NH sends new design hotel brand down Milan's runway

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Among today's trendy "design hotels," NHow Milan takes avant-garde to a higher plane. The hotel's cutting-edge art and design is so bold it sacrifices comfort, perhaps putting off baby boomers, but still effortlessly attracts its desired demographic of artists, trendsetters and fashionistas alike.

The first property of its kind -- NHow is the latest offspring of the Spain-based NH Hotels boutique hotel chain -- NHow Milan is quirky, with a tunnel-like catwalk for a main entrance; playful, thanks to pop art rubber/foam chairs scattered throughout the lobby; and far from modest -- an original painting by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in the lobby prompts 24-hour security.

NHow (pronounced "now") is a hybrid of postmodern, retro and glam and seems to thrive on being unique, which staff credits to the collaboration of designer Matteo Thun, architect Daniele Beretta and president of DHT (owner company of NHow) Emanuele Garosci. According to Beretta, the project, four years in the making, was quite a challenge: The development team had to convert a former General Electric factory into a dynamic, captivating space while retaining original elements of the industrial building.

The hotel opened its doors for Fashion Week last fall in Milan's burgeoning Tortona district, mostly known for modeling agencies, galleries and showrooms, but now also jammed with trendy cafes and restaurants.

Elements of the hotel capture the urban appeal of both the neighborhood and all of metropolitan Milan, such as that long tunnel as the entrance hallway, wrought-iron columns and graffiti on the doors as a pervasive aesthetic. At the entrance of the elevator is 6,500 feet of excavated exhibition space displaying, through tempered glass, the roots of the factory and more artwork.

The hotel embraces the concept of what's called "fluid design," whereby furniture, wall art, lighting and other furnishings are rotated regularly every three months. A partnership with art gallery Triennale enables Nhow's management to change prominent art pieces by famous artists and up-and-coming designers once a year.

In essence, the hotel becomes a showroom itself, with furniture for sale designed by Poltrone Frau, Knoll, Zuchetti, Artemide and others.

The hotel's 249 rooms comprise three of the four floors. There are 77 standard units, 73 superior rooms, 14 rooms specially designed for the handicapped, 23 junior suites, 52 executive suites, nine suites and the creme-de-la-creme Nhow Suite.

Guest units have been designed as autonomous, modular "open-plan" spaces with practical details. For instance, "guide lights" glow under beds, so insomniacs do not disturb sleeping partners; floor-to-ceiling curtains divide different areas of the room; and all showers in the spacious bathrooms -- which, by the way, are stocked with Molton Brown amenities -- feature light trickling from the ceiling shower heads, which creates a curious optical effect.

This summer, NHow Milan will introduce a Beach Club on its third-floor private terrace. The open-air solarium will feature a "beach" of imported sand as well as restaurant service. The hotel will also open its wellness center, comprising three floors of treatment rooms, a spa and gym.

With the success of NHow Milan, NH Hotels plans on opening its next "laboratory of trends," as it refers to the NHow concept, in other fashion capitals of the world, including New York and Buenos Aires.

For more on NH Hotels, visit www.nh-hotels.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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