It’s early Thursday morning, and the lobby of Walker Hotel Tribeca is already buzzing. Hot tea in hand, I’m joined on a velvet sectional by two bright-eyed young tourists and a fellow laptop-bearing woman starting her work day. Stylish New Yorkers slip in and out among the hotel guests to grab Blue Bottle coffee. But this is hardly just a spot to be seen; the warm, inviting lobby is packed with covetable design, including Pierre Jeanneret chairs and luxe Børge Mogensen sofas perched atop colorful rugs.
This is Walker Hotels’ second outpost (the first is less than two miles up the road in Greenwich Village), which is owned and operated by hospitality company Bridgeton. The 171-room hotel offers a variety of room types, from lofted queens to corner kings with views of the midtown or downtown skylines, all gussied up with rich leather armchairs, herringbone wood floors, and baths lined with Carrara marble subway tiles. By early next year, six restaurants, cafes, and bars will be open on the property, including a rooftop bar in the spring. AD PRO caught up with with Conor O’Byrne—Bridgeton’s VP of development and design—to hear about how he honored the building’s storied past while dressing it up for the present.
AD PRO: Tell me about the architectural bones of the building. How did the design team work with these features?
Conor O’Byrne: The building was originally designed by William H. Birkmire—probably most well-known for the building that houses the Strand bookstore—120 years ago. When one thinks of a Tribeca Renaissance Revival building, his buildings capture the image. In an area known for remarkable architecture, the building had strong bones, and we saw great potential. The gorgeous ornamental iron and limestone façade was covered in graffitied faux stone and an aluminum storefront, the interior plaster detailing had been hidden by acoustical ceiling tile, and the ornate metalwork and stair detailing were covered up to hide other problems.
AD PRO: What things stayed and what had to go?
CO: We restored everything possible. We kept the desirable high ceilings, large windows, and unobstructed open floors. We kept all of the finishes. We even had computers scan the handrails to create perfectly matched curves of what would have been originally installed. We replicated the lobby moldings in the traditional way, using plaster and burlap to adhere them to the ceilings. Even the parapet at the roof was rebuilt utilizing solid four-inch bluestone coping, in lieu of precast or metal flashing caps. The original service elevator was still functioning when we purchased the property. We rode it during our original tour, but sadly it had to go.
Architectural Digest is an American monthly magazine founded in 1920. Its principal subject is interior design, rather than architecture more generally. The magazine is published by Condé Nast, which also publishes international editions of Architectural Digest in China, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Mexico, and Latin America.