4 -min. read

A hotel opening in New York City doesn’t always deserve a headline, but when it’s an arrival this vibrant — in a part of town that so desperately needs some comfort and fun – we feel like sending a ticker-tape parade up Fifth Avenue.

That’s where you’ll find The Whitby Hotel, Firmdale’s latest gem, which is now open on 56th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. (Orientation tip: The Plaza Hotel is just two blocks north and The Museum of Modern Art three blocks south.) Yes, there are lots of high-end hotels in this area, but none quite as design-forward and distinctive as what Firmdale founder Tim and Kit Kemp have dreamed up here.


It will come as no surprise to fans of Firmdale’s properties in London and The Crosby Street Hotel that The Whitby is both instantly recognizable as a Kit Kemp production and full of surprising details. Take a spin through the 16-floor hotel, as we did recently, and you’ll get dizzy trying to remember the charming anecdotes behind each piece of art, fabric, sculpture—essentially any detail you lay eyes on. Apart from being beautiful, and invoking that cozy but modern English estate feeling, the design made us ooh and ahh with childlike excitement. Who can deny design with that kind of powerful pull?


Okay, now for some facts: each of the 86 rooms and suites is individually designed, with floor-to-ceiling windows that resemble those of Crosby Street Hotel, bringing some cool SoHo flavor uptown—and, more importantly, drenching the rooms in natural light that plays off Kit Kemp’s designs like magic. Entry-level Superior Rooms are 330 square feet/31 sq. m, making them spacious by New York standards, while some of the higher-category suites have a private terrace and Manhattan city views. Florals and patterns and colors you never dreamed of together make these rooms a joy to discover and Kemp has used some of her own fabric designs in a mix with rugs, ceramics, art and cushions from other artists and designers.

Guest Rooms

Naturally, the wonder of the design extends to every nook and cranny of The Whitby—even the staircase down to the event spaces sports beautiful wallpaper and artwork and the sumptuous event spaces, themselves (like the Araminta Room’s flora and fauna feel) might be the only meeting rooms we’ve ever seen that we’d be happy to sleep in. Both the Araminta and Anrep rooms feature a wallpaper Kit collaborated with muralist Melissa White on, and it’s inspired by Kit’s own Mythical Creatures print, which she designed for Chelsea Textiles and a Wedgwood dinner service that you can experience here and at all Firmdale hotels.

Araminta Room

Like Crosby Street, The Whitby has a 130-seat screening room, ensuring a steady stream of industry events in the weeks and months to come. Back up on the lobby level—where the lobby itself houses unique pieces of art—you’ll find The Whitby Bar & Restaurant, where the collection of 52 baskets sourced from the British Isles that hang over the 30-foot-long pewter bar have been garnering a lot of their own press. The rest of the room is equally dramatic, but feels cozy—and we’re sure it will be filled with New Yorkers and visitors from the very first hours of its official opening to the public this week.

Bar and Restaurant

At the back of the restaurant is The Orangery, which is both an extension of the restaurant seating and also an option for private events. It’s a dreamy, natural-light-filled space with a wall that holds 40 hand-etched porcelain vessels by Martha Freud, each depicting iconic New York landmark buildings and bridges. Overhead, there are two wrought-iron chandeliers, where vintage brass parrots perch (apparently, this detail was suggested by one of Kemp’s daughters—and was not the only familial influence in the hotel’s design.) There is also a wall of antique Victorian ceramic platters framed in Perspex which provide a dash of that proper British feeling with a thoroughly modern and fresh presentation. The Drawing Room continues that theme, and is an intimate spot for guests to read, relax and enjoy complimentary refreshments throughout the day.

The Orangery

There are so many more individual details of The Whitby’s design we could tell you about, but rather than prattle on, we suggest you get yourself to the hotel for a stay, an event, a meal or cocktail—or, if you’re in the business of finding the right spots for clients, take your own tour of the hotel and enjoy every second of it.

To be so thoroughly welcomed, charmed and delighted by our surroundings is such a rare treat these days—kudos to The Whitby for doing just that with this exciting new addition to the NYC hotel scene.

[Rooms at The Whitby start at $695 a night.]


Rebecca Wallwork
Rebecca Wallwork is a writer based in Miami Beach, although you’ll also find her checking out the newest hotels in New York City. She is a former contributing editor to HotelChatter, and loves dogs and books as much as she does hotels.

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