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Getaways: The Whitby Hotel

Art and craft meet wit and whimsy in designer Kit Kemp’s latest Manhattan hotel project

Written by Cathy Whitlock

Devotees of designer Kit Kemp—famed for her hotel projects, textiles, and homeware lines—will no doubt recognize her latest work, Manhattan’s high-rise Whitby Hotel, which opened in February. 

“The Whitby Hotel is located in upper Midtown—a rather serious place that deserved to have a hotel more concerned with color and a carefree appearance far away from time and work,” Kemp says. 

Blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, the hotel has a decidedly art and craft theme. “I love art and craft. Craft always seemed to be the ‘looked down upon’ little sister of art, and I felt it needed a champion,” says Kemp of the hotel, part of the international British-based Firmdale Group (co-owned with husband, partner, and property developer Tim).

Each junior suite has a distinct personality and palette.

Her popular brand of boutique hotels, including properties in London, New York City, and the Caribbean, is synonymous with high style, a predominance of color, and a major touch of the unexpected—all stemming from Kemp’s background in textile design.

“The Whitby should be a little adventure, and every time one visits a new little gem is found,” she explains. “The thought behind the hotel was that every room tells a story.” 

Equipped with two bedrooms, The Whitby suite offers a light-filled living room plus a large terrace with views of the city. 

Each swoon-worthy, detail-filled room has a different color scheme—some are tonal and calming while others are more vivid—along with exceptional artwork. 

Designer Kit Kemp’s Whitby Hotel brings a dash of drama to Midtown Manhattan with signature pieces such as bold art, sculptural elements, overscale headboards, and just the right dose of vibrant color and pattern. 

Patterns are bold but not overwhelming to guests. “Ultimately the room should be one that you wish to sit in for a long time and should have a peacefulness about it,” Kemp says.

Pattern play abounds in junior suites. 

Kemp excels at the aha moments, which are elicited from hotel guests at every turn. Her collections are unusual and extraordinary—framed serving plates in Perspex boxes and English artist Martha Freud’s 40 lighted porcelain pots of New York landmarks grace the walls of the Orangery restaurant (the perfect spot for afternoon tea) while 52 baskets from Britain hang whimsically in the bar area (each basket with its own label of provenance). 

Framed serving plates and lighted wall niches filled with porcelain pots add artistry to the Orangery. 

Kaleidoscopic artwork and a 30-foot-long pewter bar make The Whitby Bar a showstopper. 

Eye candy abounds. The Anrep Room is filled with reproduction 20th-century mosaics while the Araminta Room (named for one of Kemp’s daughters) boasts American folk art and mythical beast designs. “It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland,” Kemp muses, “curious but fun.” Much like a visit to The Whitby.


The Whitby Hotel has 86 bedrooms and suites and is located in Midtown Manhattan (just two blocks from Central Park) at 18 W. 56th St., New York, NY, 10019. For details or reservations, call 212/586-5656 or visit