Posted in Projects on 2 June, 2024

Firmdale Hotels’ new property is decorated in co-founder Kit Kemp’s signature style bringing exuberance and colour to Tribeca, the city’s erstwhile financial district.

Words by Carole Annett

New York can be many things – vibrant, upbeat, energetic and, occasionally, grey… unless you’re Kit Kemp. The word barely exists in her lexicon and certainly not in terms of decorating. Warren Street, a third New York hotel for Firmdale, the British hotel group founded by Kit and husband Tim, looks, as she describes it, ‘Like a summer’s day’, a striking blue steel-framed building topped with a concrete burst of sunshine. Inside, a celebration of contemporary design, every detail tailored to provide adventure for the eye.

Warren Street Hotel, New York, USA. Above: Deluxe Junior Suite. Top: Bar & Restaurant

Following sister hotels The Crosby in Soho and The Whitby, Midtown, Warren Street has been four years in the making and plenty more in the dreaming. Once the heart of the financial district, Tribeca was earmarked as a potential site years ago by Kit and Tim. A neighbourhood steeped in history, over time its cobblestone streets and restored red brick warehouses have morphed into art galleries, restaurants and cafes, bringing new life and creating a village-like feel. Since opening in early 2024, the latest Firmdale has been gladly welcomed by both local residents and businesses, as well as fans of Kit Kemp Design Studio keen to see her latest project – a special one for Kit as she worked in collaboration with daughters Minnie and Willow. As she says, “I am so lucky to have them working with me and seeing their youthful energy and enthusiasm. Willow is architectural and a wonderful artist. Min is graphic and colourful in her designs. They have real enthusiasm and gusto. They both add so much to our design ethos.”


There’s a feeling of occasion as soon as you step across the threshold of Warren Street Hotel. “I wanted a sense of adventure from the moment you arrive,” explains Kit, “The lobby has to have an instant personality.” Indeed it has. For me, it’s the flamboyance and boldness of fashion designer Iris Apfel mixed with the graceful couture of Jackie Kennedy – eye-catching, eclectiand instantly desirable. The design journey begins with a vast half-moon chandelier against a backdrop of Kit’s own Zig-Zag wallpaper. Christopher Kurtz’s Skipping Stone table sits to one side beside three woven towers by Argentine artist Cristián Mohaded, hanging proudly from the ceiling like jewels from the ears of a giant. Step further and you’re greeted by a hunk of voluptuous carved marble by Tony Cragg which is impossible to ignore. ‘It tells you different things,” muses Kit, “Is it a woman’s figure or a man’s head? Who knows but it works so well within the space.” A masterful artwork by the ‘Bead King of Uganda’, Sanaa Gateja, entitled ‘Once Upon a Time’ is perhaps the most arresting piece – so intricate you could happily lose yourself in its tiny, rolled paper beads while waiting for your room to be ready or luggage to appear. So much to take in and we haven’t ventured further than reception. Yet this is Firmdale’s style – something to notice at every turn.

There’s a touch of serendipity about the site of Warren Street given Kit’s love of cloth as Tribeca was the textile hub of New York in the 19th century.

Once checked in, a corridor leads past the lift lobby, where Vanessa Gunstone’s abstract art sings against a green painted wall, and you reach a drawing room. This is separated from the orangery restaurant (accessed via the bar on the other side of reception) by a wall of glass and steel. A curtain can be pulled across turning the room into a private cocoon. Cosy best describes the feeling in here, a room for reading and relaxing, playing cards and enjoying a drink from a well-stocked honesty bar, another Firmdale staple. “I wanted this room to embrace you,” says Kit. “We chose warm shades including red and navy and it’s all about texture.” Fabrics include a rich crewel embroidery by Chelsea Textiles upholstered on 50s-shaped chairs, and a striped weave, one of Kit’s new fabrics in collaboration with GP& J Baker, on a sprawling sofa. A library table sits in front of a vintage cupboard painted with Bloomsbury-style playfulness by Tess Newell. Three wooden sculptures depicting famous explorers commissioned from Henry Neville Wood oversee the room, while the Saatchi Gallery contacted Kit to make her aware of a Gary Bunt painting, now placed in prime position by the fireplace, as it included one of her fabrics, Moondog. “It was like a Eureka moment,” says Kit, “We felt it had to come here.”

