A Design Lover’s Guide to New York City

city guides

It’s no secret that New York City has it all: avenues lined with glamorous shops and authentic restaurants, historic buildings filled with art, and extravagant hotels for reluctant yet much-needed rest. Between the iconic Art Deco architecture, you can stumble upon an alley leading to a treasure-packed vintage home store or another entrance leading to a rooftop bar with unbelievable views.

The five boroughs host diverse neighborhoods, each with its own allure that makes the city a hub for culture and creativity—and it’s always changing. There’s never a shortage of spots worth seeking out, so we tapped New York-based designers for their recs on where to shop, eat, drink, explore, and stay. Make it to even one of these places, and you’re sure to be more than impressed with the city that never sleeps.

Where to Stay

The Surrey

hotel room

The Surrey

On the Upper East Side, The Surrey hotel was designed by Lauren Rottet of Rottet Studio to feel like a New York City townhouse passed down through the generations, and it’s a favorite of New York designer Alyssa Kapito. Originally built in 1926 as a residence hotel, it features a modern art collection, sits less than a block from Central Park, and allows guests to enjoy a luxe stay while keeping a low profile. It feels “very authentically New York and not as touristy as some of the other hotels,” says Kapito.


Ink 48 Hotel

A former 1930s printing factory turned hotel, Ink 48 Hotel located in Hell’s Kitchen offers immaculate views of the Hudson River. “I love all of the modern details, amenities, and the upscale vibe,” gushes designer Anthony Dunning. “A huge plus is The Press Lounge on the rooftop of the hotel that has breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and amazing cocktails. I recommend the ‘Aren’t You Cuke’ cocktail.”


The Bowery Hotel

Dreamt up by Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode, The Bowery Hotel is made up of 135 sun-drenched rooms with floor-to-ceiling, industrial-style windows, and marble baths. Not to mention, the rooms feature hardwood floors, velvet drapes, 400 thread count bedding, and Oushak rugs. The downtown destination is surrounded by nightlife hotspots and is only a short walk away from high-end boutiques and art galleries.


The Whitby

Outfitted by British designer Kit Kemp in her delightfully eclectic style, the Whitby is sure to delight any guest who loves unapologetic color and pattern. Plus, its chic bar and restaurant are favorite watering holes for NYC designers and it’s just steps from MoMA.


Where to Eat & Drink

Primrose Café

For casual café warmth and plenty of seating, head to Primrose Café in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. “They have great coffee and food, the staff is always lovely, and their outdoor patio is a charming place to sit, read a book, or catch up with friends,” says designer Delia Kenza. Among the eats are a selection of fresh bagels, bakery items, sandwiches, and more.

I Sodi

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This Italian restaurant located on Christopher Street in the West Village honors the Tuscan roots and simplicity of home cooking restaurateur and chef Rita Sodi was raised on. The menu is seasonal by necessity and uncomplicated by tradition. Go there for “the best pasta of your life in a tiny spot with a wonderful ambiance,” Kapito says. “Get the lasagna—they even make an amazing vegetarian one.”

Hutaoli Music Restaurant & Bar

Not far from the Empire State Building, this Chinese restaurant is “quite unassuming from the outside, but once you enter it’s a whole other world,” Dunning says. “There is always ambient live music, incredible food, and the experience is exceptional.” His favorite item on the menu? The roast chicken.

La Mercerie

Located inside home shop Roman and Williams Guild, (more on that below!), La Mercerie serves up simple and delicious French cooking. The best part? All the tabletop items are shoppable. Plus, with Le Coucou and Veronika, Roman & Williams’s other beloved NYC restaurants, closed since COVID, it’s your best chance to experience the magic the firm brings to dining experiences.

Where to Shop

rw guild

Fredrika Stjarne

Roman and Williams Guild

“It’s an incredible destination that’s only enhanced by the lovely cafe restaurant inside it and the dope library on the lower level,” Dunning says of the home store opened by Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, founders of the design firm of the same name (notable clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and the Ace Hotel), which landed on our list of the Best Home Stores in America.

Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn

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“When looking for unique vintage pieces or just inspiration, I take a walk down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn,” Kenza says. Some of the designer’s favorite shops? Horseman Antiques, which she confirms is chock full of goodies and a treasure trove of vintage furniture, art, sculptures, and lighting—spread over several floors. Collier West is another shop Kenza can spend hours in. “They have a fantastic selection of vintage chandeliers, rugs, affordable art, and jewelry,” she says. She often shops there for one-of-a-kind housewarming gifts.

Blue Tree

Opened by actress turned shop owner Phoebe Cates Kline in 2005, this Madison Avenue shop is designer Amy Lau’s go-to for browsing “ever-changing merchandise that’s clever, curated, and distinct.” The store carries items from all over the world that range from women’s clothing and accessories to home goods and fragrances. “It is truly a ‘one-of-a-kind’ experience to visit,” she says.

Maison Gerard

Both a store and gallery at 43 and 53 East 10th Street, Maison Gerard always surprises Lau with special pieces. “It’s one of my favorite galleries with a beautiful grouping of designers and artists; the curation of their space is just magical,” the designer says. “The gallery has always been a wonderful source of French Art Deco furniture and lighting and over recent decades has broadened the pieces they present to include mid-century and contemporary works alongside a stunning collection of ceramics.”

The End of History

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In Manhattan’s West Village, this more than 20-year-old antique store sells goods that “are not just merely decorative but highly collectible pieces of history and design,” Lau says. It’s one of her first stops when searching for specialty decorative accessories for her clients. “Just glancing at the windows makes me feel happy and uplifted with so much color, distinctive textures, and unique shapes,” she gushes.

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Where to Explore

Merchant House Museum

Built in 1832, this house museum in Noho was the first building in Manhattan to be designed as a landmark in the ‘60s. Inside the five-story Greek revival building, you’ll find a collection of more than 3,000 items that were owned by the Tredwells, a wealthy merchant-class family who lived in the house from 1835 to 1933. Most tours are self-guided with an allotment of 60 minutes. Dunning suggests arriving promptly so you can see everything the slightly hidden gem showcases—including a pair of matching six-globe gas chandeliers.

New York Botanical Garden

kusama cosmic nature exhibit at new york botanical garden

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From an orchid show in winter to a seasonal walk lined with a wide array of perennials, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is a must-visit for tourists and New York natives alike. It’s an oasis within the concrete jungle where there are often plant-centric exhibitions and events. Not to mention, there’s a shop filled with everything from books and planters to wall art and apparel. Oh, and there are a few dining options, so you can make a whole day of it.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

temple of dendur, metropolitan museum of art, new york city, new york, usa

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As one of the world’s largest and finest art museums, the Met is no little-known wonder to explore. From its endless exhibitions to its presence in fashion (the Met Gala) and entertainment (Gossip Girl, among many other TV shows and films), it’s an essential destination in the city. But there’s one area in particular that Kaptio recommends wandering through: the ancient wing. “I think its the most serene room in New York City,” the designer says.

…and More

Design lovers should visit MoMA, as well as the Museum of Arts and Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. If you love architecture, treat yourself to a walking tour of historic neighborhoods like the West Village, Brooklyn Heights, and Harlem.

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