In New York City, signs of trendiness linger in North Williamsburg, the Brooklyn neighbourhood that’s a lesson in urban cool. From art galleries to artisanal bakers, flea markets to fitness spaces, the borough’s entire kicky vocabulary comes to life here, with a string of new hotels adding to the local flavour. It has a certain je ne sais quoi, as I learnt when I recently drove past its art-lined walls and glassy condos, making my way to the newest space to spiff up the Brooklyn scene, The Williamsburg Hotel.
An exterior view of The Williamsburg Hotel
Opened in January last year and located on the corner of Wythe Avenue and North 10th Street with Manhattan just over the bridge, this boutique hotel boasts a high quotient of street credibility, a cross between modern industrial and Brooklyn-inflected eclecticism. Its eight-storeyed brick, Corten steel and glass façade by London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates reflects the neighbourhood’s industrial past and creative present, saturated with artists, musicians and fashion students. “We were keen to draw inspiration from the eclectic and energetic mix of talent surrounding the hotel,” said architect Alex Michaelis, a partner at Michaelis Boyd alongside Tim Boyd. “We envisaged the hotel as more than just a place to stay, as an after-dark nerve centre.”
A vintage marquee bulb sign lit up the building as I stood before it, and a terrace to my right, decorated with string lights and mismatched chairs with soft Bohemian cushions evoking a relaxed, backyard feel, led me down to the hotel’s entrance in the basement. Here, a hanging installation made of countless coloured threads by local artist Eric Rieger served as the centrepiece of the central bar, one of three at the hotel, glistening in the natural light that flooded the space through floor-to-ceiling windows, a remarkable sight echoing the hotel’s reverence for local talent.
Inside the hotel's restaurant Harvey
“It was a natural step to collaborate with Eric Rieger, a well-known street artist with previous experience working with yarn. He’s also known for his installation titled Rituals on Brooklyn’s Williamsburg bridge,” shared Tim. Among the commissioned artworks are those by Bronx native Yes One, whose graffiti on a brick wall at the entrance on Wythe Avenue, and a wall with signage of the in-house bistro Harvey, sets the tone for the hotel’s artistic flair.
A sprawling lobby with offbeat details is spread across the basement with a double-height ceiling, rustic brick walls and wooden floors, decorated with a dimly lit wooden reception desk, plush red and green velvet chairs, a wall unit with hardbacks and bric-à-brac, and a contemporary funnel-shaped fireplace. Bespoke furniture designed by Michaelis Boyd and London’s Bill Amberg studio, known for its unique leather work, lends the hotel a cosy feel.
Queen Terrace room
To stay at one of the five types of pet-friendly rooms, each individually designed by the architects, is to immerse yourself in elegant luxury imbued with loft-like charm. “The bedrooms were designed with two contracting material palettes allowing guests to choose,” explained Alex. “In the ‘light’ rooms, the walls are panelled and white-washed with patterned parquet flooring… In the ‘dark’ rooms, textured plaster adorns the walls with hit-or-miss planked floors. The bathrooms have a monochrome design with brass details.”
I stayed at the Queen Terrace room, eyeballing the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines from the private balcony. Custom furnishings abound – spacious bed with a luxe leather tufted headboard and assorted printed cushions in shades of green and yellow, contemporary wall lamps and upholstery, rounded off with white-washed timber walls, floor-to-ceiling glazing and brass, marble and textured accents. The real pièce de résistance is the bathroom in vibrant teal, featuring Pyrolave-glazed wall tiles with patterned encaustic floor tiles, decked with Apotheke amenities, all handmade in Brooklyn.
The Williamsburg Hotel’s headline act is the 40-foot rooftop pool that opened this month, just in time for summer. The space, where crowds have already been flocking to soak the sun, boasts uninterrupted views of the Manhattan skyline, and is replete with cabanas, daybeds and lounge chairs.
Sip a delicious mocktail from the Watertower Bar, raised 136 feet above Williamsburg that pays homage to the neighbourhood’s now defunct wooden water tower factory. In keeping with the hotel’s rustic vibe, the bar has been created with charred timber boards and steel panels, featuring coloured glazed panels through which light seeps in creating a wondrous effect.
Rooftop pool at the hotel
The hotel also houses the neighbourhood’s first grand ballroom, which can accommodate up to 400 guests. Done in tall steel arched windows, sweeping staircases, velvet drapes, distressed plastered walls and exquisite red circular chandeliers, the 3,500-square-foot space gives a sense of derelict Detroit buildings with a modern update.
For a personalised tour of Brooklyn, sign up for the hotel’s nine hyperlocal tours and experiences, a first for a hotel in the borough. You can walk, cycle or motorbike through the block’s cultural hotspots focusing on food, street art, local history and skyline views. This means you can pop by places such as the Brooklyn Bread Lab, the hotel’s sister business, for cosy nibbles, or Artists & Fleas, where individual sellers come together to whet your appetite for vintage, fashion, art and design. Another quirky offering is the tuk-tuk, now functional and available for guests to travel across the neighbourhood or to the subway and ferry.
Tuk-tuk service available for hotel guests upon request
As I left the next morning, I looked back at the hotel that’s a great mix of style and service, with its finger on the pulse of all-things Williamsburg, perfect for a traveller like me who likes to get under the skin of a place. “Our goal was to create a hotel that embodies Williamsburg. It was important to construct it not only for guests but also for the neighbourhood,” explained Tim. At The Williamsburg Hotel, I got to live like a local and quite liked it.
Queen Terrace room starting from Dhs1,030. Rate is approximate. Special thanks to The Williamsburg Hotel for hosting this review. Thewilliamsburghotel.com