Behind the Vale

Inside the trendy Brooklyn hot spot on the cover of Hotel Business Design

This Brooklyn hotel blends with the neighborhood’s cultural landscape

Standing out from the crowd isn’t always the best way to make a statement. Sometimes, blending in with the surrounding community — and respecting its culture and way of life—is the better alternative. For Studio Munge, selecting projects goes beyond adding new locations to its portfolio; there must be a creative synergy between the firm and its clients. That being said, however, geographic possibilities arising from the continued influx of new groups of people—primarily a younger generation—presented the firm with too many artistic opportunities to pass up. Case in point: The William Vale, situated in the heart of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY.

“This is an exciting time for Brooklyn and Williamsburg, as the once-industrial neighborhood is now experiencing change and development. The area has become host to the new generation of creative free-thinkers,” noted Alessandro Munge, principal at Studio Munge, a Toronto-based interior design firm he established in 1997. “As a design firm, we wanted to not only be a part of the inevitable urban renewal, but also lead the community’s future cultural landscape. We took on this project to give back to the community, a platform for the local community to express itself.”

"The area has become host to the new generation of creative free-thinkers"

Alessandro Munge

The William Vale, a 183-room independent boutique hotel, opened its doors in August 2016—nearly two years after Munge’s team conceptualized the property’s interior. The firm designed the lobby, multifunction ballroom and its pre-function area, contemporary guestrooms and corridors, the Value Garden Residence duplex, and two F&B destinations in collaboration with Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality—Westlight on the 22nd floor and Leuca located on the lower level. “So far, the feedback we’ve received has been positive, both from our guests and locals,” said Sebastien Maingourd, GM at The William Vale. “One remark that really made an impact to us was from a guest who described ‘being at The William Vale was like teleporting into an oasis unlike any other. The perfect spot for a relaxing retreat.”

Studio Munge used materials in their purest forms in an attempt to keep The William Vale palette light, fresh and youthful. “In most of the public spaces, we applied timeless materials such as gorgeous white marble and pale wood contrasted with a colorful local contemporary art program and black metal accents,” Munge said. “Our designs maintained this approach to provide a modern experience and inspire a unique personality.” The goal: Complement the architecture designed by architect Albo Liberis. “We aimed to create modern spaces inspired by Williamsburg’s individuality and expressive artistic community, where international travelers and local New York urbanites could both commune,” Munge said. “We ensured that our design would represent Williamsburg’s distinct character while maintaining the area’s energetic connection to Manhattan.”

"The design is modern, crisp, trendy and chic and plays suit to a more refined Brooklyn"

Sebastien Maingourd, General Manager at The William Vale

“The building design and massing is driven by intent to offer as much high-quality urban space to the public as possible, while offering sweeping views of the city skyline for all guests and locals,” Maingourd explained. “The design provides numerous points of public access, encouraging a fluid connection from the surrounding neighborhood to the plaza within the destination.” Studio Munge integrated local talent into the project to capture Brooklyn’s thriving art scene. Most demonstrated in the property’s lobby and guestrooms, two collections of artwork depict the essence of Brooklyn’s urban art-centric identity, Munge noted. The first collection was picked in coordination with the Brooklyn Arts Council. “Our design team went through an extensive curation process before selecting original artwork for the lobby, ultimately commissioning Mexico native and Brooklyn-based artist Marela Zacarias,” he said. Her installation, Mannahatta, is exclusive to The William Vale; it was chosen through an open competition calling for local artists to express what the Williamsburg neighborhood meant to them. “The 3D piece exudes color and attitude, catching the eye in the otherwise neutral lobby palette,” said Munge about the collection. “The lobby interiors are gallery-like, with clean welcoming tones leading to the installation as a focal point.”

Additionally, with the aid of an art consultant, every suite has “vivid and graphic art pieces” from four local Brooklyn artists: Jillian Lea Barkley, Maya Hayuk, Matilde Alessandra and Sierra Siemer. “There is a space for everyone. Each room has a private balcony overlooking Brooklyn, Queens and the Manhattan skyline,” Maingourd said. “The design is modern, crisp, trendy and chic and plays suit to an older, more refined Brooklyn. The bedrooms all have luxury linens and beautiful bathrooms. From a design perspective, it matches well with the DNA of the neighborhood.”

This attention to identity became a challenge for the interior design firm; in its view, there was a need to respectfully link Williamsburg’s personality into the new-build through a modern approach that “would not feel contrived or thematic,” Munge revealed. Studio Munge also had a forward-looking vision: It wanted to move the neighborhood’s perception of design into the future by not repeating design elements already prominent in the area. “Passionate about Brooklyn’s unique and vibrant cultural diversity, the client, Riverside Developers, had one main objective for The William Vale: creating a ground-breaking experiential hotel respectful of its local community’s identity,” Munge said. “Everyone involved in the project was aligned. The new-build was meant to influence the future cultural, demographic and economic landscape of the New York borough. The William Vale had to represent Brooklyn’s artistic individuality and spirit, while infusing the area’s industrial strength, and create an authentic design solution breaking free from the exposed brickwork and distressed timber that has become so mainstream in the area.”