The Interiors Addict’s Guide to New York
Oh New York, New York, you did it again! I loved my first visit to the Big Apple ten years ago and have been dying to get back ever since. This time, having become a full-time interior design fiend, I approached it rather differently.
I’m going to share my favourite experiences with you: what I did, where I ate, what I saw and, most importantly, where I went homewares shopping. Ready?
NYC has this constant buzz about it (I call it magic) – design inspiration is at every turn, in the architecture, the coolest bars, the museums, the fashion; all before you even step inside a furniture store. But, of course, I did!
An absolute highlight was my trip to Jonathan Adler in SoHo (one of three New York stores). Despite having been a fan of JA for I-don’t-know-how-long, coveting almost everything the brand produces and my own home’s décor being influenced by his style, I had never been in a Jonathan Adler store. I know, right? My purchases have been confined to online shopping. These days, you can buy Jonathan Adler products from a handful of Australian stores, but it’s just not the same as visiting a JA store.
It is a riot of colour and pattern. That’s a clichéd term but trust me, it really is! I found my happy place there. I could have stayed for hours. Truly. The staff were delightful; friendly, helpful and full of advice for my New York friend Molly, who came with me. She is looking to introduce colour into her new home and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to show her colour at work.
Another must-visit for design junkies is the iconic ABC Carpet and Home on Broadway. It encompasses two sites on opposite sides of the street and is huge. In fact, some say it’s the world’s largest rug and carpet store. There’s about eight acres of selling space. Phew.
I covered all of it, naturally, in the name of research. This is not the place to go shopping if you’re strapped for cash but, even if you are, it’s inspiration central. All the wares are organised in vignettes, or room sets, and they’re just wonderful. It’s an interiors addict’s dream.
The store also has an adjoining restaurant, ABC Kitchen, which is just as delightfully decorated. With a Michelin starred chef and regional, GMO-free, fair-trade menu, this place has a great reputation and books up well in advance. I wish I’d known this before my trip, so there’s my tip for you: book ahead and treat yourself.
Other stores worth checking out are Anthropologie (of course!) for its gorgeous mix of homewares and fashion, and for a really enjoyable shopping experience, Design Within Reach (although within reach of whose budget is debatable), Crate & Barrel (middle of the road homewares) and Room and Board (if you like that classic American, timber-heavy look, but with a modern edge). West Elm is one of my favourite homewares destinations in Sydney and I enjoyed checking out their New York store in Chelsea too.
Art at its best
Of course, if you love design and/or art, you cannot go past MoMA (top tip: it’s free on Friday nights and you get a decent discount if you buy a combo ticket when you go to see the view at Top of the Rock. It’s usually $25 per adult).
There’s a decent collection of furniture through the ages, but my jaw dropped over the art. It’s like an introduction to the best of the best masterpieces all in one dreamy afternoon. Think Monet, Picasso, Rothko, Van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse and many more greats. It’s truly breathtaking; probably the most enjoyable museum experience of my life so far, and I’ve been to a few.
Where to eat
No guide to New York is complete without a few restaurant recommendations. My favourite dinner was at Minetta Tavern. This is old school New York and one of those wonderful places where the service and food are top notch but the atmosphere cosy and non-pretentious. They claim their Black Label Burger is one of NYC’s best (don’t they all?) but I’m telling you, it’s got to be one of them! It’s mid range expensive and make sure you book in advance.
We had a great brunch (New Yorkers love to brunch, especially on Sundays) at Cafe Habana in NoLita. It’s no frills but the Mexican food is fantastic, generous and cheap. Be prepared to queue up.
You really need to try at least one rooftop in New York – we went to Penthouse 808 in Queens (go on, be brave and leave Manhattan!) where we had great sushi and cocktails at reasonable prices and a fantastic view of the city as the sun went down. Don’t be put off by the location and entrance to the hotel, which aren’t all that flash!
A great tip for really good Italian food in a bustling, pleasant little restaurant is Bianca on Bleecker Street. And if you want a proper fast food budget burger, check out Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen (there are three branches), whose onion rings are the biggest and crunchiest I’ve ever eaten. I heard good things about Shake Shack too, but we could never be bothered to queue for it.
Expedia’s Aussie travellers tend to spend 5-6 nights in New York – that’s plenty of time to eat your way through some of the city. Make sure you allow plenty of time for queuing though.
Adventures around town
Some great things we did in New York for free were walking the High Line (a raised park on a disused railway line with unique views of the city), picnicking in Central Park (of course), walking around the amazing Public Library (scene of Carrie’s would-be wedding to Big in the first movie), passing through the iconic Grand Central Station, visiting the tasteful and impressive 9/11 Memorial, and walking over the Brooklyn Bridge (if you can only be bothered to do it one way, do it towards Manhattan for the incredible view).
If you’re female then there’s every chance you can’t, like me, think of Manhattan without thinking of Carrie Bradshaw. It is for this reason that I found myself back on On Location Tours’ Sex and the City Hotspots tour for the second time while in town. It’s so much fun. We were taken around countless places from the series and the movie, with stops for cupcakes and shopping, a Cosmopolitan at Steve and Aidan’s bar and a sex toy shop. Sadly, the tour no longer stops at Carrie’s stoop due to complaints from neighbours about the incessant photo-taking by tourists and fans (it’s at 66 Perry Street, between Bleecker and West 4th if you’d like to track it down yourself). $50 well spent if you’re a fan.
My favourite neighbourhood to wander around aimlessly was Greenwich Village (and its West Village). It has the best boutiques and restaurants and a wonderful vibe – no wonder so many celebs live there. We kept finding ourselves drawn back to this area, if only to wander through or sit in the fabulous Washington Square Park where old men play chess, parents play with their kids and friends meet and chat around the fountain, all in the shadow of the Washington Arch. Manhattan, on the whole, is pretty fast-paced and crowded and sometimes it gets to you. Greenwich feels a million miles away from all the hustle and bustle.
Where to sleep
We stayed at Hotel Chandler in Midtown East, which was a great quality hotel with very helpful staff. The rooms are tiny (as are most hotels on the island) but comfortable and well equipped. The communal areas are stylishly decorated and its Midtown East location is convenient for most sightseeing. Midtown East is one of the most popular areas for Expedia’s Aussie travellers to stay – after Times Square. You’re a little bit removed from the hectic pace of Times Square but still close to all the action.