Checking In: The Nolitan, NYC

It’s so sleek, doesn’t it look like an artist’s rendition? But it’s real.
(The good photos are from the Nolitan website; the amateur ones are mine.
Trust me, you’ll be able to to discern which are which pretty easily.)

I try to switch it up on my trips to New York, staying in different neighborhoods of Manhattan so I can experience new things on each visit — even when my routine is more or less the same. (Coffee at Starbucks before subway to offices for meetings, back to hotel for a few hours of work, dinner and/or drinks with clients or friends.) Occasionally I’ll toss in a show, a pub discovery tour or a Shopping Saturday, but this trip was as standard as they come.

Except for the hotel, which was a delight.

I’ve grumped enough about the Tablet Hotels rewards program — #firstworldproblems much? The Nolitan doesn’t deserve to be associated with any of that negativity, which is why I busted this out into its own post.

Some boutique hotels are a little too full of themselves. Dream Downtown, I loved your crazy circles-everywhere theme, but whenever there’s a line and a velvet rope for a lobby bar, let alone the more exclusive rooftop one, I can’t help but feel like you’re more about the scene than the guests. (And the wine glasses chattering on the shelf thanks to the booming party downstairs didn’t help change my mind, either.)

The Nolitan hits a sweet spot, managing to be both chic — it was named among the seven best new design hotels in America by Design Bureau, and look at that lobby! — and civil.

I had reserved one of the smaller rooms, which did afford a bit of an “oh!” when I first opened the door. (You can see aforementioned door at the very left of the photo at right, which I took when I was standing against the far wall in an attempt to capture the bath-/bedroom setup.) But I hadn’t booked the place because I was going to run laps in it, and after I got my possessions put away (more on that later), it became apparent that this was more than enough room for one person. (For two people … I dunno, just from storage space alone.)

You’re welcomed by a slew of small but meaningful gestures: The bedside stereo has been turned on; slippers are stationed on both sides of the bed; there’s even a little card that tells you what tomorrow’s weather is supposed to be. (Granted, the card were 10 degrees off and it was going to be glaringly sunny, according to my phone’s weather app, at right, but the idea was still much appreciated.) And a pair of candies — chocolate-covered toffees one night, caramels another — greet you after turndown service. Not wanting them to go to waste, I ate both of them each night. And I thought it was just a “welcome” first-night token, not an every-night thing, or I would have gladly vacated my room for a few more hours each day for turndown time. Anything for candy!

I was also keen to try out the Red Flower products, which I had first experienced back when the Hotel Valley Ho reopened and its VH Spa had appropriated Icelandic Moonflower as its signature scent. (A bit later, we did the 2006 men’s spring fashion shoot there.) It turns out that they didn’t impress me much. In fact, I blame/credit the hair products for my decision to finally lop off a year’s worth of hair while I was there, because they left my hair feeling stripped and unhealthy. (And their plastic bottles require Hulklike finger strength to squeeze.) But the shower itself was a nice touch; I may have texted a friend of mine “apparently en suite is French for ‘can touch from bed,’ ” but really there’s more than an arm’s length between them, and a curtain that can be drawn should you not want to share your showering with whoever else is in the room … or on the street outside. (My room was on the third floor, so I could see the auto repair place across the street.)

Speaking of the street, I could open a door and wander out to my balcony. I had a north-facing view, so I got lots of light in the morning, which was helpful in combating the three-hour time difference. (And if you don’t care to rise and shine quite as early, there’s a blackout shade. I used it only to shield the transparent part of my windows while I showered, which rendered the curtain on the shower unnecessary since I was the only person in the room.)

The corner rooms, like this Cityscape Corner one, have soaking tubs, too.

If I had stayed longer, for leisure, I might have taken the hotel up on its offer to check out a bicycle; some neighborhoods I would have been terrified to ride a bike in, but NoLita — the hotel takes its name from the neighborhood, which is North of Little Italy — was small enough that it would have been worth a try. (I don’t think I would have opted for the skateboards also available for checkout. There’s something about adults on skateboards that makes me pause. Like dudes wearing hipster hats, of which I saw a great many. After a while I was like, “All right, Blossom. We’ve had enough.”)

I didn’t take part in the free sunset yoga session — I didn’t want to buy a mat that I would’ve had to schlep home on a flight — but I did make sure to stretch my legs after all the walking I did. And that led to a bit of discovery I couldn’t believe I had overlooked before: While I was stretching my hamstrings, I happened to glance downward, which is when I saw that the foot of the bed had storage underneath. Too bad I hadn’t noticed it until the day before I was leaving! I had stacked all my foldable clothing and shoes on the single shelf above the mini-fridge in the closet.

Which brings up my one might-want-to-rethink about the layout of the room: Some things just aren’t where most people are going to look for them. Since it was inside a closet, which had its own door and all, I opened the mini-fridge door expecting it to reveal the in-room safe. “Oh, no safe,” I said. “Where’s the rest of the mini-bar, then?” In the bottom shelf of a bedside table, as it turns out. It features candy as well as, under the section labeled “Fun Stuff,” condoms and an intimacy kit. (Of course I examined what a $50 intimacy kit includes: Condoms, lube and chocolate body frosting — which is labeled with calorie counts, for weight-watching sex-fun people.) That list is what clued me in that the “blanket” at the foot of the bed was actually a cashmere throw, which I then incorporated into much of the rest of my laze-about time.

Likewise, I rued the absence of water glasses in the bathroom — but found them the next morning when I was about to plug in my iPad and noticed that far back on the second shelf were both water and wine glasses. The previous day I’d even grabbed a magazine from the bottom shelf and not seen the glasses, so they’re pretty well hidden from view.

But these are minor quibbles at worst; overall, the experience was delightful. The check-in and housekeeping service was excellent; it’s small enough that you’re never waiting endlessly for an elevator; the neighborhood was quiet, but had plenty of restaurants and shops to browse, as well as being just blocks away from Soho (and my beloved Uniqlo, now a staple of my trips); the bed was wonderful, the down pillows just right.

It was the sort of place that made me think: “Living in New York wouldn’t be that bad!” Until I realized that I wouldn’t be able to actually live at The Nolitan. So maybe I’ll have to settle for staying there every once in a while, to catch up with a new friendly place.

WHAT SAM WORE: 7-2-12
The shirt: Muscle-fit polo shirt by Abercrombie & Fitch, from Buffalo Exchange.
The pants: Gray boot-fit khakis, from Banana Republic, Santan Village.
The shoes: Custom All-Stars, which I created on converse.com.
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