An exterior view of the hotel
Amidst the noisy charms of Manhattan’s North Madison Avenue (NoMad), a hotel has been quietly metamorphosing. It has evolved within its genteel, Beaux-Arts structure, shifting calmly from the historic Hotel Seville in 1904 to Carlton Hotel until last year, now enjoying its third act as The James NoMad. This boutique hotel by New York-based Danish architect Thomas Juul-Hansen, completed renovation last summer, now boasting a mindfully modern interior while maintaining its classy flair.
I visited The James NoMad this summer, the building is conveniently located on the corner of 29th Street and Madison Avenue, just a stone’s throw from Madison Square Garden and the Museum of Modern Art. I entered the space that was imbued with a warm, raffish appeal, its newly designed lobby and reception stood before me. These were moved back to their historic location off 29th Street during the renovation process. Thomas called this the “most significant change” along with reconfiguration of the public areas. “We were working within an old historical structure, limited by ceilings and old infrastructure. This was to be a completely new hotel and we wanted to make sure everything felt warm and modern,” he said.
Separate living area in the Jimmy Suite
The James NoMad, with its art-filled counterpart in SoHo already a NYC favourite, houses 337 rooms, 25 suites and two penthouses spread across 15 floors, featuring a mellifluous colour palette that mixes grey, blue and pink hues. “Our idea for the design was to create an eclectic mix of furnishings, reminiscent of design elements collected over travels to various destinations, with a focus on craft and quality, reminiscent of the feeling one gets when visiting the home of a collector,” Thomas shared.
Its most striking feature is its sprawling lobby that features a warm aesthetic, replete with plush furniture and art. “All the furnishings were custom-designed by our office and the majority of forms and materials are timeless, made of wood, marble, brass, leather, wool and soul,” stated Thomas.
Bathroom featuring hand-carved marble vanity
Spacious with a series of velvet banquettes in tones of grey and pink, the lobby’s cosy window seats offer direct views of the city. I sat in the nook and watched a fleet of yellow cabs and passers-by scurrying along the sidewalk, as I sipped my tea from the complimentary James Club spread that’s available in the lobby every evening. Thomas explained, “All the windows at street level were replaced with massive pieces of glass with no divisions, heightening the effect of the oversized arched openings.”
In the lobby, wooden ceilings and lavender walls add texture with modern square lighting in brass and exposed historic steel columns offering the perfect marriage of old and new. Also custom-made are the floors, in warm grey terrazzo and an inlaid brass pattern, that tie together the lobby and reception. There are also multilevel contemporary marble tables paired with cow-skin stools, decidedly contemporary accents that add fluidity to the space.
Eco-friendly Appelles amenities
I stayed in the Jimmy Suite, which reflects the hotel’s overall slick, uncomplicated luxury. “We were asked to completely redesign the hotel while working within the existing guestroom layouts wherever possible,” noted Thomas. To appreciate the hotel’s subtle new take on modern luxury, you must look inside the suite’s bathroom, stocked with eco-friendly Appelles amenities and a sumptuously hand-carved marble vanity as its centrepiece.
The space has been thoughtfully designed with a work and dining space, a bespoke brass bar cabinet, and a generously-sized pantry filled with delicious nibbles. Beside the bed, covered in crisp white linen and dotted with patterned cushions, lay the signature James yoga mat, alluding to the hotel’s reverence for health and wellbeing, as it also offers in-room Four Bodies Wellness Programming.
The hotel's fitness centre
Guests can tune into their television and take part in various workout and yoga sessions to overcome jet-lag and de-stress, with complimentary access to meditation classes on Mondays available as well. This is also in keeping with the hotel’s design that was “intended to feel serene and inviting, not disruptive and exclusive.”
Another nod to its wellness-centric approach is its state-of-the-art fitness centre housing Peloton bikes, yoga mats and meditation cushions, lined with banana leaf wallpaper to evoke a breezy, Los Angeles feel. On the dining front, there’s Scarpetta, one of the city’s most famed restaurants for its gourmet Italian fare (don’t miss the signature spaghetti with tomato and basil), which moved to the hotel after a 10-year stint in the Meatpacking District.
The elegant restaurant, with Jorge Espinoza as Executive Chef, features a hanging garden and whitewashed walls that curve into arches at the vaulting ceiling, paired with marble and wooden table tops for elegant yet functional appeal. “We created a new street entrance for Scarpetta at the corner of the site, heightening the prominence of the restaurant,” stated Thomas. “The interior vaulted space in the restaurant’s dining room balances traditional form with modern design. Everything feels warm and inviting without an air of pretentiousness.”
Italian restaurant Scarpetta
In the basement, find your way to The Seville, a bar lounge that evokes a mid-century modern vibe with black leather sofas, wooden accents and warm lights. There’s also a library in muted tones and furniture that doesn’t shout to be heard for those contemplative evenings.
As I stepped out on the bustling street the next morning, awash in the hotel’s chic serenity, I was unfettered by the city’s resounding traffic. Maybe, because I was consumed by The James NoMad’s enduring calm and charming face-lift, and that I experienced this historic hotel in a new light in what felt like a New York minute.
Price of Jimmy Suite starts from Dhs1,470. Prices are approximate. Special thanks to The James NoMad for hosting this review. Jameshotels.com/new-york/nomad