Odd Man In

New in New York, Alessandro Munge graces the cover of Boutique Design Magazine

Studio Munge's vision for The William Vale takes Brooklyn culture - not stereotypes-as a muse.

When it comes to sense of place, the industrial/ hipster lovechild that is Brooklyn can’t be beat. Its visual iconography – steel, concrete, street culture references and a mash-up of artistic influences from street painting to vinyl records – set the tone for a generation of uber-cool hotels from London to Australia. Just don’t expect to walk into 183-key The William Vale for a primer.

Studio Munge principal/ interior designer Alessandro Munge was intent on putting a more polished spin on that downtown feel. No, he didn’t want a hotel that could be transplanted to Midtown, but he wanted to add a more modulated take. “Everyone involved in the project was aligned with the idea that the interiors should not be contrived or themed to reflect Williamsburg’s surroundings and its iconic brick warehouses,” says Munge. “The building had to represent a new generation of thinking.”

"Everyone involved in the project was aligned with the idea that the interiors should not be contrived or themed to reflect Williamsburg's surroundings and its iconic brick warehouses, the building had to represent a new generation of thinking."

Alessandro Munge

Stripping down the neighbourhood’s quirky, eclectic style was step one. Airy, almost Zen architectural volumes set the stage. Embracing that and supplementing it with minimal structural or visual additions keeps an open sweep to the public spaces. Playing with lighting helps direct guests’ eyes to what Munge calls “pockets” for them to gather. Simplifying the colour palette to light tones also helps brighten up the industrial lexicon. Black accents work as a subtle, modern nod to the grittier side of the area. Working with local artists on commissioned pieces throughout the hotel digs deeper into the cultural climate, rather than quick-hit references.

And, Munge wasn’t afraid to head upmarket. Natural stone is just part of the palette – white marble polishes it off. In the lobby, the gleaming floor adds sheen to the quieter gloss of wood walls. Against that backdrop, the art program has a gallery, not street, effect. Which is exactly what Munge wanted, spaces that are as sophisticated as they are cool.

The rooms and public areas themselves are anything but typical. Not only does a public park, situated on an elevated promenade that’s part of the building, forms one of the hotel’s highlights, it’s also home to the city’s longest hotel pool, at 60-ft. Pulling that together into a streamlined whole, including tight room footprints, meant ultra-careful curation of each element.

Keeping accent pieces simple and geometric-think black and white metal seating, an angular art piece in the lobby ceiling and bright graphics in the guestrooms brings a consistent flavor and an edge to the entire hotel.

Maybe the next chapter Brooklyn style will involve suits and slick hair? OK, maybe not, but the neighbourhood might just be getting a little less self-consciously unconventional.