Even though it had been just five years since W Hoboken opened, Bob Novogratz, half of the husband-and-wife designing/house-flipping duo known succinctly as The Novogratz, admits that the hotel's club, even with its views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline, "wasn't great looking." It's true, even if the original space didn't have "a lot of big bulky furniture and a real flow problem," the amount of wear and tear a nightclub faces (from spilled drinks, high heels, etc.) is probably enough to warrant a facelift at least once a half-decade. The Novogratz' first club design, Lulu's, is a crisp and dreamy mix of Pop Art, Beetlejuice stripes, and grassy greens. Calling on a suite of contemporary art and a British muse, The Novogratz crafted a club that—gasp!—manages to look fresh even in the daytime. Below, Novogratz on his process, why designers always prefer public spaces, and the nude photograph "people go crazy over."
Why you were approached for the space?
Well the the hotel itself is five years old, and, well, the club itself wasn't great-looking. Like anything, it needed to be updated. It had a lot of big, bulky furniture and a real flow problem. As far as nightclubs go, this space was trying to accomplish a lot of things: it's a discotech, but it's also used for Super Bowl parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. It's a truly multi-use space.
But we designed it as a club in mind. It's used that way a couple nights a week and they get huge revenue from it being used that way. It's probably the best club in the area—Hoboken is better known for Irish pubs and post-college debauchery. But all the professional athletes stay here when they're competing against the Giants or the hockey team or soccer guys, so the W gets a really good, really sophisticated crowd at night.
What was your process like?
Well we wanted to make it more sophisticated, but also had to deal with the needs of the club promotors—lighting is a big thing with them. And the disco ball. These are the sort of things we, as designers, would rather not do, because aesthetically they're not as cool, but we do them.
We had never really done a club before; we did a bar in Austin, Texas, and we've done hotels, but never a nightclub. So I researched.
There are not many beautiful clubs in world—I mean, if you researched them. I think the Gramercy in New York—the Rose Room is beautiful. Of course Boom Boom [at The Standard, New York] is an incredible club. They spent outstanding amounts of money—millions—on that club. It's beautiful. But you go into a bar or a club, at night and it's totally different then how they are during the day. In fact during the day they look pretty bad. People are drinking, dancing in high heels—and then there's the cigarettes. They're spilling red wine, they're having too much to drink, et cetera. Clubs take a lot of abuse. Of course, because this was going to be used for weddings, we really wanted to make it beautiful in all parts of the day.
How'd you do it?
For us, well, we love art. We love big art and a hotel, being a public space, is a great way to show art off. At the opening of the hotel, actually, we curated a skyline of New York for the lobby, right when you come in. We did curated that four years ago, but we wanted to bring in similar contemporary works.
You're seeing that at the Gramercy. You're seeing that at the W Miami. I think a lot of folks don't see great art, so it's a great opportunity to show people. We really pushed for it.
We kind of also felt that most of the great discos were in Europe, so we created a sort of ode to England. We wanted it to be comfortable and to have a flexible layout. Another concern was sound, of course. It's a huge issue in a hotel, so we had to deal with a lot of sound-proofing and all those sort of things.
Are you going to be doing any more clubs?
I'd love to. We're working on a boutique hotel up in Woodstock right now, and while I'd rather do hotels more than clubs, any designer would much prefer to do a public space—be it a club, be it a hotel—over a residence of a wealthy person.
Why is that?
A developer makes business decisions, not personal decisions. For a homeowner, you know, the choice of their bathroom tile is very intimate. Developers hire you and trust you because they already like your work as your work, not as a way to keep up with the Joneses. People with money have to answer to their friends. They have a lot of handlers.
Most people, even if they have zero interior design experience, for their own home, and for all the right reasons, want a lot input. Developers don't.
Plus, in a home, maybe 50 people go in it all year. Here? Thousands of people come in every week. More might people hate it, more people might like it—but, hey, more people see your work.
How long did this project take?
We spent about three months planning and then we did it in something like 12 days. Because it nets thousands of dollars a night, every day we shut down, they lost revenue. We started the day after New Years and opened the 17th or 18th. There's that sort of lag time [in the club industry] because people are a little partied-out after New Years.
What's your favorite part of the space?
We have a very risqué, huge piece of art in there. We pushed it a little, and now they're freaking out because there's going to be a sweet sixteen party in there. They're asking us to build a screen for it to keep it covered. It's a huge Marido Pastino photograph of Kate Moss. Totally nude. I was here at the opening and people go crazy over it. And apparently everyone takes selfies next to it.
It's actually quite beautiful, but Americans have a thing for nudity. Anyway, it's a big hit.
Have a look: