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New Neighbor: The Freehand Hotel

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is thrilled to introduce our newest neighbor on the corner of Lexington and 23rd street: Freehand New York. Freehand is a 395-room hotel housed in Flatiron’s former George Washington Hotel, once home to storied writers, musicians, and artists.

The hotel marks a significant point in the evolution of the brand’s free-spirited approach to hospitality, with rooms ranging from bunks to sprawling Penthouse Suites, as well as two restaurants and a cocktail bar from Gabriel Stulman’s popular downtown restaurant group, Happy Cooking Hospitality. There will also be a rooftop bar which will be home to the award-winning Broken Shaker, an outpost of the Smile to Go café, and a renegade-style retail shop with rotating collaborations.

In partnership with Bard College’s artist residency and commissioning program, Live Arts Bard, and the Bard MFA program, the hotel will launch the Freehand Fellowship allowing select artists to live, work and exhibit within the hotel. 

"We are excited to be opening Freehand in perhaps the most exciting neighborhood in New York," said Andrew Zobler, President and CEO of Sydell Group. "The Freehand follows our NoMad Hotel a few blocks away and is a short walk from our offices on 26th Street just west of Broadway. We hope to be a living room for the neighborhood and to be a further catalyst for the excitement surrounding the district."

Building upon three previous locations, the Manhattan Flatiron flagship establishes the Freehand spirit of inversion and irreverence by taking the long route home to the city of the brand’s inception. Built in 1928, the original George Washington Hotel emerged at a time of rapid development in Manhattan. Freehand New York will take both literal and figurative design cues from the building’s history as a comfortable, affordable hotel located in the heart of New York City, with easy access to the arts and industries that established the city at the forefront of creative innovation.


Designers Roman and Williams bridged the gap between these eras to create a conversation between past and future, layering the work of emerging artists selected for Bard’s Freehand Art Commissions over the building’s meticulously restored interiors. The entry to the hotel is the first space to speak to the combination of old and new. Existing historic millwork is lovingly restored to its original repose, while a new mural by a Bard College graduate is set against the historic architectural backdrop to inject a new energy into the space.


Guest rooms will be outfitted with vibrant, colorful textiles and dynamic accents including custom light fixtures, casegoods and upholstery, and original murals by select Bard artists. Roman and Williams worked with local manufacturers and artisans to create custom furniture and decorative elements with a focus on the American craftsman aesthetic. Room layouts and custom furniture will speak to the universal experience of a communal way of sharing spaces, balanced with the intent to provide privacy and reprieve. Compact, but carefully placed lighting and familiar natural materials like custom wooden beds will offset an inspiring and striking palette of colors and décor.


Bars & Restaurants
Known and loved for their collection of intimate neighborhood restaurants in the West Village, Happy Cooking Hospitality is partnering on several of Freehand New York’s food and beverage spaces. The group’s first Flatiron endeavors will demonstrate their signature balance of warm service, great food and drink, and laid-back vibes, with Executive Chef/Partner Matt Griffin leading the kitchen team and Managing Partner Matt Kebbekus leading the dining room teams.

Simon & The Whale, the hotel’s standalone restaurant located on the ground floor, will be a lively neighborhood joint with a focus on seafood, a passion of Griffin’s. Thoughtful juxtaposition between elegant technique and craveable rusticity will be evident in every dish, from the lightly cured Fish & Chips to the grilled Whole Fish for Two with lettuce wraps, as well as bright crudos and tartares, beautiful vegetables, and more. The restaurant’s design mirrors these intentions: comfortable and casual enough for everyday dining, yet refined in its craftsmanship and custom furnishings for special occasions. Iroko millwork and tile cladding revive the architectural bones of the space, all accented by a warm palette of wood millwork, green and blue hues of ceramic tile and marble, and burnished brass touches throughout.

Sydell Group and Stulman are also collaborating on two new venues now open off the hotel’s second floor mezzanine, which will serve as a living room for both the hotel and its surrounding neighborhood. A bright, inviting all-day restaurant, Studio offers a menu tinged with North African and Near Eastern flavors, referencing Stulman’s Jewish-Moroccan heritage. Each morning, guests can indulge in freshly
baked Chocolate Challah Babka or Barbari Bread served with Smoked Salmon & Capers, while the all-day menu will feature bites like Croquettes with Green Lentils and Harissa Aioli, Turkish Dumplings, Beet Crepe with Fennel, Mint & Sunflower Seeds, as well as sandwiches, shared plates, and sweets.


Named after the portrait of the hotel’s eponymous namesake that hangs above the bar, The George Washington Bar will embody a relaxed refinement. The room’s original mahogany millwork and fireplace have been restored, with upholstered vintage furniture punctuating the dark and moody atmosphere. The tightly-edited menu will be a high-low fantasy, featuring small bites for every taste ranging from House Turkey Jerky with pastrami spice to Osetra Caviar with buttered toast.

Matt Kliegman, Carlos Quirarte, and Melia Marden will also debut their third location of Smile to Go, the offshoot of their popular NoHo café, The Smile, to the left of the hotel’s entrance. The largest outpost to date, complete with extensive seating, Smile to Go at Freehand New York will be a comfortable space for guests to enjoy a healthy, seasonal menu rooted in Mediterranean flavors to stay or to go.

In the spring, Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi will open the Broken Shaker on the hotel’s rooftop. The bar, which originated in Miami, has won a spot on the “World’s 50 Best Bars” list for the past four years, and has also been nominated for two James Beard awards.

This is the second Manhattan property by Sydell Group, following the iconic NoMad Hotel, also in the Flatiron District just a few blocks away.

Freehand New York, 23 Lexington Avenue, (212) 475-1920

Photo Credit: Freehand New York


Calling all design lovers! Did you know Flatiron is a design destination? 🏙

The District is home to many dynamic design studios, a few of which are opening their doors tomorrow for  <a target="_blank" href="">@nycxdesign’s</a>Flatiron Open Studio Crawl offering a behind-the-scenes look. 💫

Participating neighborhood studios:
 <a target="_blank" href="">@icraveny</a>
 <a target="_blank" href="">@a_plus_i</a>
 <a target="_blank" href="">@centerforbookarts</a>
Calling all design lovers! Did you know Flatiron is a design destination? 🏙 The District is home to many dynamic design studios, a few of which are opening their doors tomorrow for @nycxdesign’sFlatiron Open Studio Crawl offering a behind-the-scenes look. 💫 Participating neighborhood studios: @icraveny @a_plus_i @centerforbookarts
22 hrs ago