1Hotel in Central Park is devoted to sustainability

Georgina Wilson-Powell

“We want to be a retail store for nature,” says Kemper Hyers, the head of design at Starwood Capital.

Nature has a new address in New York – 1Hotel, Central Park. With a low-key opening over the summer, this corner block, repurposed hotel is now not only home to ten floors of rooms that each feature eight different types of reclaimed wood, but it cares for 24,000 plants – the most noticeable clinging to the living wall that fronts the building.

“All of the wood is reclaimed or recycled; there’s a mushroom wood in the showers, which will grow moss over time.” explains Kemper. He went on to say that some of the wood came from old thrashers and water towers from upstate.

Everything at 1Hotel Central Park (and its sister hotel in South Beach, Florida) is organic or recycled. From the wooden hangers crafted from old love letters to the staff’s uniforms made from organic 100 percent cotton, each element is the product of a sustainability commitment rarely seen in hospitality. There isn’t any paper or plastic used in the hotel. An engraved stone is used instead of a traditional “Do Not Disturb” sign. The door keys are wooden and guests are given a healthy fruit snack on arrival.

“We have hemp linen, the water is triple filtered, and the fitness center floor is made from recycled cork,” Kemper said. He is a man impassioned with this ethos, a designer who has cut down trees in his own backyard to bring them into the hotel as wall décor and stools. This little detail really says a lot about 1Hotels as a brand – from the top to the bottom, there’s a sense that everyone here has embraced the all natural vision of founder Barry Sternlicht (creator of the W and St Regis hotel brands) and is contributing to its evolution. This is how to do 21st century branding, with personal touches and an authentic story.

“It is a living, breathing brand,” confirms Kemper.

What’s hard to pinpoint at first, is the lack of art in the hotel, other than what has been found in nature. The décor changes to reflect the seasons, which is evident the moment you walk through the door: hanging in the entrance is an impressive wooden stick and twig collage that wouldn’t be out of place in Lord of the Rings and which took a Brooklyn artist three months to make (and find the right sticks for).

Over at Jams by Jonathan Waxman (a successful, locavore, Californian flavored restaurant), all usual elements of decor have been stripped away. The naturally light space works just as well for breakfast as it does for late night cocktails, thanks in part to the natural surfaces and elements that have been left to breath. Kemper calls it “an absence of architecture.”

In a world where everything comes designed to within an inch of its life, a more natural hospitality space that has sustainability on its mind, rather than as a footnote, can only be embraced.

Written by Georgina Wilson-Powell

Photos courtesy of 1Hotel Central Park


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