Travel: A Paramount moment in old New York

The Paramount Hotel’s two-story “living room” lobby features dark woods, sculptural chandeliers and richly textured furniture, creating a playground meant for socializing.

There are some things nobody should ever go to New York City for: a yoga retreat, a working vision of a just society, or the weather. Wipe all three from your agenda, stuff your wallet with green and you can have more fun there than just about any place on Earth (sorry, Las Vegas: You’re a pretender). And the heart of the throbbing vortex of crazy energy that is New York is still, despite everything, that “crossroads of the world” otherwise known as Times Square.

Most New Yorkers, truth be told, enjoy a walk through Times Square about as much as Angelenos relish a run up the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass on a Friday afternoon. Mass tourism has, thanks largely to the questionable policies of New York’s never-ending Mayor Bloomberg, robbed New York of so much edge that 99 percent of the hipsters have up and decamped to Brooklyn. But the secret is, as it has always been, knowing where the secrets are. As author of guidebooks to New York (ACCESS Guides, HarperCollins Publishers) and former correspondent for the regrettably retired New York Sun, I can confirm that no matter the time and regardless of circumstance, New York harbors the kinds of secrets only a great city can.

On my first trip to New York City many sunsets ago, to negotiate a book deal, I decided to stay at the only hotel in Times Square worth staying at: the Paramount. The ambience was absolute metropolitan magic, because the hotel was constructed in 1928 by one of the world’s most prolific theater architects, Thomas W. Lamb, and had been more recently given the boutique hotel treatment by legendary duo Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck. The emblematic smooth gray staircase in the middle of the two-story lobby looked as if it might lead up to the promenade deck of a spaceship, but actually just led to the mezzanine restaurant. All was crisp, sumptuous minimalism: outside might be the madding crowds, but in here was the domain of sleekness and mystery, a recipe for the kind of quiet exultation the traveler can only feel in a place like New York. Broadway is there, but the real star of the show is you.

And that magic is still there at 235 West 46th Street. It just looks a little different. If what keeps New York great is the ability to evolve while remaining essentially the same, the same can be said of its iconic hotels, of which the Paramount is one (and no, iconic does not always have to equal five-star luxury). At the core of Paramount’s transformation is a new vision for the historic hotel—carried out by award-winning design firms Stonehill & Taylor Architects and Meyer Davis Studio—and its dramatic, two-story “living room” lobby. Inspired by many of Thomas W. Lamb’s large, lavishly decorated theaters, many of which featured over-scaled, fantastical elements and dramatic light fixtures, the design team created a modernday playground meant for socializing and taking in the sights. Dark woods, sculptural chandeliers and richly textured furniture turned out in rich blues, washed reds and soft neutrals—all with unexpected pops of yellow or even mirrored elements—imbue the lobby with a sexy, cozy ambiance designed to enchant guests and New Yorkers alike.

Speaking of New Yorkers, you’re bound to cross a few while staying at the Paramount. While sipping my iced latte from Corso, the hotel’s cute Italian-style coffee bar, I spotted a familiar face from the celebrity media world, Delaina Dixon of DivaGalsDaily. com. “I love how the lobby space here now feels like one you want to lounge in,” she dished later, noting the large fireplace, which is masterfully rendered in stainless steel to reflect the light and energy of the room. “From the new bakery and drug store posts to a retail shop [Free & The Brave] where I can pick up some new American-inspired threads for a night out on the town, I really felt like the new Paramount unlocks my inner diva!”

Now, if you want to feel like you’re at the top of the heap, if only for a night or two, book one of the Paramount’s over-the-top suites: the Entertainment Suite, where Victoria Beckham held a trunk show, or the Couture Suite, where it’s possible a Kardashian or two has briefly sojourned. I was fortunate enough to visit both, and appreciated the latter’s nod to pop culture kings like Andy Warhol and the Beatles. There was a large black-and-white framed photograph of a woman in an evening gown, perhaps a reference to Duran Duran’s famous video for The Chauffeur. Speaking of which, no need of one of those in this part of the Big Apple, for you’re in the very heart of the city. The Paramount has always been, and is very much today, part of the very fabric of what makes New York great. For rates and more information, visit