The first-ever Life Hotel will make its debut early next month in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. Real estate developer David Mitchell and BR Guest Hospitality founder Stephen Hanson are teaming up on the new hospitality brand, whose inaugural property is housed in the late-1800s building that was originally home to LIFE magazine. The hotel marks Hanson’s first project since selling BR to Starwood Capital Group’s Barry Sternlicht in 2008.
“When I first stepped foot into this building, it spoke to me, and ultimately became the inspiration for the Life Hotel brand,” says Mitchell, whose development portfolio includes SoHo Beach House, Las Vegas City Hall and The Whitman New York. “In learning about the cultural landmark and its history, we discovered that the upper floors served as apartments for LIFE writers and artists when the magazine was first published in 1893 and for a long time after, while the offices were situated below. The building even housed a secret bar during Prohibition. This history has become part of our DNA. We’re creating a place to hang out, work and have a good time—not just sleep and eat.”
The building was originally designed by New York architecture firm Carrère and Hastings, which is best known for its design of the New York Public Library. Local interior designer and restauranteur Tara Oxley—who previously worked with Hanson in creating the Atlantic Grill West, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and Postcard Inn concepts—is creating the 98-key hotel’s interiors.
“The Life brand is all about four-star service at a smart and accessible price,” says Hanson, who created such restaurant, bar and hotel brands as Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos, Postcard Inn and The James Hotel under BR Guest Hospitality. “Guests will feel that personal touch and value at every moment of their stay.”
The hotel’s look will reflect the craftsmanship of the late 1800s with restored wood moldings and original marble flooring, as well reference the building’s past incarnation by emphasizing connectivity. The lobby will house a guest check-in area and a common space with a communal table next to the lobby bar.
The design philosophy will transition into the more contemporary aesthetic in the accommodations. Each room will showcase high ceilings, wood floors with exposed concrete, as well as traditional white walls with original molding and beds with brass frames. Custom wood doors fitted with opaque glass will lead to the guest bathrooms, which will be decked out with vintage tiling, brass fixtures and renovated bathtubs and showers.
Helmed by chef Michael Vignola, Life Restaurant will feature a dining room decorated with wood tables, reclaimed wood panels, and leaded, mirrored inserts layered with art. That space will be illuminated by exposed lighting and infrastructure reminiscent of an original computer motherboard—a nod to the brand’s interactive ethos. A speakeasy-inspired basement bar will be accessible via a hidden staircase off the lobby and by a separate street entrance.