Playing the part of a tourist in my own town, I sauntered down 3rd Avenue with nothing but a thin backpack on my way to check in to the Affinia 50 in Midtown Manhattan. The 22-story hotel is in good company, surrounded by towering office buildings and other luxury lodging establishments, including the InterContinental New York Barclay on Lexington, the Waldorf Towers down the block, and a W Hotel just around the corner.
About ten years ago, the Affinia 50 arose out of the former Plaza 50 hotel. Before that, the building used to house apartments, and one elderly resident, a famous actor in his 80s, who requested anonymity, still calls the place home. The hotel completed its most recent renovation in January with the help of architect Nobutaka Ashihara and interior design firm Dawson Design Associates. The work included the addition of 41 rooms to the hotel, and the introduction of trendy art and furniture throughout the property.
The 251-room Affinia 50 has an intimate lobby that is both warm and welcoming – warm because of the fireplace, and welcoming due to the colorful and modern art and friendly hotel staff. A spiral staircase leads to the second floor, and directly to my right stood the reception desk, where I headed. My attention was drawn to the spiral staircase, above which dangled a number of blue glass ornaments (handblown by MIT graduate David Smith) representing human figures in assorted forms and positions.
A particularly interesting sculpture made out of recycled metal, stood in front of the hotel’s two elevators. In the piece, named “4 of a Kind,” and built by artists Montserrat Daubon and Pedro Villalta, the heads of four humanoid figures on an iron base abstractly represent the four suits in a deck of playing cards: clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds.
Having arrived promptly at 3:00 p.m., the time at which the hotel says one can officially check in, I was nonetheless asked to wait a few minutes while the staff made sure my room was ready. This gave me opportunity to make acquaintance with the lobby’s art. With no luggage to speak of, I was given a key card and proceeded up to my one-bedroom suite. Throughout my stay, the two elevators hummed productively and transported guests in a timely fashion, although I was later informed that a third elevator would be added to the hotel to reduce wait times.
I unlocked the door to my one-bedroom suite on the 19th floor unpacked my one bag, and explored. I was immediately taken with the room’s colorful layout and modern furniture and the word “small” did not come to mind.