A Tech Lover's Stay at the Nolitan Hotel, Downtown NY

The Nolitan Hotel is the first luxury boutique hotel located in NoLita (short for "North of Little Italy"), a thriving and favorite neighborhood in our new hometown, New York. We were recently invited to experience the newly opened design-centric hotel for ourselves, specifically to check out all the tech-related amenities that supposedly offer guests a wide variety of of work/play options at the press of a few buttons. Find out what a resident New Yorker/tech lover thinks about this newcomer to the popular (and frankly over-saturated) boutique hotels market popping up all around the city below...

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The neighborhood:
NoLita is a small but exciting neighborhood in downtown Manhattan. Due to its small size, some visitors may be unfamiliar with the area because it is often underrepresented in travel information. But don't let that discourage you from choosing this neighborhood as your next destination. Situated next to SoHo and the Lower East Side and minutes from the East Village, NoLita is an excellent gateway to some of the famous downtown neighborhoods of Manhattan. But it also boasts a ton of great restaurants, shops, and nightlife spots right within its borders. NoLita is very much a residential neighborhood and is not filled with touristy features. This might be off-putting for some but the real benefit is that you will be getting a more authentic NY experience by eating at restaurants that don't title their entrees by NY landmarks and walking into clothing stores that don't have "I Love NY" plastered over all their wares.

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The building:
The hotel was designed by local studio Grzywinski + Pons. The architects were acutely aware of the diversified architecture of the area due in part to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. They chose to highlight this unique characteristic both in the exterior and interior of the building. The facade features two distinct languages which serve to visually split the building so it doesn't feel so monolithic in the presence of the much narrower buildings surrounding it. The materials used both inside and outside were carefully considered to emphasize a feeling of urban luxury with a modern style. Woods, metals, and even poured concrete were utilized yet the building feels cohesive and manages to retain a warm and inviting nature as opposed to an oppressive coldness that many modern buildings suffer from.

The interior of the Nolitan is stylistically similar to the exterior. This can be credited to the architects who were also chosen to design the interior as well. The lobby features a double high ceiling and a beautiful sunken library/sitting area. Beyond that is the hotel's restaurant Ellabess which has a similarly sunken floor that puts the sidewalk outside around eye level for patrons.

Finally, the Nolitan features a beautiful roof with vistas as far as the eye can see. There isn't a single building taller than the Nolitan in the area to block your view. Looking uptown or downtown will give you beautiful views of Manhattan as well as looking east over the Williamsburg bridge into Brooklyn. Unfortunately as of the time of this review, the roof has not yet been completed and remains bare. During my stay, I visited the roof several times.

On the final occasion, however, a security guard very kindly informed me that the roof was off limits while it was unfinished. Whether or not you should be up there, I recommend checking it out at least once. The architects have informed me there are big plans for the roof including built-in wooden benches, plants, and a bar. All of which would elevate the appeal of this hotel both as a place to stay but also for local parties and events.

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The room:
My room was on the west end of the hotel featuring a balcony. The room is tiny but that is par for the course as far as NY hotels go unless you wish to pay an astronomical price or live in an undesirable location. Despite its size, the smart layout and storage options made it comfortably livable. When you enter the room you are flanked by the bathroom on one end and a closet and separate room with the toilet on the other. The doors have pocket hinges that remain hidden when it is closed so the two doors almost disappear completely against the wall.

The closet features a refrigerator, ample room to store clothes, the standard robe, wooden hangers, an umbrella, yoga mat, and Nolitan shopping bags. The second room is quite bare with literally a toilet, toilet paper, and wastebin. The walls are bare and the space feels a little dead and forgotten. It would be nice to have a piece of art or something on the walls to help liven it up.

The all-white bathroom on the other end is bright and beautifully designed. The sink is spacious, the mirror is enormous, and there are multiple lighting options available for you. The soaps provided are from a local shop called Red Flower and they're quite good! There are plenty of towels and robes provided but of course more are available after a call to room service. The shower is large by NY standards and is surrounded by glass. My room was tub-less but other layouts feature a beautiful stand alone tub.

Continuing on to the main area and passing a full sized mirror (a necessity for me), you're greeted by a big, extremely comfy bed with storage underneath, as well as two night tables, a desk, two chairs, and a wall mounted television. The room, like the exterior, is undeniably modern and youthful yet still feels very comfortable, welcoming, and luxurious. The decor is tastefully done -- a feature I don't see much in hotels. But our highlight might be the walls. There is a beautiful paint treatment above the bed that makes the black wall slightly glossy and look almost like stone. The 37" TV was plenty large and the room comes with a beautiful clock/stereo/radio which will fit any one of your iPod/iPhone units.

And finally, the balcony is narrow yet long enough to hold about 4 or 5 people tops. The beautiful glass guard might be a bit too much for those who are afraid of heights to handle. There is a metal beam which extends a few inches below the top of the glass guard and is perfect for resting drinks on. The only missing feature which would really elevate the usability of this space would be a tiny table and a chair or two where someone could sit and have a cup of coffee in the morning. Alternatively, it would have been nice to see the back wall built out slightly to create a bench that you could sit on without requiring any more furniture.

