A Design Lover's Guide to New York City

Apartment Therapy's Design Destination Guide

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The task of writing a traveler's guide for design aficionados in the city that never sleeps is, well, daunting. A truly exhaustive list would be practically endless (and/or ever-changing), but here I've touched on some of the don't-miss spots if you're a design lover visiting our fair city...

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See:

  • Museum of Modern Art: The MoMA's building, designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi, is a work of art in and of itself. Admission is free on Fridays, from 4 to 8pm.
  • The High Line (above): Elevated on an old freight train line, the High Line was revitalized into a contemporary park designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Field Operations. The park allows visitors to traverse from Gansevoort Street north to W. 30th Street without touching the ground below.
  • Chelsea art galleries: Visit west Chelsea on a weekend night and you'll be sure to run into openings at many of the dozens of galleries lining the streets. Two of the biggest galleries in the neighborhood are Gagosian Gallery and Pace Wildenstein.
  • Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum: Although it's currently closed for renovations, this is obviously a destination for design travelers. The museum is located in Andrew Carnegie's former mansion, and two other townhouses on the property make up a campus that includes the National Design Library.
  • Center for Architecture: The headquarters for AIA New York. Stop in here for a look at ever-changing exhibits focusing on New York City architecture. The galleries are free and open to the public. There is an admission charge for special events and lectures. 
  • Wave Hill: Visit this public garden up north in the Bronx for inspiration outside of the daily norms. It's an absolute escape to step onto the grounds, sit back in a Wave Hill chair, and meander through the gardens, greenhouses, and galleries. The Wave Hill House, at the center of the property, just reopened this summer after a two-year renovation.

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Tour:

  • 101 Spring Street: The New York residence of artist Donald Judd and the birthplace of permanent installations. Said Judd of the space: "I spent a great deal of time placing the art and a great deal designing the renovation in accordance. Everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent."
  • Open House New York: For one weekend every October, the public is invited to tour spaces that aren't normally easily accessible. See private residences, behind-the-scenes perspectives of historic landmarks, construction sites — the list goes on and on. It's always free and always a tremendously fun weekend activity.
  • Governor's Island (above): A former military base, Governor's Island is located right at the foot of Manhattan. Surreal views from the island provide a backdrop for special events and occasional art installations. Travel by ferry to the island on weekends and holiday Mondays throughout the summer. Development of a new public park is underway here.

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Shop:

  • ABC Carpet & Home (above): Shop four floors for beautiful home goods like rugs, decor, furniture, and accessories. When you're done, you can stay for lunch at ABC Kitchen. Shops are organized by designer, and you'll find things here you won't see anywhere else.
  • Van Alen Books: This is the architecture and design bookstore of the Van Alen Institute. It's a new fave since the closing of Urban Center Books.
  • Brooklyn Flea: Whether you come for vintage clothing, antique decor, or food, you'll always find something of interest here (even if it's just a celeb spotting or two).
  • Zabar's: This is a seemingly-endless shop of foodstuff and kitchen gear, a staple of the Upper West Side.
  • Bergdorf Goodman: A New York City department store at its best: ultra high-end goods, a restaurant with food (and decor) to die for, and holiday window displays that are unmatched (even in this town).

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Eat:

  • Chelsea Market: This is one of the culinary hubs of the city, with produce and fish markets, tasty lunch spots, bakeries, and fine dining. Housed in the old Nabisco factory, Chelsea Market is also home to the Food Network.
  • Balthazar: A true French bistro transported across the Atlantic, Balthazar has a wonderful Sunday brunch but is equally impressive for a quick bite any morning of the week or an intimate, leisurely dinner. Even if you haven't visited the city before, you might know the restaurant's Balthazar Cookbook.
  • Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory: Just a hop across the East River puts you at Fulton Ferry Landing and our favorite ice cream in town. The flavors are simple and straightforward, but it's ice cream done just about as good as it gets. Once you have your cone in-hand, be sure to turn around and take in the view!

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Stay:

  • The Standard: The Standard is a contemporary hotel that straddles the High Line and overlooks the Hudson River. It was designed by Todd Schliemann of the Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects).
  • The Mercer: This Soho hotel has loft-like interiors and is smaller in scale than hotelier Andre Balazs' other mention here: The Standard. Neither are thrifty, but both offer unmatched experiences as contemporary landmarks.
  • The NoMad Hotel: The NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) is a new hotel with cozy, home-like interiors by French architect Jacques Garcia. He's the man behind numerous luxury Paris hotel interiors.

(Images: Flickr user phogel licensed for use under Creative Commons, Iwan Bann/High Line, Governor's Island, ABC Carpet & Home, Flickr user Paul Lowry licensed for use under Creative CommonsNoMad Hotel)

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Regina is an architect who lives with her husband and children in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.