Permanent Vacation: Hotel Living

Great hotels are more than a place to rest your head. Like small countries within cities, they’re a land of history and culture, elegance and mystery, brief encounters and ancient secrets. “You touch the hotel the way you touch moonlight,” wrote Wallace Stevens in his 1940 poem “Arrival at the Waldorf.”

Perhaps the greatest mark of a legendary hotel is that at least once during a stay you look around and wonder: What would it be like to live here?

Today the tradition of hotel living is seeing a resurgence, with more than 400 “branded residences” dotting the globe, according to a 2019 report by Knight Frank. Unlike traditional apartments or condominiums, branded residences carry the names (and reputations) of some of the world’s most celebrated individual hotels and chains. Buyers are attracted by the prospect of combining the privacy and space of a condominium with the superb management, amenities, and 24-hour service they associate with a stay at a premium hotel.


There may be no better place to start than with the hotel that mesmerized Wallace Stevens—Waldorf Astoria New York. For much of 1955, Marilyn Monroe lived in a threeroom suite on the 27th floor. Other celebrated residents from history run the gamut from former presidents to the Duke of Windsor.

Now that legendary property—a fixture on Park Avenue since 1931—is nearing completion of a full-scale makeover designed to restore the historical features that made it famous, but with fully modern technology and touches. What was once a 1,400-room hotel is slated to reopen in 2022 with just 375 guest rooms. Perched atop those rooms will be 375 spacious residences known collectively as The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria.

Hotel residences combine ample privacy and space with luxe amenities and 24-hour service.

“We call it a restoration rather than a renovation,” says Dino Michael, global head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. In the famed lobby (with its equally famous clock), ballroom, and other public spaces, residents and guests will see the hotel as its earliest visitors did. “We’ve gone back to the archives from the early 1930s to bring it back to its original glory,” Michael says.

Residents will have full access to 100,000 square feet of hotel amenities such as fine dining, nightlife, the 20,000-square-foot spa, and more. Just as crucially, The Towers offers complete privacy, security, and 50,000 square feet of resident-only amenities, says Dan Tubb, senior director of sales.

That starts with a separate Park Avenue entrance with a 24-hour doorman and a spectacular double-height porte-cochère entrance on 50th Street, both for residents only. As occupants of floors 19 and up, residents will enjoy a private, staffed lobby, 25-meter pool, spa and fitness center, and meeting and social spaces for residents only. And even with the emphasis on historic preservation, the residences themselves “have been overhauled for completely new construction,” Tubb says. That means luxurious, spacious interiors fitted with secure keyless entry and the latest technology, not to mention soaring Midtown views.

The Beekman Residences

Further downtown, The Beekman Residences offers the opportunity to live in a modern hotel ensconced in one of New York’s early skyscrapers, Temple Court, completed in 1883. The Beekman Hotel offers relaxed luxury and worldclass dining guided by famed chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio. Residences include one-, two-, and threebedroom homes as well as penthouses.

The Beekman Residences

“There’s a very sophisticated nature to the buyer at the Beekman, almost a European sensibility,” says Eleonora Srugo, licensed real estate broker for Douglas Elliman. “They love luxury, but they’re not stuffy in any way.” From the kitchens designed by Thomas Juul-Hansen to the Gioia Venatino marble floors in the master baths, the emphasis is on combining sleek luxury with “a very modern sensibility and a convenient, easy lifestyle,” Srugo says.


The Residences at The West Hollywood Edition

Moving from the canyons of New York to the sun-splashed glamour of Los Angeles, the West Hollywood Edition, one of the city’s newest and most talked-about luxury hotels, offers the opportunity for permanent living in one-to-four-bedroom Residences at The West Hollywood Edition.

“What makes the location so special is you’re on the cusp of Beverly Hills in West Hollywood,” says Tracy Tutor, director of sales for The West Hollywood Edition. At the corner of North Doheny Drive and West Sunset Boulevard, the property lies in the heart of a neighborhood that “is just where it’s happening in L.A.”

