Best Address: Life in a Plaza Pied a Terre
by mike olson
French Renaissance décor graces the parlor
It’s where 1950s children’s book heroine Eloise lived on the “tippy-top floor,” Nick Carraway sipped tea in The Great Gatsby, and Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill was abducted in North by Northwest. And whether it was serving as home base for the Beatles’ first US tour or Charlie Sheen’s career-altering meltdown, the Plaza Hotel has been Manhattan’s most recognizable address for more than a century. Now, with a new batch of hotel condominium suites on the market, 11 buyers will get to call this New York icon home.
The Plaza has been a magnet for visitors in search of white-glove service ever since its unveiling in 1907. “When the Plaza opened it was the most deluxe place,” explains Curtis Gathje, author of At the Plaza: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Hotel. “Before 1907, society dictated that you had a mansion in the suburbs and a townhouse in the city. After the turn of the century, it became fashionable to still have that mansion, but to rent a suite at the Plaza and use that as your base.”
But times change, and like any living legend the Plaza has evolved to remain the landmark the city needed it to be. At first that meant a 1921 expansion that saw the Plaza add guest rooms on the 58th Street side. In the ensuing decades it became the crown jewel in the portfolio of hoteliers such as Conrad Hilton and Donald Trump. Today it means a full restoration that allows Plaza connoisseurs to own a piece of history and call the legendary beauty home for up to 120 nights a year.
Getting here wasn’t easy. There was a $450 million upgrade by owner El-Ad Properties, which closed the Plaza for three years for a complete rehabilitation. “It’s like a completely new building within a shell that’s been totally restored,” explains Elizabeth Lorenzo, senior vice president of Stribling & Associates, the company tasked with finding the right buyers for the Plaza.
All of the building’s nearly 1 million square feet received a face-lift, resulting in more spacious rooms with cutting-edge infrastructure, plus countless historic touches that include a new stained-glass ceiling in the Palm Court (based on the original Tiffany leaded glass ceiling that was removed back in the ’40s) and new terra-cotta roof tiles created by the same family of craftsmen who made the original tiles more than a century ago.
As Lorenzo explains, the result is at once a fitting nod to the Plaza’s storied past, when Vanderbilts graced the halls or Truman Capote hosted his infamous Black and White Ball, while also embracing modernity. “You have all the amenities, comfort, and technology that one would expect in a luxury property today,” she says, “but then you have design and décor that’s reminiscent of the original concept of the building, a French Renaissance château.”
Indeed, the furnishing, fabrics, and linens are all in the Plaza’s timeless style, right down to the mosaics in the marble bathroom floors inspired by the restored ones in the lobby. The suites themselves are some of the largest in the city, from the $1.5 million Deluxe Suites (measuring up to 600 square feet) to the Combination Suite, a 1,440-square-foot, two-bedroom space that costs $5 million.
Beginning on the 11th floor and going up to the building’s 20th and 21st floors—where the units are duplexes that boast their own terraces—each Pied a Terre suite comes with a butler’s pantry and owner’s closet to hold personal belongings. Just tell the Plaza when you plan to arrive (there are no restrictions on which 120 days an owner can stay), and a butler will prepare the suite, placing clothes in drawers and even displaying family photos. “Owners really love the idea that the staff is already there for them,” says Lorenzo. “All they have to do is let it be known that they are arriving, and everything is ready. When they leave, they just lock the door and give the key to the front desk. It’s total worry-free ownership.”
Plus, each suite is mere steps away from new amenities (available at an extra cost), including spa treatments at Caudalie or brick-oven pizza at the 160,000-square-foot Todd English at the Plaza Food Hall, and traditional ones, such as wine and caviar at the Champagne Bar or cocktails and live music at the Rose Club.
Still, more than the free currency conversions for international travelers or complimentary rides in the hotel’s new BMW Series 7, what really sells the Pied a Terre Hotel Condominium Suites is the Plaza itself. “It’s a building that is known around the world,” says Lorenzo. “Everybody has a story about a happy experience they had at the Plaza, from a debutante party to high tea with grandmother at the Palm Court.” Or as Gathje, the building’s unofficial historian, puts it: “There’s this aura about it. I’d give my right arm for an apartment in the Plaza.” 768 Fifth Ave., 212-759-3000