves huge fans of Ms. Kemp’s design style, we might be less excited about a London-based mini-chain expanding into New York. But a hotel like Crosby Street is exactly what this city needs. The contrast between the downtown grit of the cobblestone street outside and the plush sophistication of the hotel’s lobby is immediate, and striking. Say what you will about the bright colors and the decidedly un-minimal décor — it’s a rare New York boutique these days that presents so opinionated a face to the world.
This year, more than most, hotels are clambering over one another to slash costs and look adequately humble. What’s so appealing about Crosby Street, and the Firmdale approach in general, is that they’re unapologetic about the fact that theirs is a decidedly high-end offering. There’s something inherently a little bit decadent in the very idea of paying money for a place to sleep, after all, and while Crosby Street isn’t exactly conspicuous consumption of the champagne-in-the-bathtub variety, it’s by no means a hard time either — and the confidence shows, right down to the smallest detail.
About the Neighborhood
With its cobblestone streets and cast-iron buildings, the historic district of SoHo is nothing if not distinctive. Once known for its affordable artists' lofts made from disused manufacturing spaces, it's now gone upscale, and is one of New York's retail centers, with everything from mainstream chain shops to one-off boutiques. The location places you at what's more or less the center of lower Manhattan, with everything from Union Square to the Financial District within easy reach. And it's long been a hotbed for great boutique hotels as well, from the early days of the boutique-hotel movement right up to the present day.