Inside Michael S. Smith’s redesign of the Upper East Side classic
New York’s posh boutique hotel The Lowell is fresh off an exquisite redesign, calling forth the same refined, at-home appeal that has drawn a discerning clientele to its doors on East 63rd Street for the last 90 years.
Design director and hotel co-owner Dina De Luca Chartouni tapped L.A. interior designer Michael S. Smith to refashion the lobby and restaurant to seamlessly complement the 74 guest rooms, many of which he also modeled over the past decade. “There was a piece missing in the story, so I had a strong sense of how I wanted these areas to look,” says the luxury-minded Smith, who is known for fusing modern sophistication with English country style—so much so that he was hand-picked by Michelle Obama to redesign the private quarters of the White House in 2008. “In this case, the  film with Greta Garbo, Grand Hotel, created this fantasy of what a glamorous urban hotel is all about,” he says of his inspiration.
Upon entering the lobby, guests will find the area flush with French art deco furnishings and eclectic touches, such as a David Hockney lithograph and Bert Stern photographs of Marilyn Monroe, striking a harmonious balance that is elegant but eminently livable. “There’s also the idea of French Louis XVI-style furniture, but it feels modern, young and not fussy,” says Smith, adding that there’s a lot to be said for subdued sensibility. “The fact that it’s not claustrophobic is important, and there’s a lightness that I definitely take from California; there’s more breadth.”
This also translates into the blithe atmosphere at the much-anticipated restaurant, Majorelle, named for Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic gardens in Marrakech and powered by the esteemed restaurateur Charles Masson (formerly of Manhattan’s renowned La Grenouille). Featuring an adjoining garden area that boasts a fireplace, a fountain and a retractable glass roof to create year-round indoor-outdoor dining, Majorelle offers a stunning experience inspired by Masson’s travels. “[Jardin] Majorelle left an indelible mark on me when I first visited Morrocco in 1969,” explains Masson. “It represents a sanctuary of beauty, peace and utmost harmony.” For dinner, enjoy French-Mediterranean cuisine imagined by Masson and chefs Christian DeLouvrier and Mario Fortuna. Try the seared foie gras with sautéed apple or the vegetable-and-couscous tagine with harissa before heading over to the Club Room for a nightcap, such as the Bleu de Majorelle (Bombay Sapphire gin, elderflower and organic blueberry juice). 28 E. 63rd St., NYC, 212-838-1400; lowellhotel.com.
Written by CAROLINE CAGNEY.
Photography by ELIZABETH LIPPMAN.