Updated: Sep 21, 2012
cool detail: laid-back roof bar
At a glance: It makes sense that Hudson’s sprawling lobby is on the second floor.
The slow ride up in the escalator, encased in a narrow, if aging, chartreuse passage that could be an entrance to a spaceship, helps acclimate you to the hotel’s weird, whimsical, brazenly eclectic appearance (exposed brick walls, peaked, ivy-covered skylight, colossal crystal chandelier updated with hologram light bulbs).
With multiple bars, a library with a pool table and a rakish attitude, this Philippe Starck/Ian Schrager collaboration from 2000 is still quite a play space, even if it isn’t always the hip budget hotel it was designed to be (the hotel’s teeniest rooms veer from $179 to -- gasp -- more than $450 depending on availability).
There’s no place to sit in the lobby unless you count the two gloomy sitting rooms directly behind the check-in area. But keep walking past the crowd waiting for the elevators (lots of Europeans). Tables and yellow velvet armchairs punctuate the hallways, and the lively terrace is outfitted with sofas, club chairs and gigantic flowerpots and watering cans, straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
Nothing stays hip forever, of course. Hudson is showing its age, and parts look downright shabby. But a renovation of all 800-pus rooms, completed in fall 2012, is a big step forward. And for a pioneering boutique hotel, Hudson still has plenty of mojo.
Rooms: Any way you measure them, rooms that range from 136 to 180 square feet are snug. But if snug doesn’t bother you, these smart little rooms are gems, pieced together like sleek burr puzzles with style to spare. And following a much-needed freshening, rooms look better than they have in, well, years. The redo kept the good stuff -- the wood floors and bat-and-board walls in African makore wood and added clever new lamps by British x-ray photographer Nick Veasey. Also new are mattresses, gray and yellow striped blankets (a welcome splash of color), iPod docks and -- at last! -- flatpanel TVs. Bathrooms are still among the tiniest on the planet. Rooms are so tiny they call to mind ship cabins but in a good way. Think a place for everything and all will be well as long as you're not claustrophobic.
Too teeny? Doubles and suites, big enough to have jauntily striped runners on the wood floors, are available but not plentiful.
Best detail: Philippe Starck’s polished aluminum Hudson desk chair, manufactured by Emeco and for sale at places like Design Within Reach.
Food and drink: Not much food at the moment. In August Hudson Hall, the hotel's casual-chic cafeteria that replaced the previous restaurant Hudson Cafeteria - huh? -- in 2011 closed. Opening this fall is a beer hall with burgers and other no-frills chow that usually accompanies brew. We'll bring you the details when we get them.
In the meantime, breakfast is served in the Library bar.
Drinks are also available in the Library and, when the weather is good, in the sprawling courtyard garden, garnished with gigantic flowerpots, and the stylish rooftop bar, the Sky Terrace. The Hudson Bar, big and boisterous, has a glass floor lighted from beneath, a ceiling painted, Michelangelo-style, by Francesco Clemente and plenty of perches for people watching.
Amenities: Free newspapers. WiFi ($10 per day). In-room massage. The compact workout room is accessible 24 hours. Fitness-minded guests also can get a VIP pass from the concierge to visit a full-service Equinox gym; passes include discounts on personal training sessions and 15 percent off spa services.
Surroundings: The hotel is steps away from Central Park, Columbus Circle, the new Museum of Arts and Design and the sprawling Time-Warner Center, home to stores (Williams-Sonoma, Borders, Sephora), live music (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and restaurants (Bouchon Bakery, Landmarc, Thomas Keller’s perfectionist Per Se). Lincoln Center is a breezy six-block walk. Midtown shopping and office buildings, Times Square and Broadway theaters, the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University are further afield but easily accessible. The subway and bus stops are nearby. And two hotels are all-but-next door -- the Mandarin Oriental if you want to go posh (and drink in the Central Park views from the 35th-floor lounge) and 6 Columbus if you crave another cool hotel scene.
Back story: This big brick building was a YMCA residential hotel, built in the 1920s, before Philippe Starck and Ian Schrager got their hands on it in 2000. Not everyone had moved out when the hotel opened, as evidenced by the motley collection of window treatments we saw from the courtyard when we stayed here during its first week. Today those early residents are gone. And the redo was radical; all that remains of the previous incarnation are the room configuration and the bricks.
Keep in mind: Window air conditioners. Courtyard rooms can be noisy at night. Hudson has the looks of a boutique hotel but, with 814 rooms, it’s big and can be impersonal. And did we mention that the smallest rooms are really, really tiny?
What We Saw: