Chris Norton joined Related’s Equinox to set up and run its Equinox Hotel brand. A fitness freak himself, he knew no-one else could copy this concept, which started with brand awareness and nearly 400,000 members of Equinox fitness clubs worldwide. The first hotel, in Hudson’s Yards at 11th Avenue and 34th Street, New York City, is unique – as is Vessel, Thomas Heatherwick’s 45-metre-tall copper-banded honeycomb sculpture next to it • More one-offs: enter the hotel’s main door to walk past an undulating aluminium and steel wall (remember distorting mirrors at fairgrounds?). A man in a white suit, designed by stylist Kate Young and Lady & Butler, showed me to the 25th floor reception. Others in white suits at two white marble desks checked me in and Emily, ex-Four Seasons and in black, showed me up to the 32nd floor. The 212 keys, which include 48 suites, are on floors 24-38 of the 92-floor building.
Designer David Rockwell has done a Manhattan look. Rooms are reached by corridors with cloud-like blue carpeting flanked by dark marble). Corner room 3211 mainly faces east. From the door I look through a fairly low-ceiling space 12m ahead to windows and, beyond, across the Hudson to New Jersey. Unpolished pale oak floors complement walls of wood, or whitewash. From the door, 4m ahead is the eatertainment wall. To my left, inside the door, is a corner with a low, midnight blue velvet L-shaped banquette (sofa would be too upholstered a word). A low wood table in the apex has two even-lower taupe leather stools under it. This corner has the only art, a sombre thing of two overlapping grey circles – there are also two pale glass pots and a miniscule cactus in a grey pot. Here too is this paper-plastic-free environment’s exception, a heavy Phaidon book, Vitamin C: Clay + Ceramic in Contemporary Art, 2017.
Ahead is the bed, a centre-stage affair with significant 1.5 metre-high extending black leather bedhead (each side has a folding fibre-optic light plus panel with USB and electric sockets plus light panels, all this entirely black). There are three-legged black bedside tables, round tops bearing hemispherical black shades. The bed itself is a cloud-like arrangement, four big pillows, two Scandinavian-style single duvets, all exactly placed on the white lower sheet. Underneath the square coffee table and bed area are discreet, blur-coloured, throw rugs • The eatertainment wall, for that best describes it, is black. There is a pull-out minibar cabinet with Krug and Whispering Angel, two drawers above and, on top of that, a complicated Nespresso machine with two sizes of Surface Serax ceramic cups. One drawer’s to-buy offerings are quite normal, snacks and things. The other drawer is the start of my pharmacy exploration. Here I have Toril Labs’ Awake and Restore supplements, $12 each, from California; Stamba Travel anti-jetlag help, $60; Probiotics Travel Pack probiotics $20; Quinton Hypertonic ampoules (consume on an empty stomach), $4; restorative Moon Juice Adaptogens $24; high-performance Power Up kit, $24; a Lelo Hex re-imagined condom, $10; The Nue Co magnesium ease spray and sleep drops $70; Sex Oil and Lover’s Oil (what about the other lover?) $35; EQX Tea Blends, $16, and a pencil case, $30 • There is more. Move from the bedroom to the adjacent ablution area, with a south-facing window, and 50% of what is anyway a compact space is taken up by closet and by display shelves. One display has smart black leatherette bags holding Rhone workout gear: men’s shirt $88, shorts $75, women’s tank $85 and leggings $128. Below that, a tray bears a Vetiver candle $14, a sub-zero de-puffing eye mask $16, Binchotan facial puff $17, EiR pitted deodorant $22 (what IS that?), Binchotan eye mask and Bio Cellulose facial treatment mask, both ¢26; Khus+Khus detox hydrolat, $40; Function Botanicals CBD & magnesium cream $80; 37 Actives high performance anti-aging and filler lip treatment, $125.
Just as I am near to feeling total inadequacy – does anyone NEED this stuff? – I see a final level, of things for free, or at least while I am in-house. I have various yoga bits, including a wrapped mat. Next to the safe drawer are laundry bags, including a fitness bag (anything in there is washed free, for Equinox gym members, or max-$10 for others). From this open closet area I can turn right into the interior bathroom. This has pale-grey flecked marble walls and floor, and is aimed at size-0 guests. Instead of a more-practical sliding door for the toilet stall a solid black glass door opens outwards, which gives 30cm leeway between it and the vanity unit: one end of the unit, and the base, are darkest-grey flecked marble. The glass-walled shower at the end (three heads) is ample. The only traffic jam, even for one, is standing in the main space – I cannot easily reach the recycling litter bin • I have excellent over-basin lighting, no magnifier needed. Toiletries are 500ml bespoke Grown Alchemist pump-pots. Cotton pads and wood-stick Q-tips are unwrapped. Towels (Matouk, like bed linens) have hanging hooks, and the bathroom has two suitable wall-set hooks – black like all the bathroom fittings, and the bag for the spare toilet rolls. Colour coordination extends to the satin-lined bag in which newspapers arrive. I can also read homilies from a little black book, anonymous (=C Norton), Rituals: one is suggested for both AM + PM and there are tips, also available on the room’s Apple TV. I now know I should say three positive affirmations out loud in the mirror, and consciously choose happiness today. Tonight I should note a moment of gratitude.
I head outside to climb Heatherwick’s Vessel, up to the top of the honeycomb and back down again. Then I go to the hotel’s fourth floor, to the fitness club, the raison d’etre of this hotel brand. Designed by Joyce Wang, there are sitting areas, studio areas, chatting areas and serious workout confines, spread over two floors. The 34 joggers are LifeFitness and Woodway, specially designed for Equinox. I get on a Woodway and discover I am surrounded by students, serious runners, interval trainers conducted by a bootcamp master.
Every one of his management team subscribes to the same philosophy of high-performance living, says Chris Norton – hotel GM, Philipp Posch, ex-Vancouver Trump, is a former professional ice-hockey player • Norton is hosting me, plus his high-profile head of global sales to dinner. The hotel’s only bar-restaurant is Electric Lemon, a noisy venue 30 stairs down from reception. It is run by Stephen Starr’s STARR Group, which also does room service, although those average-40 daily orders are delivered by some of the 150-total hotel staff. Because the restaurant is completely full we three share a tiny wood table. I eat simply, crudités, with carrot juice and fermented soy sauce dip, followed by a 14oz prime ribeye from 44 Farms, brought with a bowl of chimichurri, and a tomato salad. I have a Degrenne steak knife. I drink Tyler 2017 Pinot Noir.
In the morning, the restaurant seems another world, quiet and spacious. A female crooner, taped, is soothing. I share a wood table merely with a small cactus and a bowl of sugar twists: there are no salt-peppers. As now seems to be US luxury-level mode, all dishes are ‘composed’. I savour beet yoghurt from a ‘beauty bowl’, which comes with strawberries, raspberries, pistachios and bee pollen, $13. Similarly, I take a plain avocado from the suggested grilled avo with smoked salmon, crunchy seeds and market herbs. For the record, the excellent-value Equinox breakfast, $34, is hot beverage, two poached eggs, nut-seed crumble, spelt avo toast, fruit, choice of black pepper pork bacon, turkey bacon or chicken sausage. I decline the suggested Equinox pastries basket when I hear all the items are sweet, nothing savoury. The non-stop coffee, from a black vacuum flask, is remarkably good • It is raining as I leave. Chris Norton’s corporate vp guest experience Nathan, a Singaporean, from Four Seasons, is there to see me off, with a flourish. He hands me over to a bellman, a transparent uniform-raincoat over his white suit, who helps me to the car taking me uptown. Were I leaving for JFK I would take the $195 helicopter shuttle, 15 minutes from the adjacent West 31st St Heliport to the airport – the service is run by American’s partner, BLADE. I will be back. – Mary Gostelow