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The amenities:
To list them all would become quite tedious when you could read about them on the website but there are a few which I found to be particularly unique and pleasurable. There are free bike and skateboard rentals as a means to get around town. Anytime a hotel can promote energy efficient transportation they will get a big nod from Unplggd. There are also board game rentals and for those slightly more tech-inclined you can request a laptop, iPad, or a gaming console like Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or Wii. I'm not sure what games are provided -- you could easily call and ask before your trip -- but you can always feel free to pack your own game if you know you'll have a particular craving once you're there. It's also important to mention the internet usability. It is provided free of charge (a feature which should be standard anywhere you go but sadly, this is not the case.) More importantly, internet is actually reliable and fast. There is nothing more frustrating than a hotel internet connection which is slow or has a weak connection. Neither of those problems exist here so feel confident when you arrive you can rely on a steady internet speed. And If you have pets you're welcome to bring them along as well. The Nolitan will set aside toys and treats for them in your room when you arrive.

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The stay:
Upon ordering your reservations you will be emailed a confirmation containing information for your entire stay. In it you can access your "All About You" page that features a full list of options you can select such as whether you prefer to receive a NY Times or Wall St Journal in the morning. Taking a minute to fill out this survey will help the Nolitan better personalize your stay. It's quite a handy feature and is a nice introduction to the kind of service and care you can expect to receive. As your checkin date draws closer you will get a second email, this time featuring the weather outlook for your stay (a handy addition) as well as some tips for transpiration, dining, spa services, etc...

The checkin process was simple and the staff was very friendly. A doorman is also available to help you with your luggage if needed. The room will have plenty of information waiting for you when you arrive including a nice big directory of things to do in case you forgot to plan your trip or need to fill in some gaps with particular restaurants, shops, galleries, etc... One thing missing from this directory which shocked us is a guide to the television channels. The only way to find the channels right now is currently through the TV's onscreen menu navigation which is both slow and tedious to use. This was a major drawback to us when using the TV which is otherwise high quality and features both standard and HD stations as well as HBO.

During my stay I ordered numerous things from room service such as an iPad, board games, an extra toothbrush, and tooth paste. Everything was delivered promptly and exactly as I had requested. When room service is cleaning your room, you're able to refuse the service to change your sheets and towels if you wish to conserve energy and water. This is another smart and ecofriendly option which many hotels have adopted. One feature which left me a bit puzzled was a daily card describing the weather forecast for the day that is left on your bed. The card is beautifully designed and the information is of course very helpful but to repeat this task for each occupied hotel room every day seemed a bit unnecessarily wasteful, particularly when the hotel was attempting to be more ecofriendly elsewhere. Having some kind of app which displays the weather on the TV screen, or having an automatic emailing system so the weather is available on your phone when you wake up, or even having a small chalk board which can be erased and reused might be smarter.

One noticeable element to the room was how noisy it was. Remember when I said you will get an authentic downtown NY experience? Well this is part of it. Since the hotel is situated on Kenmare, a main thoroughfare that reaches all the way down to the Williamsburg bridge, traffic and all of its unpleasant noises is an unavoidable beast. Even on one of the highest floors with the balcony door closed, it was still fairly loud. Mind you, it is easy to carry on a conversation, watch TV, listen to music, and do anything else you might want to do. But it certainly isn't silent by any means inside the room. This might bother some more than others so it is worthwhile to note.

Another "authentic" NY element is the implied voyeurism within the rooms. Although the majority of the windows are distorted with beautiful etched glass, there are some that remain selectively transparent. In my room the transparent window was the one which not only aligned perfectly with the bed, but straight on through to the glass shower as well. Of course there are curtains shoved to the sides of the wall (there is one against the shower as well) that can provide privacy if need be, but the obvious intent is for them to be left open so you can enjoy watching NY while you wash up or relax in bed (and perhaps vice-versa.)

Lastly, there is a minor point which made me a bit disappointed. As you can see in the photos the room comes complete with a desk and desk chair -- a white Eames with an eiffel base. Not so. Upon sitting in the chair I knew instantly the quality was not on par with an Eames. I flipped it over and realized it was missing any kind of authenticity stamp from the manufacturer. Although this isn't a huge detail and didn't detract from my stay, I was curious as to why a hotel which is obviously design-minded and would attract that kind of clientele, would furnish their rooms with cheap knockoffs of the real thing. Not being one to support fakes, I was a bit disappointed by that decision.

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In Conclusion:
The stay overall was very enjoyable and exceeded my expectations. Because it's a boutique hotel you feel like you're getting a much more personalized service and that the staff is closely attuned to your needs. I can't recommend this hotel to everyone. If you're a family or expecting to do a lot of standard, touristy things upon your visit, this hotel probably won't be right for you. If however you're young and looking to live like a NYer and not someone in from out of town, this is a great place to be. And although the Nolitan is far from the cheapest option in town, if it is within your price range, you will certainly be getting your money's worth.

Pros:
Location is excellent for the traveler looking to be immersed in downtown NY
Beautiful building and material choices
Friendly staff
Numerous and unique amenities
Luxurious rooms
Attention to eco-friendly solutions
Fair pricing

Cons:
A lot of street noise
Roof is unfinished
Not for families
Location isn't touristy
Excessive glass might leave visitors feeling overexposed
Questionable design decisions like the empty water closet or fake Eames

The Nolitan Hotel
30 Kenmare St.
NY, NY 10012
T: +1 212 925 2555

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