We stayed in the Carlton Arms in New York City, and by chance, we got to see a wide variety of rooms twice: once when we needed to choose a new room because our room was needed as gallery space, and once with the New York Adventure Club tour. Since we saw more spaces than are normally available to show– the hotel cannot show rented rooms– I thought I would share them with you, with photos not included in my other Carlton Arms post. We were also privy to some myths, legends, and secrets of the hotel…
Our room had an entire quilted graphic narrative around the molding. We were actually staying inside a story. We took some time to read it, and to see how themes were reinforced around the room. By the way, it was a quiet and cozy room.
The hallway was a real marvel. It was done in the 1990s and is still beautiful. Whether or not the artist achieved fame, she created a place of lasting amazement and beauty. If I could make an artwork that made hundreds of people happy over a few decades, I would be delighted….There was one door that had a painted warning on the outside, very aggressive, with the message that a trans person had done the art inside. It was a “Beware, be afraid, yea who enter here” sign. But when you stepped in the room you entered a strange paradise.
I was reminded of our visit in Rome to the Villa Borghese, with its intersex sculptures, a favorite of the then-pope– equally beautiful, and unsettling. The hotel manager says that they try to be sensitive to the needs of the clients; this room is not necessarily recommended to those with young children. The hotel tries to give guests the choice of available rooms. Here is a secret: check in early in the day to get a choice of rooms in your price category. The staff is extremely nice and will help you find the right space. The hotel has 54 rooms in its largely unrenovated, walk-up building.
Near the lobby was a bar area that could re-morph into a hotel room with the addition or removal of the beds. The beds were very comfortable, with excellent mattresses on top of a more portable folding frame. The rooms are redone by new artists every 3-5 years or so, and displayed in a one-night only opening in March as art exhibits. The very next day they are returned to hotel rooms!
The hotel offers residencies to artists to re-do rooms, and has an annual art show to display them.
The Carlton Arms has many secrets. Since it is has been a hotel now for over 30 years, they downplay the colorful past of the SRO days (single room occupancy). So many people seem afraid to stay here, and indeed it is not for everyone. Their primary clientele is now European. Scott and I stayed in a room with a shared bath and we never needed to wait. I give it high ratings for a feeling of coziness inside a huge city. You get to live inside art itself. And there are cats too.