Emilia Wickstead’s favourite New York hotel

The womenswear designer has happy memories of – and high praise for – one of the Upper East Side’s grandes dames

Emilia Wickstead
Emilia Wickstead

The first time I went to The Carlyle was when I was living in New York as a student. I was interning at American Vogue and Proenza Schouler, when I went with a friend to listen to music and have a drink at the hotel’s famous Bemelmans Bar. I walked into this gorgeous beaux arts building and fell in love. It was the effect of all those whimsical Ludwig Bemelmans murals on the walls, the live jazz, the art-deco interiors, the Upper East Side location, the history of the people who have frequented the place – Frank Sinatra, Jackie O. It gave me the feeling of stepping into another time and place. I’m crazy about all that old-world glamour, and The Carlyle transports you to the golden age of New York City.

The Carlyle is situated in a striking beaux arts building
The Carlyle is situated in a striking beaux arts building
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The next time I was there was when I’d just started dating my now-husband Daniel, and we were working on my new fashion business from my sitting-room floor. Bergdorf Goodman had asked to see my collection; it was at a moment of such excitement and I remember being so charmed by the experience of going to The Carlyle, this time to stay. It’s to do with the style of the place, and the comfort. Dorothy Draper was the first interior designer there, and her art deco influence remains, especially in the black and white marble lobby. I love walking through that space – past the original lifts and the mustard sofas.

The gleaming black and white marble floor in the lobby
The gleaming black and white marble floor in the lobby
Rooms boast sweeping views of the city
Rooms boast sweeping views of the city

Then my husband took me there again about five years later, as a treat for my birthday. We had drinks with friends at the bar, ate in the restaurant, listened to live music. And since then it’s where I stay twice a year when I go to New York; it feels like going home. The staff are wonderful – particularly the manager, Massimiliano Puglisi, who makes me feel like I’m part of the family. The service is very old-school, attentive and friendly. I like eating in The Gallery, a jewel-box restaurant off the bar, where you sit on fringed red velvet chairs.

Suites are decorated with art deco flourishes
Suites are decorated with art deco flourishes
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It would sound so charming to say I always book the same room, but I don’t, sadly. However, last time I stayed, they gave me a room with a balcony, which felt extra special – to be able to stand outside and look at the lights of the city at night. The suite interiors are cosy, with button-back armchairs, art deco desks and chintz curtains. I like that lack of modernity, the fact that the style has remained mostly unchanged over the years.

The real standout, however, is still Bemelmans Bar. I was once having a cocktail and dinner with a colleague in the Café, just outside the bar, while a woman with an incredible voice was rehearsing on the piano next door. It was only later we realised it was Lady Gaga. That’s The Carlyle; it’s so chic and there’s such a buzz anyway that the most famous singers in the world can start performing and no one bats an eyelid.

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