Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Secret New York, Part 2

Manhattan's so magnificent, it really needs a series of posts to do the place justice. Strike that. It needs an entire blog. Unfortunately, there's not enough space here to adequately cover all the fabulous destinations in this urban fantasy of a city, so I'll try and bullet-point those that I love the most, in the hope that you'll love them, too.

Assouline's first US bookstore is an elegant little boutique tucked away on the mezzanine of The Plaza hotel. Now if you haven't been to The Plaza for tea, here's a good excuse to go. The hotel's interior is deservedly famous, but the bookstore is the really gorgeous part. Filled with Assouline's signature glossy coffee-table titles on fashion, photography, travel, and society, the store also carries unusual titles, ideas and gifts for the fussy bibliophone. I love the display of vintage editions (I found an old Jackie O book here), plus the Goyard trunks (Wallis Simpson's fav), and the Slim Aaron photographs – all for sale at Manhattanesque prices. But the browsing is free. {Photograph from my own collection.} Mezzanine level of Plaza, 768 Fifth Avenue, New York.

Okay, so it's not secret, but it deserves a mention because not enough tourists know about this gem. Most people do Saks and Bergdorf Goodman but I prefer Henri Bendel: it's intimate and exquisite and the window displays are always sublime. The petite interior is a little like a doll's house department store, the shopping is fabulous (look for cute gifts in the 'mini Henri Bendel store' to the left of the entrance) and the atmosphere is lively and fun. {Photographs from my own collection.} 712 Fifth Avenue, New York

Great for photography lovers, the ICP always has good exhibitions, but the main reason for going is the fantastic gift store. I'm always buying cute gifts here – books, mobile/cell phone holders that look like Leica cameras, key rings with tiny cameras on them (complete with working flashes), charming journals and notebooks... A real New York find. {Images of Joan Crawford from current exhibition 'Magnum Contact Sheets'} 1114 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street.

I stayed at The Ace just after it opened in order to shoot it for a book on hotels. It was noisy, and full of workman and debris. But this was the view of the Empire State from my room. Do you think I cared about workmen? Since then it's achieved lots of media for its private school-style interior (lots of tartan, leather club chairs, books, science lab-style cabinets and quirky graffiti wallpaper). It's worth a peek – the bar is funky and the restrooms are as quirky as the reception – but it's the Stumptown cafe that I love. A truly amazing interior with a old library feel, music from a turntable and baristas dressed in vintage chic (Stumptown shops do vintage like no one else) – plus reaaaaallly good coffee, it's as fascinating as the rest of the hotel. {Photograph from my own collection.} 20 West 29th Street, New York.

John Derian's store is like those wonderful, old-fashioned general stores that have long since disappeared. I suspect the 'look' is deliberate. Even the sister store next door is called 'Dry Goods'. Full of trestle tables loaded with whimsical things, from Derian's famous decoupage plates (I love the ones with writing and leaves) to quirky vintage finds (I bought lots of postcards), it's a place for linger for ages. It's difficult to find, but oh, so worthwhile when you do. And don't miss the Dry Goods store next door too. {Photograph from my own collection.} 6 E. 2nd Street, New York.

A former mansion, this grand Upper East Side New York residence was converted to an impressive museum several years ago, but the extraordinary architecture and interiors are still intact. I often pop in just to stare at the staircase. And the gift store is one of the best in the city. {Image via Elle Decor} 1048 Fifth Avenue, New York.

It's far from being a secret, but Balthazar still needs to be mentioned on any Must-See List. This gorgeous French bistro has so much ambience, it could teach its Parisians counterparts a thing or two! Sometimes it's difficult to get into for lunch, so try brunch or an early dinner. The people watching is as good as the interior design. {Photograph from my own collection.} 80 Spring Street, New York.

Schiller's is the kind of New York bar you expect (or hope) to find in New York: slightly retro with loads of ambiance and a classic Manhattan interior. {Photograph from my own collection} 131 Rivington Street, New York.

I love the Flatiron area. The Flatiron building itself has long been one of New York's icons, but the neighbourhood is now fast becoming a creative haven of intriguing boutiques, quirky hotels (the Ace, for one), new media/architecture/design companies and great homewares stores. When you get weary from visiting them all, stop and rest your aching feet here, at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Now I must admit I can never be bothered waiting in line (you should see the queues some days), so I often sit in the park and watch New Yorkers at play. The park is a lovely pocket of greenery, and if you can get to the Shake Shack, the food is great, too. {Photograph from my own collection.} Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street.

If you loved seeing the architecture of Carrie's building in SATC, then head to the Upper East Side, where these brownstones are in glorious abundance. The irony is, the fictional apartment building was meant to be located at 245 East 73rd Street (it's not really there), but the 'real' apartment building shot for the series and film is actually further downtown at 66 Perry Street (between Bleecker and West 4th). However, the Upper East Side and particularly the area around East 73rd Street is a better gallery of these architectural gems.  {Photograph from my own collection.}

The spectacularly beautiful Gramercy Park is a private park, meaning only local residents have the key. But if you stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel you can have guest access. It's a great benefit as the park is one of the best in the city. Charlotte Devree in the New York Times commented that "There is nothing else quite like Gramercy Park in the country". I agree. Oh – and the hotel's pretty gorgeous, too. {Photograph from Wikipedia by BeyondMyKen} 2 Lexington Avenue, New York.

