Just when you thought Lower Manhattan couldn’t possibly accommodate another restaurant, let alone a hotel, in walks The James New York. More accurately, in I walked, to the latest boutique hotel that takes SoHo’s artistic heritage and mixes it with luxury amenities with an eco-conscious bent.

Drawing from the neighbourhood’s history of visual culture — think Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and Keith Haring — art lies at the heart of The James New York. With resident curator and New York artist Matthew Jensen at the helm, the hotel, which also has an outpost in Chicago, goes above and beyond the call of supporting local art and design. A Corridor Arts Program means every hallway of the hotel’s 14 floors is decorated with art by a selection of emerging New York artists culled from the non-profit Artists Space collective (www.artistsspace.org). The result is a vertical gallery of sorts, where contrasting mediums mix harmoniously in Jensen’s “Stand Here and Listen” theme that pays homage to the idea of tourism. Guests are invited to observe and contemplate the art on display, just as they would the Empire State Building or The Statue of Liberty. (Or in my case, Barneys.)

For those who wish to soak in some culture without booking a room, the ground floor lobby boasts Sarah Frost’s QWERTY, a unique and striking oversized installation comprised of a mosaic of keyboard keys. Or take the glass elevator to the third floor Sky Lobby and lounge on a plush sofa surrounded by original and sustainable decorative touches courtesy of interior designer Cristina Grajales, who has also decorated the homes of Helmut Lang and Brad Pitt. Guests are invited to the Sky Lobby every evening from 5 to 8 to enjoy complimentary wine and cheese, mingle with other guests and chat with the friendly staff enviously outfitted in custom designed Andrew Buckler uniforms.

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Transparency is a key theme at The James New York. The glassed-in Sky Lobby affords views of SoHo’s intricate network of boutiques and restaurants, as well as a bird’s eye view of the neighbouring Lent Space sculpture garden. An exhibition area and tree nursery managed by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the garden not only lends the hotel an air of serenity, but also ensures that no other structures will go up to block the view. Even the guest rooms, which are cozy (albeit somewhat larger than your typical New York room), keep the feel light and airy with glassed-in bathrooms that use a retractable screen for functional discretion.

An urban garden carved into the second floor of the hotel offers respite from the city’s constant din, while also housing an herb garden that serves in food and drink preparations. And what New York City hotel is complete without a rooftop bar? Jimmy, The James’ answer to a swinging cocktail lounge doesn’t disappoint: from the inventive drinks and menu to the sexy pool deck with its sweeping views of the city, seduction is all but guaranteed. This is where art meets commerce meets pure, unadulterated luxury.

27 Grand St., New York, 10013; 888-526-3778; www.jameshotels.com. Room rates start around $300 USD.

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