The Residences at The West Hollywood Edition

Owners at The Residences can taste the excitement, dining, and amenities of a hotel attracting A-list guests— and at the same time enjoy a fully private experience, including a private entrance, residents-only concierge, 24-hour doormen, on-sight manager, and residents-only rooftop pool and sundeck. As for the homes themselves, celebrated designer John Pawson has created 20 unique living spaces with 1,000 to more than 6,000 square feet of living space—and outdoor terraces of up to 1,000 square feet with magnificent views of Los Angeles. The city’s residents “very much live our lives outside,” Tutor says. “So having exterior space was very important to the success of the project, and the vision for those spaces was incredible.”


At a great resort, hotel living may mean a place to hang your hat (or your skis) for more than a few nights, through fractional ownership. In Colorado ski country, The Little Nell bills itself as “Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond ski-in, ski-out hotel.” Indeed, the Silver Queen Gondola waiting to whisk skiers to some of the world’s best skiing is right outside the hotel. As a “private residence club,” Residences at The Little Nell offers 26 residences of up to 4,000 square feet.

Returning home doesn’t mean your vacation has to end.

May Selby, director of public relations and social media for The Little Nell, explains that Residences at The Little Nell started more or less organically 11 years ago as the families of devoted regular visitors to the hotel grew and began to need more space to unwind. “The Residences really filled that need, because you had a lot more space: a kitchen and a central area, and two to four bedrooms,” Selby says.

Residences at The Little Nell

In addition to private amenities such as the owners’ lounge, residents enjoy access to a year-round rooftop pool, fine dining at the hotel’s renowned element 47 restaurant, après-ski fare at Ajax Tavern, and access to the resort’s 20,000-bottle wine cellar.

Whether the property is a historic urban hotel or mountainside resort, what matters most may be the sense of living in that suspended reality where the fun and excitement never stop. Wherever they travel, residents of great hotels “have that same level of five-star service that they’ve just experienced on their vacation,” says Dan Butts of The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria. “It’s the fulfillment of the dream that returning home doesn’t mean your vacation has to end.”

—by Charles Slack


High-end hotel residences available through Douglas Elliman also include:

Four Seasons Residences

Elegant living quarters above the Four Seasons Hotel come with access to the fabled hotel’s amenities, including fitness center, pool, and concierge service. 220 Boylston St., Boston, MA

Residences at Mandarin Oriental

This South Florida newcomer will combine opulent living with the unsurpassed amenities and services of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 10 E. Boca Raton Rd., Boca Raton, FL

Palazzo Portinari Salviati

Near Florence’s iconic Duomo sits historic Palazzo Portinari Salviati. Restoration will turn this Renaissance gem into an elegant hotel that features 18 luxury apartments with amenities such as Michelin-star restaurants and a spa.


The Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria has epitomized hotel luxury and hospitality since first opening its doors at its original location on Fifth Avenue in 1893. Less well known is the fact that the now iconic hotel was born out of a family feud. William Waldorf Astor built the Waldorf, and envious cousin John Jacob Astor IV built the Astoria right next door to top it. The two soon combined buildings to become the Waldorf-Astoria, putting family disagreements behind them. Though an admittedly male urge for hotel dominance brought the building to new heights, the Waldorf-Astoria was one of the first hotels to offer a gender-neutral space to socialize at a time when hotels were traditionally masculine spaces. Also a pioneer when it came to comfort innovations, the WaldorfAstoria was the first hotel ever to offer 24-hour room service; in the late 19th century, it also offered private bathrooms as well as complete electricity. While the Fifth Avenue location was razed in 1929 and replaced by the Empire State Building, the hotel’s second (and current) location was the tallest and largest hotel in the world at the time of construction. And what would the Waldorf-Astoria be without its celebrity clientele? After holding office, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower both took up residence until their deaths. Cole Porter, too, lived in a suite for a while, and when he moved out, Frank Sinatra moved into that same room. —Katey Clifford

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