For the century-old SoHo – an acronym meaning South of Houston Street – building at 11 Howard Street that’s seen many uses including a post office and Holiday Inn its recent reincarnation as a five-star luxury hotel at a crossroads of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods is what drew me for a recent two-night stay and left me wanting more.

Boasting an excellent location straddling Chinatown, the Lower East Side , the East Village and Little Italy 11 Howard underwent a complete redesign by Danish firm Space Copenhagen and Anda Andrei who for almost three decades was the design guru behind Ian Schrager’s ground-breaking boutique hotel projects. Andrei talks more about the hotel’s design and how she thinks it’ll look better not worse in five years in this video. Unlike contemporary hip hotels that defy convention with garish colours and loud music 11 Howard has a more muted motif of neutral tones and natural materials in a Danish modern minimalism that has an understated elegance.

As civic zoning bylaws prohibit SoHo hotels from having more than 1,000 square feet of hotel function space on the ground floor designers decided to eliminate the traditional lobby front  desk in favor or staff checking in guests from a tablet. Stepping into the little lobby it’s not immediately apparent who’s a hotel employee and who’s a guest but I was warmly greeted within a minute or two by a staffer who had a suitably hip designer uniform with high pant hems and leather loafers.

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11 Howard is a member of the Starwood Hotel & Resorts allowing me to confirm a two-night stay using Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty award for a Howard Queen room but upon check-in was advised I’d been upgraded to an accessible Howard King, a move which netted me an extra 10 square feet which is probably the difference in bed sizes.

Room 618 is at the end of a dimly lit corridor but in contrast is a light and airy space with large windows overlooking Howard Street, light brown oak floors and 11 foot ceiling that makes it feel much larger than its listed 200 square feet although it may well be slightly larger with it being an accessible room. The king bed doesn’t feel outsized and there’s ample room between it and the small desk and the easy chair by the window so has good flow.

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While not large the desk does have a handy wall shelf above it which works as a spot to perch devices while recharging.

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The wooden night stand is a cube of rescued wood beam with a crack running top to bottom and hols a small phone and small tablet and recharging station. The tablet come preloaded with hotel services that can be ordered as well as a neighborhood guide but came in very handy to surf the net to check weather forecasts or plan New York subway trips. Having the tablet personalized with the guest’s name is a nice touch.

photo by author

photo by author

The accessible bathroom is larger than usual and has bars on the walls but is without a vanity to hold toiletries. There is a small gold framed shelf beside the bathtub but as its stocked with  towels and tissues only has a small storage capacity. There are hooks on the bathroom door  which proved handy to hang my toiletries bag but more shelf space would’ve been good.

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For a hotel intent on showing its modernity the brass faucets seem more retro than contemporary. The tub & shower taps took some time to master its settings but for luckily for those guests more gifted with technology than bathroom taps there’s a “How To” video on the room’s tablet so guests aren’t scalded.

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The closet opposite the bathroom has a mini-fridge and laptop size safe but only a small space to hang clothes which for my short stay in Summer wasn’t an issue but could be for seriously hip guests with a large wardrobe on a longer visit in Winter.

A neighborhood roof top view from the large window but there are some Howard King rooms on this floor that feature an Empire State Building view.

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While I would’ve preferred a regular Howard Queen category room over the Accessible King room the higher floor location of the latter did have the advantage of being unaffected by the noise from subway lines that run beneath the building as many guests on lower floors have reported. The sound from other rooms was also not an issue during my stay and so both helped provide excellent sleep quality.

The second floor of 11 Howard is where the dining & lounge are clustered with access via elevators or a spiral staircase that has an edgy industrial design softened with blond wood handrails.

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The best part of ascending the staircase is looking up to see the completely unexpected Dan Attoe neon artwork on the ceiling that reads “We are just complicated animals”.

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On the second floor is The Library, a casual hang-out food & drinks zone for socializing over cocktails or catching up on some work that feels more like a living room with its variety of sofas and easy chairs. Complimentary wine is served here Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 6 – 7 PM and a breakfast and all day menu is available daily.

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To one side of The Library is the hotel’s lounge, the blond, with its undulating blue velour banquette running the length of the room under windows overlooking Howard Street.

photo by author

photo by author

The morning emptiness of the blond in my photos is replaced by a packed place come evening as the lounge has become one of the trendy spots in SoHo since the hotel opened in April, 2016. Note the blond hours are only 5 – 10 PM daily except Sunday so those wanting drinks before these times can visit The Library and after at any one of the numerous lounges off-site around SoHo.

Guests hungry for fine French cuisine can visit Le Coucou and sample acclaimed chef Daniel Rose’s creations. The restaurant entrance is just around one side of the building from the lobby on  Lafayette Street but given 11 Howard’s location there are scores of notable eateries within blocks in Little Italy and Chinatown.

Beyond just making 11 Howard look good its creators wanted to make the hotel do good as well and adopted a “conscious hospitality” motto that sees a portion of the revenue donated to the Global Poverty Project, an international education and advocacy organisation working to end extreme poverty. The community and young artists were invited to participate in the painting of a 150-foot mural on the side of the building, a project overseen by artist Jeff Koons. There’s more about the mural’s inspiration and creation in this video.

While the positives far outweigh the negatives at 11 Howard there are some issues I found during my stay including dimly lit hallways, an unmarked service elevator I mistook for a guest elevator, small room closet, a lack of a vanity and low tub although these last two items are likely due to it being an accessible room and may not be the same in all rooms.

11 Howard is a funky luxury boutique hotel and welcome in such a vibrant part of Manhattan so I would definitely recommend it as a completely comfortable corner from which to  experience this dynamic city the best way possible – by walking its streets. Room rates range from USD$250 – $459 + tax for a Howard Queen room with the upgrade to a Howard King room on a quieter higher floor with a better view running between $30 – $60 per room per night.