With two new affordable boutique hotels, the eternally expensive city of New York puts out the welcome mat for stylish-but-budget-conscious travelers. Andre Balazs's Hotel QT (125 W. 45th St.; 212/354-2323; www.hotelqt.com; singles from $125) is happily out of sync with its Times Square address. The 140 small, ultramodern rooms are calming cocoons with soft lights, a flesh-toned palette, and platform beds. Frugal frills are executed with whimsical flair: in place of room-service menus, there are take-out fliers from local restaurants; mini-bar items are sold at the kiosk-style front desk. And—surprise!—there's a pool and a hammam in the lobby. Blue Moon Hotel (100 Orchard St.; 212/533-9080; www.bluemoon-nyc.com; doubles from $200), a tenement built in the late 19th century, takes a radically different approach to cheap and chic. The 22-room guesthouse, squeezed into a trendy Lower East Side block, is filled with period artifacts and modern luxuries such as wet bars and whirlpools. Nods to the neighborhood's past life can be found at every turn: check out the ethnic restaurant and rooms named after jazz-era bigwigs.
Blue Moon Hotel
Set on the Lower East Side's main thoroughfare, this 22-room brick guesthouse—originally built as a tenement in 1879—perfectly embodies its quirky, eclectic home neighborhood. Though updated with modern-day amenities like whirlpool tubs, Wi-Fi, cable TV, and mini-fridges, the rooms (all named after old movie stars and jazz giants) still retain details from their historic past—like wrought-iron bedsteads and original wood shutters, window moldings, and (in some cases) window settees. It's no wonder the place is a hit with today's crop of young, scruffy-chic Lower East Siders; after all, these are the kids who prefer their techno music on vinyl, and who pair their mod asymmetrical haircuts with outfits from the thrift shop.
Andre Balazs has made frugality fun at this whimsical Times Square address. The 140 rooms are pod-size (even the largest penthouse units are a weeny 270 square feet), but fitted with slick, modern trappings: platform beds—some of them bunks with chrome climbing ladders—personal-size flat-screen TV's, and fresh white duvets. All have free Wi-Fi and little fridges that guests can self-stock from the snack bar/newsstand in the lobby. If all this sounds like an upscale college dorm, well, that's not too far off—the travelers who put up here tend to be in their twenties, European, and good-looking. But considering the fact that the lobby has a glassed-in pool with a swim-up bar (where tipsy wee-hour skinny-dips have reportedly occurred), that's probably a good thing.
Tip: All rooms are pet friendly—although given their size, you might have trouble fitting anything bigger than a Chihuahua.
Room to Book: Of the standard rooms with king and queen beds, those with floor plan "B" are the biggest (some are the same size as "PH"—penthouse—units).