The cat sat on the welcome mat
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.