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The Ludlow Hotel: A New York story

For hotel designer Sean MacPherson who first visited the Lower East Side in 1984 the Ludlow draws on his own experiences, “Along with layers of history there was a grittiness and nervous energy”, he says, “You had a sense that something could break out at any moment, whether it was street art or a riot…”



In the 19th century the area was renowned for its multi-cultural flavour, poverty, the so-called gangs, brothels, vice and thus, violence.   The multi-cultural threads included a sizable Jewish immigrant population, slaves fleeing the south, Irish immigrants all of whom incensed the local “nationals” who were anti-immigration.

The area is one of the oldest of New York City with its earliest inhabitants in the 17th century. Free black farmers settled there as white Dutchmen avoided the area due to its proximity to the Native Americans.

new york institutionThe Lower East Side provided cheap rent for new immigrants, including Koreans, Indians, Dominicans from the 1950s to the 1980s; thus LES became a starting point for immigrants passing through on their way to further afield middle-class environs.  Roughly seventy-five percent of the Jewish population in New York city was situated in the Lower East Side in 1892 (Diner).

The cheap rent in LES meant that it also attracted many artists and along with food institutions, art galleries and the arts have flourished in Lower East Side.

Today, the Lower East Side is known for a focus on art and culture, however, the immigrant influence remains definitive as many extant historic institutions attest to.

garden restaurantThe infamous and colorful history of LES precedes consumption of cultural life in this part of New York to this day.

The hotel conjures the areas vivid history from the Gangs of New York…to the wild art and music of the 1980’s

An illustrious legacy exists; the renowned and historic Jewish institutions of Katz Deli plus Russ and Daughters, and hip espresso bars like Prodigy and Happy Bones; destinations not to be missed.

LES is home to many prominent contemporary art galleries, so put at least one day of your stay in pursuit of art in all its forms; the following are within just a few blocks, Canada, Sperone Westwater and Chapter NY to name a few.

Time to head back to the Ludlow rooftop and order up a jug of iced water and lemon and a few Jungle Booby’s to kick-start the night!

sean macphersonHaving taken a decade to emerge, the architecture and interiors have been thoughtfully curated to reflect a nuanced sense of the combined culture(s) of the neighbourhood; in the reception area and lobby, you may be forgiven for thinking you have walked onto the set of Gone With the Wind; a reminiscent quality in which you might see Rhett Butler lounging about, cigar in hand or the elderly gent in white apron behind the counter of the corner drapery or grain store, add a dash of saloon bar  and old-world restaurant charm and we are approaching the designer’s expansive aesthetic.

There is a sense that the designers are asking you to take part in a cinematic adventure within the Lower East Side of which the Ludlow forms a significant part.

This concept is extended in light of the internal experiences the hotel itself offers such as the garden restaurant and rooftop bar. The adventure begins and ends with the Ludlow.

Upstairs feels private and personal – like a New Yorker’s downtown living space – with furniture and artisan touches hand-picked by MacPherson. Hardwood floors and handmade silk rugs add a refined air while… Between two plush upholstered chairs, a marble-topped bistro table in each room feels like a New Yorker’s downtown living space…

What struck me in the bedrooms is the deft manner a soft quasi-Spanish Mission aesthetic has been deployed; light walls and dark decorative furniture.  In this instance, the look crystalizes in the rolled stands of the two-poster bed, as well as the dark timber architraves. Conversely, in 2018 pseudo-slatted ceilings are the norm in contemporary interiors.

spanish mission styleWhat the Ludlow does brilliantly is to capture a singular and personal style across traditional and contemporary design; it is one which all visitors will identify with in some way.

The rooms are designed as oases of relaxation after a long day in the hood, but they are also destinations in themselves: the refined eclecticism (a refinement that increases as you go up) makes spending time in the room an exciting experience because visitors are invited to enter into a bigger story of the Lower East Side as understood by the Ludlow.

The bathrooms are based on a traditional European aesthetic of Carrara marble and gold fittings designed to envelop guests in a sumptuous experience; order up a bottle of Moët or Krug, lie back in the tub and soak those wretched feet while sipping ice-cold champagne.  What could be better!  The plush towels, robes, and mats are the icing on the cake in surroundings designed to pamper and comfort.

In relation to aesthetics, the Ludlow has applied a practiced and polished focus to both envelop and delight the traveler.


The fact that it displays interiors which reflect everything from hand-made silk rugs to tree trunk bedside tables indicates a sense of adventure and an evolving style. This means in different ways visitors are likely to see themselves reflected.  
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