Ace Hotel Spin-Off Sister City Offers Mindful Design on Manhattan's Lower East Side

Wire maps handmade by Paul Smotrys in Industry City, Brooklyn, appear in the lobby and throughout the hotel. Photography by Adrian Gaut.

A trendy 200-room hotel on the Lower East Side isn’t so unusual. And neither is it being fitted with gleaming cherrywood details. Classy and tasteful, check and check. But tranquil in-room services in partnership with the Headspace guided-meditation app? A lobby sound installation that creates “music” based on the weather? Original, hand-stamped Isamu Noguchi lanterns? All starting at $150 a night? Now we’re talking unique, and that’s the vibe at Sister City, the 80,000-square-foot property on the Bowery from Atelier Ace, the creative agency that launched the game-changing Ace Hotel in Seattle in 1999 that’s grown to a chainlet of nine sites worldwide.

Kelly Sawdon, chief brand officer and partner at Atelier Ace/Ace Hotel Group, calls the ethos of the new spin-
off brand’s first location “mindful design,” and says that it’s the logical conclusion of the Japanese-Scandinavian inspired “less, but better” movement. She adds, “It lives at the intersection of simplicity and beauty, inspired by design that’s purposeful, minimal, and authentically crafted.”

A custom birch screen separates Sister City's lobby from its restaurant, Floret. Photography by Adrian Gaut.

Much of the work in the century-old tenement building, formerly used by the Salvation Army and expanded by Ace Hotel Group from 10 to 14 floors, is custom, from the terrazzo vanities and handy valets in rooms—which range from a tidy 120 square feet to 200—to the built-in furnishings, which are also on display in the rooftop bar, Last Light, and the ground-level restaurant, Floret. Vintage furniture is peppered in for just the right amount of personality.

Forward-thinking touches include communal corridor pantries with refillable water stations and truly self-service, mobile check-in kiosks. But likely people will be talking the most about the Lobby Score concept, a collaboration with composer Julianna Barwick that came to life with Microsoft’s AI technology. “We were listening to Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports and were inspired by the site-specific songs,” Sawdon says. “Then we wondered what ‘music for hotels’ could sound like.” Now guests will hear an electronic version of the snow, pigeons, and anything else that’s captured by the next-generation camera up on the roof. 

Keep scrolling to view more images of this project >

Patricia Urquiola stools line the bar at Last Light in Sister City hotel on New York's Lower East Side. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
In the lobby of Sister City hotel, vintage furniture including a Rodolfo Bonetto armchair and Joe Colombo side chairs cluster on custom terrazzo flooring. Photography by Adrien Gaut.
Storage space at Sister City is provided under the custom bed in the form of open shelves. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
The terrazzo vanities at Sister City hotel are custom. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
Among the six room types at Sister City hotel on New York's Lower East Side, all featuring custom cherrywood millwork, is the Bunk. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
The somewhat hidden Freeman Alley leads to the back entrance of Sister City, accessed through a painted steel gate. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
Clad in glass block and brick, four stories were added to the century-old tenement building formerly occupied by the Salvation Army and now home to Sister City hotel. Photography by Adrian Gaut.
Instead of closets, guest rooms offer custom valets that were fabricated in Italy. Photography by Adrian Gaut.

Resources: Wausau Tile: Custom Floor Tile (Lobby, Restaurant). Driade: Armchair (Lobby). Kartell: Side Chairs. Alba Woodworking: Cus­tom Bunk Bed (Guest Room). Rich Brilliant Willing: Custom Sconces. Contardi: Mirror. Signature Plumbing: Sink Fittings. Glen-Gery: Brick (Exterior). Moroso: Barstools (Bar). Line Studio Detroit: Custom Bar Counter. Omnia Group: Bar Tile. Lite Brite: Custom Linear Fixtures. Allied Maker Through Manhattan Lights: Pendant Fixtures. Exquisite Surfaces: Wall Tile. Mandy Li: Custom Benches (Bar), Custom Sofa (Lobby). Gauge NYC: Custom Wire Map (Lobby). Cowtan & Tout: Wall Covering (Guest Room). Uhuru: Custom Stool. Throughout: Through Pamono: Vintage Furniture. Haks: Architect Of Record. AV-LV: Audiovisual Consultant. Engineering Group Associates: Structural Engineer. Ettinger Engineering Associates: MEP. Cerami Associates: Acoustical Con­sul­tant. Ciani Arredamenti; Ferrante Manufac­turing Company: Woodwork. CMG Serv­ices: General Contractor.

> See more from the September 2019 issue of Interior Design

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