Next up in my ‘NYC Hotel Idea’ series, I’m snooping around the Freehand, a cool new affordable hotel a few blocks north of Gramercy Park in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, which recently opened in the former George Washington Hotel — a popular hangout with writers, poets and musicians in the 1930s. Here’s the lowdown…

Location: 23 Lexington Avenue, Flatiron/Gramercy

Rates: from $170/night for a double room

– Spacious, stylish rooms that aren’t expensive
– To feel like you’re staying in a cool European hostel in the middle of Manhattan
– A laid-back atmosphere
– A rooftop bar

Don’t expect:
– Excessive luxury, a formal environment
– Small, pokey rooms lacking charm
– A hotel geared towards children (they are welcome but not allowed in the bars)

freehand hotel gallery

Freehand is one of New York’s newest hotels and has an upmarket European hostel vibe (think: laid-back thrifty-stylish decor and communal spaces). It’s also unique in that not only is it beautifully designed with generously sized rooms and a decent location, it’s affordable, too – most well-designed hotels in New York come with eye-popping price tags, but rooms at Freehand start at $170.

freehand hotel gramercy park

It’s set in a striking old renovated building that stretches an entire length of the block between 23rd and 24th Streets on Lexington Avenue, dating back to 1928, when it was originally opened as the George Washington Hotel. All of the buiding’s original details, like the terrazzo floors on the roof and the intricately detailed millwork in the lobby and mezzanine, have been carefully restored. There are also playful historic touches, like rows of framed vintage New Yorker covers in the mezzanine bathrooms.

The 395 rooms come in a range of sizes and setups, from cosy singles to rooms with custom-made bunkbeds for threesomes. The Corner King rooms have the best city views in the hotel, while the Gallery and George Washington suites are the biggest rooms in the hotel with two bedrooms and a living room each.

freehand hotel king room

freehand hotel bunk room

A big communal lounge filled with plants sits at the centre of the hotel. “Some of the best times in my life were when I rented summer share houses in Long Island with a big group of my friends,” the hotel’s owner told Conde Nast. “Part of the reason I started the Freehand was because I wanted to replicate that environment, where people could come and have a communal experience.” There are also five restaurants, a gym, a rooftop cocktail bar, a 20s-style bar set in the former Library Room of the George Washington Hotel, a terrace for yoga classes, and a small shop selling snacks and gifts, which the owner describes as a giant mini bar.

freehand hotel gramercy park

freehand hotel flatiron budget

Nearby, there’s the weird and wonderful Museum of Sex (MoSex to locals), Rizzoli: ‘the coolest bookstore in New York’, the Italian food wonderland, Eataly, and of course, the Flatiron building.

Check into The Freehand Hotel here.

Psst: Another hotel idea and a cosy B&B in Chelsea filled with vintage movie posters.


  1. I certainly like the look of this place. Individualistic, well-priced and an excellent location.

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