The Washington Times - June 24, 2008, 11:51PM


By Jacquie Kubin, Editor and writer for Donne Tempo Magazine


New York, New York (June 2008)… There are few other destinations that come with the pre-conceived expectations of New York City.

Whether those expectations come from watching old romance movies, present day classic films, or King Kong, travelers expect this city to be a little bit more exciting, more polished, brighter than any other place on earth.

The reality is that New York is a busy place. It is always crowded, always noisy and there is perceptible grit to the air.

For this road warrior, for a trip to New York to be tremendous, it must include the perfect hotel. Because for me it is more than just a night’s sleep. It is a sanctuary from the noise, the confusion, from the city itself.

The Jumeriah Essex House, N.Y., N.Y.  

After many NYC trips that fell far short of the NYC we see in Hollywood films, Big Apple Nirvana is found at the Jumeirah Essex House.

The Jumeirah Essex House sits at Central Park South, just steps from the park and just blocks from Times Square. It is one of New York’s most famous hotels.

Debuting in 1931 as the Essex House, it launched with the tag “Always in touch with the Park, Never out of touch with the City!”

Over 75 years later, that sentiment still rings true. 

The hotel, a grand dame dressed in art nouveau finery, retains her gilded doors, marble floors, wood detailing and architecture following a $90 million refurbishment, that reinvented the property as a place to see, and be seen, when it reopened in 2007.

The Dubai based company, Jumeirah, acquired the 515-room mansion style property in January 2006. The acquisition completed their search for a United States based property that would not only be iconic, but that would act as a calling card to the city’s large international travel base.

New York city wins hands down as one of the Unites States most expensive destinations. Room rates for standard rooms with barely enough room to turn around in are in excess of $400.00 per night. A little luxury can quickly run over $650. 

For those prices, travelers are demanding that their hotel have the amenities of a fine resort. 

The Jumeriah Essex House Lobby

Hirsch Bedner Associates championed the hotel’s redesign, recreating the lobby by enhancing existing historical charms, such as adding a frosted glass, ala Lalique, reception desk, that mirrors the carved rosette pattern on lobby doors and updating the room and suites to a fresh feel that melds a hip contemporary aesthetic with the property’s art deco heritage. 

They employed a “Cruise Ship” mentality in order to take full advantage of all space imbuing a regal, almost yacht-like approach to the rooms that is luxurious and refined.

Stepping inside the rooms, the floors feel lushly carpeted, the honey-hued built-ins take up less visual and floor space than individual furniture pieces would. Numerous high tech features are prominent.

A favorite bit of technology does away with those annoying doorknob hangers as guests simply flip a switch to turn on the exterior “Do Not Disturb” light.

Guest room, The Jumeriah Essex House

The room’s color palates include golden carpets that support deep red velvet hues found in leather accents, desk executive chair, pillows and door pulls.  

The wall-to-wall wood cabinetry offers ample desk and drawer space while little touches – such as the hammered nail studs on the white leather ottoman, wood and burgundy leather luggage rest, or the light-up poles in the closets. 

An extreme benefit if you have ever left a favored shirt hanging in a dark closet.

Flat screen televisions, motion-sensor stumble lights under the bed side table and in the washroom, telescopes to peer into the trees of Central Park and lounging couches that can double as single sleeping beds, are just some of the luxury accoutrements of the property. 

It all combines to make the Jumeirah Essex house a hip, art nouveau meets 21st century technology hybrid worthy of your time, and money to visit.  

Paying homage to those early Hollywood films, entering the front door of the property, you quickly feel that you are someone, entering someplace special, where just “anyone” doesn’t go.  It is just that crisply smooth.

Striving to return a bit of historical elegance to the property, the Jumeirah Essex House supports a lobby arts program that presently includes a collaborative exhibit “The Heart of Central Park – An Exhibition of over a Century of Images of Central Park from the Archives of The Museum of The City of New York and Magnum Photos. 

These photos, many of them in black and white, reach back to the mid-1800s and brings to life the history of the city’s green heart and includes historical photos of those things we still love to do in the park, including skating, visiting the zoo, sailing boats on the lake or just enjoying its lushness.

Further celebrating the Central Park theme, the hotel’s curator Katherine Gass also commissioned two stunning works by noted Korean photographer Atta Kim and the American contemporary landscape painter, Mark Innerst.

The Spa. The Jumeriah Essex House

Enhancing the hotel’s destination qualities are the luxe “The Spa at the Jumeirah Essex House” that includes sumptuous men’s and women’s relaxation lounges, personal soaking tubs and a 1,000 square foot fitness space, with or without a personal trainer.  

The Spa, which uses Australia’s Sodashi 100-percent all-natural skin care and spa therapy line, provides a full menu of facial, body, massage and health therapies.  It provides a luxury, tranquil environment that takes you out of the city to an oasis of wellness. 

South Gate restaurant

A last, but by no means least, element for the property is Chef Kerry Heffernan’s South Gate restaurant.  Nothing short of an oasis in the desert of New York’s Mid-Town culinary offerings, Chef Kerry provides a sparkling new restaurant, and exciting menu filled with greenmarket inspired dishes that are innovative, interesting and exciting.  

There is little doubt that Chef Kerry’s South Gate will be on the agenda for all future NYC trips.

The Essex House has been a part of New York City’s Central Park landscape for over seventy-five years.  Now Jumeirah has given this historical grand dame new life, new purpose and a very lovely new elegance that will continue to keep her “Always in touch with the Park. Never out of touch with the City!”

Jacquie Kubin is editor and writer for Donne Tempo Magazine and always on the lookout for that extra bit of luxury in travel.