Old Faithful

New York’s Soho House is a private members club cum hotel that revives an antiquated appeal.

 

28 feet long, this bar top in the club bar, is made from original 1875 marble. Its base is crafted from the mahogany used in the Dupont Family Yacht. The lamps on the Club Bar were custom-made from antique chandelier parts threaded together and wired onto the bar top.

Present day New York is a global centre for fashion, art, theatre, music, architecture and beauty; not to mention the fresh, alternative spirit of bohemia. Amidst all this rush and scurry, it would be rather felicitous to take a minute to remember New York as it is represented in old films (Hello Dolly or Rent) or iconic literature (Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence or JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye). Maybe you’d like to recreate the posh drama of a gentleman’s cigar club or the giddy happiness of a fresh-looking 1940s ice cream parlour. If you do, Soho House, located in the Meatpacking District, is the answer to your prayers for a nostalgic experience. Here’s a hospitality space that brings back the essence of ’Old New York‘ with the shoe-shine gleam of modern convenience.

The feeling of awe that washes over you when you enter the six-storeyed hotel is not a coincidence — it has been planned down to a T by in-house designers Vicky Charles and Nick Jones. The design brief was to create ‘a home away from home’, a space that encapsulated luxury, convenience and an antiquated appeal in every room. Easy enough when you’re dealing with a humble bed and breakfast, but how does one achieve this on a site that sprawls over 45,000 sq ft and is six storeys high? We were literally dying to find out. But first, some background.

The Soho House group has property across Europe and North America, which includes hospitality spaces like restaurants, cinemas and spas besides hotels. “Our design is very much led by and sympathetic to the local environment. We always work with custom design furniture and antiques but we respect the original finishes and architecture of the space, so each property is different,” says Vicky.

A view of the drive towards Soho House, located in New York’s Meatpacking District.

Originally an old warehouse building, Soho House in New York functions as both a private members club, called the Sixth Floor Club, and a hotel. The club, which caters to professionals from creative industries, features a restaurant, club bar, drawing room, pantry bar, cinema, a heated rooftop pool, spaces for private hire and a library. The hotel’s claim to fame is the bevy of 24 spacious bedrooms that range from 300 sq ft to 950 sq ft and boast of lovely reclaimed furniture, luxurious furnishings and rainforest showers.

Step into Soho House New York and you will encounter a discreet, understated lobby which Vicky views as a portal to greater worlds. The real magnificence happens when you step into the recently refurbished Sixth Floor Club which the design team views as a real feather in the Soho House cap.

“We wanted the Sixth Floor Club to be more usable and warm, specifically the bar and the restaurant, as members use the club throughout the day and not just in the evening,” explains Vicky. This translated into a design brief that incorporated significant structural design changes and a complete change in furniture and furnishings. The private dining room and the private hire space were done away with to accommodate a Drawing room that held a charming Pantry Bar, a Meat & Cheese counter, and the Honour candy bar.

Transforming the Sixth Floor Club was an ongoing process. “Everything moved very quickly and fluidly — we were updating plans even once the construction began,” says Vicky. Two months — that’s the exact length of time it took to finally have The Sixth Floor Club up and ready. “We did the refurbishment in two parts, closing and refurbishing the Drawing Room while members could access the Bar and Restaurant, and then closing the Bar and Restaurant and allowing members access to the new Drawing Room,” says Vicky.

The library in The Sixth Floor Club uses natural light and fuss-free furniture to create an atmosphere where like-minded members of the creative industry can meet, think, have discussions and work.

The Sixth Floor Club’s Club bar is a treasure trove of history. Every element in this room either has a story or recalls a different time and place. The 28-foot-long bar counter, which runs along the length of the room, sports an original marble top from 1875, with a mahogany base from the Dupont family yatch. “We discovered the yatch in a warehouse outside Philadelphia,” reveals Vicky. Wired into the bar top are several lamps, each one different from the other, and made in-house from antique chandelier parts threaded together. A mix of custom-made furniture and bar stools sit alongside French vintage leather club chairs. Around a communal dining table are dining chairs from RMS Windsor Castle, the largest passenger/cargo mail ship operated by the Union-Castle Line.

“The ceiling was originally dark silver tin, but at the last moment, Nick saw the almost-finished-product and wanted to have a distressed white ceiling to make the space lighter,” says Vicky. The team then went hammer and tongs and scoured eBay to find a suitable material. They hit the jackpot with antique tin ceiling tiles, a material they also used for the restaurant ceiling. The focal point of the club bar is the antique stone fireplace sourced from France. A 40-foot chimney was built to lend the right amount of grandeur and warmth to the room. One can almost imagine World War II officers nursing brandies by the warmth of a roaring blaze.

The Drawing Room holds the Pantry Bar, Honour candy bar and Meat & Cheese counter in the extreme corners as well as the comfortable vintage seating. Note the ceiling which is made from antique tin tiles.

While the club bar is all dark wood, luxe leather and heavy furniture, the pantry bar, the meat and cheese counter and the Honour candy bar is awash with light and freshness. This is not to say that these spaces are devoid of history. The table in the former, for instance, is surrounded by original Toledo stools and vintage lights. Sourced from eBay, the ice cream parlour stools from the 1930s stand in front of the pantry bar. The Meat & Cheese counter is a butcher’s block sourced from France and boasts of a reconditioned antique ice box. Every space, and consequently every decor element in Soho House, is unified by three things. “It’s the use of antiques or reclaimed finishes, authenticity, and comfort level,” says Vicky.

This carries on even into the bedrooms which come under the ’hotel’ space of the property. Each chamber is designed differently and looks quite distinct in terms of furnishings, furniture, layout, bath spaces and colour scheme. Originally designed by Isle Crawford, the design team is quick to confirm that the spaces are up for refurbishment soon.

The antique stone fireplace, sourced from France, is the highlight of the Club Bar. Designers Vicky Charles and Nick Jones built a 40-foot-chimney to go along with it.

Want to get outdoors? Then head to the rooftop where you can relax with a drink and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city. If it’s warm outside, guests can catch some sun on the custom-designed 1940s-style purple-striped loungers (each Soho House has its own custom stripe.) The Miami Soho House has blue, Babington has sage, Berlin, turquoise and New York, purple.

The long and short of it is, it makes sense to drop by Soho House on your next trip to the city. Every time those vagabond shoes start longing to stray, remember there’s a space where design, history and unmatched comfort will ensure that they stay fascinated awhile.

CONCEPT
An old brick warehouse gets transformed into a hospitality space that drips with history and antiques. The recently refurbished Sixth Floor club, which is a part of this space, is cause for much fascination.

MATERIALS
Walls Original brick of the warehouse Ceiling Reclaimed tin Flooring Original maple flooring of the warehouse Furniture Custom-made and antiques Furnishings Custom-made and antiques

FACT FILE
Project name Soho House, New York Location 29-35 9th Avenue Area 45,000 sq ft Design firm In-house team; Nick Jones and Vicky Charles Principal architect In-house Project duration Two months (planning) and two months (execution)

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