The cat sat on the wel­come mat

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

Meet Crosby the cat, re­cently in­stalled out­side Crosby Street Ho­tel in New York City’s Soho. The prop­erty is a mem­ber of Fir­m­dale Ho­tels, the Bri­tish bou­tique group that took the ac­com­mo­da­tion world by storm in the mid80s by re­defin­ing the notion of style.

Co-owner Kit Kemp has since emerged as a driv­ing force in the uni­verse of in­te­rior design and she’s a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of civic art. The 3.6m-high bronze cat has arrived just in time for Christ­mas and is the work of Colom­bian sculp­tor and fig­u­ra­tive artist Fer­nando Botero whose style is of ex­ag­ger­ated vol­ume and some­times con­tro­ver­sial play­ful­ness.

It’s not that long since most city ho­tels were sim­ply cor­po­rate abodes with cookie-cut­ter gue­strooms and a rather de­tached, clin­i­cal feel in the pub­lic spaces. At some chains, it was said you could wake in the mid­dle of the night and in­stantly find the bed­side light, the alarm clock, even the way to the en­suite, be­cause floor plans and fitouts rarely var­ied. But plumb­ing con­sid­er­a­tions did mean mir­ror-image con­fig­u­ra­tions so I al­ways found it wise to check be­fore head­ing right or left to the loo in ut­ter dark­ness. I wor­ried about open­ing the door to the hall­way in­stead, and many sto­ries abounded of such episodes, with guests left stranded in their night at­tire (or no at­tire).

But stay in a Fir­m­dale ho­tel and guest cham­bers are in­di­vid­ual and eclec­tic with pat­terns and lay­ers ga­lore, all tex­tured and highly colour­ful. Kemp is fond of tai­lor’s dum­mies and th­ese are well in ev­i­dence, all of shapely women’s tor­sos with im­pos­si­bly nar­row waists, and cov­ered in clever fab­rics, many of which she has de­signed. If you are at the re­ally rather sen­sa­tional Ham Yard Ho­tel in Lon­don’s Soho, expect to en­counter The Croc 10-pin bowl­ing al­ley, a 50s orig­i­nal im­ported from Texas, plus a the­atrette with elec­tric blue walls and a flour­ish­ing rooftop gar­den with two bee­hives and a keeper named Camilla.

Pieces from Kemp’s sculp­ture col­lec­tion are dis­played at other prop­er­ties across the eight-strong group, which will open a sec­ond New York ho­tel, The Whitby, in Fe­bru­ary. To bor­row an ex­pres­sion from Tad Dor­gan, an­other Botero there would be the cat’s py­ja­mas.

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