Upstairs the storytelling continues in each of the 69 bedrooms, suites, and residences, ranging from deluxe to junior rooms including two Songbird suites with private landscaped terraces by Brook Landscape. These cleverly interconnect both inside and out, and include a separate guest loo and dining area with a well curated library. “Objects like books make a room feel like a home,” explains Kit, “It doesn’t matter if a space is traditional or super modern, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf adds depth. We often take the covers off the books to reveal the bare spines, they look more decorative and always look right in any interior.”

There’s a touch of serendipity about the site of Warren Street given Kit’s love of cloth as Tribeca was the textile hub of New York in the 19th century. She has lavished rooms with fabric, on tall, upholstered headboards, button-back sofas, deep-seated armchairs, curtains and occasionally draping fabric around a bed from a half-tester, using either her own designs or those from her collaborations with Christopher Farr Cloth and GP& J Baker. Rooms are cosseting and larger than average for a city hotel, each with a mini-bar (with fresh milk – hurrah), Nespresso machine, kettle, and some including a vinyl player accompanied by a clutch of albums to suit different moods. I listened to Prince, Miles Davis, and Taylor Swift at various times. Sunlight streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of lower Manhattan and the Hudson River, leaving you in no doubt where you are in the world. As a fan of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, it was sometimes hard to peel myself away. The lighting in the rooms is worth noting, with sensors in cupboards to make tasks simple and plenty of lamps in whimsical shapes by Vaughan and Kit’s design for Porta Romana, as well as her oversized abstract design in collaboration with daughter Minnie. My room had a bright blue version on a console and in other areas of the hotel I noticed the same design in different hues. Unlike the bedrooms where colour and pattern are king, in the bathrooms, white marble prevails – double sinks and traditionally styled nickel brassware from Lefroy Brooks. Standard rooms have a large walk-in shower, while suites have an indulgent stand-alone bath and in the largest, a bidet. All are equipped with plenty of thick, white towels, generous-sized robes, and Kit’s Tall Trees bath collection.

Drawing Room

Heading back downstairs, the bar draws you in with an array of high stools and seating. You can perch at the bar – a hunk of stainless steel running down a third of the room, admire an intriguing sculpture by Gareth Devonald Smith overhead, or plonk at one of the cafe tables for coffee or cocktails. The 150-cover brasserie serves food all day – classic dishes spiced with global influences are all served on Tall Trees tableware, Kit’s design for Spode. I can vouch for the breakfast pancakes and French toast with caramelized apple – absolutely delicious. The bar and restaurant has a constant stream of guests, clearly a mix of business and pleasure; in the evening noise levels elevate with a buzzy, convivial crowd. The Orangery, adjacent to the bar, offers an extra dining area and can be closed off for events. Here, Kit has brought the outside in with two enormous leafy chandeliers and a series of ceramic pots by British artist Martha Freud, illuminated and displayed within individual nooks painted orange against a white wall along the breadth of the room. Firmdale Hotels champion both art and craft, and Martha is a Kit Kemp favourite. This series is based on mushrooms, each vessel individually crafted with a ‘fairy’ (a tiny toy soldier) hidden on each one. Another ceramicist, Robina Jacks’ plates are displayed on a dresser. Her work so inspired Kit that she created a wallpaper and fabric based on the plates for GP&J Baker. If you eat in the bar and wait for the staff to come and go through the pantry door, you get a peek at the wallpaper design just inside.

Kit has undoubtedly created another Firmdale gem with the Warren Street Hotel and it was a pleasure to experience it in its infancy. Her commitment to not just comfort, but the very best in art, design, and creativity, is what sets her apart. As she says herself, “We have sought and commissioned our favourite artists and sculptors – over 1,000 pieces – and curated the very best from our own collections to fashion a very individual ambience that feels exciting and exclusive to our third New York hotel.” An absolute delight, I’m already planning my return.

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