By Rich Beattie
June 11, 2012

When does a hotel renovation become personal? Well, when you’ve stayed at a property so many times you recognize every changed detail. Or when the hotel is also the view from your office window.

That’s why we at Travel + Leisure have been so interested in the recent renovation of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. It sits directly across the street from our offices, and some editors (including me) look out the window directly to the hotel’s top four floors. So when we heard that the famous hotel was re-opening recently after a five-month renovation, we asked for a peek.

With its polished-and-formal-yet-still-comfortable look, the lobby could easily become a new hangout for us at American Express Publishing. In the guest rooms, slick new light fixtures, larger TVs, and easy-to-find outlets were essential changes. Part of the challenge in updating a historic hotel is incorporating these modern elements while maintaining a sense of the past. And the Algonquin came up with a clever, dramatic solution: the new headboards are LED-backlit black-and-white Irving Underhill photographs of 1920’s New York. Pretty cool. Bathrooms are small, but have been given a sharp transformation in the familiar NYC exercise of space efficiency. The hotel’s Blue Bar, too, is getting a facelift in this makeover—it’s becoming bluer (that’s not a joke).

But renovating a hotel also means deciding what not to change. Matilda that cat still stands guard in the lobby (though she was hiding behind the front desk when we were there). And while there’s new carpet, the wooden floors underneath still sometimes squeak—a nice little nod to history. We at T+L are lucky that we can embrace the hotel’s past—and share in its future—every day when we come to work and look out the window.

Rich Beattie is the digital executive editor at Travel + Leisure.