One of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in New York is that surrounding Gramercy Park, and the street New Yorkers call the 'Block Beautiful' is just that: extraordinary. The block actually covers East 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue, but you can wander around anywhere here really and be rewarded with architectural eye candy. There are also some pretty glam residents – Karl Lagerfeld has an apartment here and Jennifer Aniston is reportedly trying to buy one too. {Photograph from Wikipedia by BeyondMyKen}

The brilliant idea of two super-creative French guys who first cut their retail teeth with a store in Grasse, this beautifully scented emporiom-ette is a place for those who want their own signature fragrance. And let's face it – who wouldn't love their own custom-made scent? Just take along a list of your favourite scents – or be inspired by theirs – and they'll whip up your own elegant creation, which no one else will have. What a superb idea. (Image via Veranda magazine} 233 Elizabeth Street, New York.


Elegant garden and home wear chosen by Bunny Williams and John Rosselli. Just lovely.
1015 Lexington Avenue, New York.

Lucy Barnes makes flirty frocks. She also makes sexy ones. And seductive ones. And ones that could pick up a billionaire in St Barts all by themselves. But the Scottish designer doesn't just do sexy. She also does sweet, summery, cute and lovely. Anthropologie fell in love with her difusion line so much the company asked to stock it in its stores. Think silk skirts, satin-lined lace tops, and silk halters. All entirely irresistible. 320 West 14th Street, New York.

I often come here just to browse through Madeline Weinrib’s amazing rugs, but there's so much else to see. Ten floors of it, to be exact. Antiques, textiles, furniture, and bedding. Often exhausting but fab nonetheless. 888 & 881 Broadway at East 19th Street (Flatiron District), New York. 

An interior designer with a great eye, Steven's store is always stocked with great vintage finds, from the divine to the sublime and even the witty and whimsical. 44 White Street, New York.

The decorator's decorator, Mr Bland is far from what his name suggests. In fact, his store is filled with brilliant buys, including stunning pieces from the 18th century to the present. 1262 Madison Avenue, New York.

Unusual name; great store. Lovely mirrors with beautiful patinas, great lighting (including old industrial fixtures) and other spectacular pieces make this a good source of interior ideas and buys. 613 Hudson Street, New York.

A gallery of button loveliness. So fantastic, you start to wonder if you should be unpicking all your dull old buttons and replacing them with cute ones from here. Also sweet trimmings and other decorating things. 143 E. 62nd Street, New York.

Lots of fashion insiders come here for their wardrobes. It's a boutique specialising in second-hand designer wear and shoes, but it's like no second-hand place I've ever seen. It's more of a boutique with 'gently worn' things. And Ina knows her Balenciagas from her Tom Ford. One of the best places in the city to grab a designer bargain. 21 Prince Street, New York.

Designer goodies from Gucci to Louboutin, all at spectacularly reduced prices. It's an outlet but its stock is as fancy as!  225 1st Avenue, New York.

Fancy a mani or a pedi while sipping on a martini? The Beauty Bar obliges. This 1950's-style beauty parlour offers a little tipple to those who come in and get their bits beautified. Such a splendid idea. Great before going out for the night! And only $10!  231 East 14th Street, New York.



  1. More amazing looking places - thank you Janelle. And I particularly love the idea of the 'doll's house style' department store. Much to love and ponder over. My brother lived in East 51st Street years ago and I was lucky to visit him there - such lovely architecture as you say, in that area. x

  2. How amazing...I almost...well sort of...maybe, have been there today!!!
    I have a thing about planes and this is the only way I am going to travel so I'll join you any time you are going!!!!

  3. Thank you lovely. You always leave such nice comments. I'm so sorry I never got back to you re the author tour. Readings did approach me once, several years ago, but I was too shy! However, I'm setting up a US book tour for May, so perhaps that can be a dress rehearsal for an Australian one? Glad you love the new Paris book. Hope you're enjoying Tassie! I'm wild with envy! Janelle x

  4. Thanks Julienne. Have just written you an email! Yes, I hate planes too. Apart from Singapore Airlines' new First Class sleeper suites. Haven't tested them but have heard they're the ultimate in luxury. One day...! And we should all do a Bloggers' Retreat in NY. Or maybe the Hamptons? How lovely would that be? Janelle xx

  5. You've given me a great list of places to visit next time I'm in NY. I went for a month around 4 years ago (husband was working there). Unfortunately I had to bring my 20 month old Son along, and so I am well versed in what to do with a child in New York, and didn't get a lot of time in on non child activities (like shopping - he hated shopping, and would scream when I tried going into any. I spent 20 minutes in the Barney's warehouse sale. So sad! So many missed opportunities!). I took a photo of the Frick's Gardens through the iron. They have a no children policy (even ones trapped in a pram), so I never got to go in. Boo hoo! One day.....


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