There's a wealth of modernist boutique hotels in New York's Chelsea and SoHo, all specialising in the same sort of clean, urban chic designed to provide the perfect backdrop to a delicately spiced cocktail or two. The Thompsons, Morgans and Grands of this world: all very hip, incredibly comfortable and a little sanitised. But the Crosby Street, which opened 18 months ago, develops the theme a little further, adding – with playful and quirky décor from interior designer Kit Kemp, and a characterful setting on an up-and-coming patch of SoHo, just behind Broadway and bustling Prince Street – what feels like real idiosyncrasy to a well-established genre. It's contemporary bordering on kooky, with stripy and floral wallpapers clashing vivaciously in rooms that may be marked out by their colour and attention to trendy detail, but which are dictated by comfort and cosiness.
The Crosby Street Hotel – Kemp's Firmdale chain's first foray outside London – brings an elegant uptown feel to a vibrant downtown location. It follows on the heels of The London NYC, which introduced some Big Smoke to the Big Apple by way of David Collins interiors and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant last spring.
The building sits on the stretch of Crosby Street that connects the shopping oases of Prince and Spring Streets. A quiet street bordered by filmic curlicues of cast-iron fire escapes, it retains something of the neighbourhood's original industrial identity, with the hotel's façade mimicking that of a downtown factory. Pretty impressive, given that the hotel is a new-build, on the site of an old car park, just like its Firmdale counterpart in London, the Soho Hotel.
Crosby Street is where it's at, with the Mondrian Soho adding competition to the chic hotel scene when it opened here last week. Bordered by Broadway and Houston Street, opportunities for shopping abound on the doorstep, whether you choose the international brands and the department stores that line the avenues or the independent boutiques scattered along the side streets.
Barney's Co-op on Wooster Street is a must for fashionistas, while the Dean and Deluca flagship on Broadway will satisfy both gourmets and cupcake-lovers alike. There's also a glut of trendy bars and restaurants in the area, including the scene-y bistro Balthazar just round the corner on Spring Street, and cocktail bar Pravda three minutes' walk away on Lafayette.
Rooms are smart and spacious, which is something of a rarity in this space-constrained city, with an emphasis on practicality rather than clean lines or modern minimalism. Squidgy sofas and armchairs abound, while fluffy carpets invite feet to sink into them and the bathrooms are almost as large as the bedrooms. Schemes vary from kitsch and chintzy to a more streamlined, monochrome style, but all are homely, warm and luxurious.
The top-floor Crosby Suites – a sort of Coco Chanel live-in affair – come with sitting rooms and several bedrooms. And somewhere in between these and the standard rooms are several one- and two-bedroom suites with plenty of space for all your shopping bags, and comfy sofas to relax on. All come with king-size beds and double-sink bathrooms.
The emphasis on authentic features means that all of the 86 bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall: aim for the loftier rooms that look out across the roof terraces, water towers and twitching antennae of the district. They afford fabulous views of the city from an unusual mid-height level (11 storeys in this city of skyscrapers is knee-high to a grasshopper, after all) and over a neighbourhood which is less overlooked and dominated by glass towers than others. Rooms on the higher levels overlook either east or west SoHo, while lower floors look on to the street itself or into the hotel's elegant sculpture garden.
There is a gym and cocktail bar (the latter fills rapidly in the evening with a fashionable but friendly crowd), as well as an intimate residents' lounge where you can whisper seductively over a Tom Collins or admire the view on to the hotel's private terrace. And if the urge takes you, a visit to the hotel's own basement cinema might not go amiss – although sitting in the dark in the city of bright lights seems a little counter-intuitive.
Crosby Street Hotel, 79 Crosby Street, New York, US (001 212 226 6400; firmdale.com)
Double rooms start at $574 (£383), room only.