There are many, many reasons to take up residence in New York City, but the quality of apartment fixtures does not usually register within the top 5,000. If you are a person who decided to relocate in order to experience the city’s constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants or fabulous, award-winning tap water, the odds are high you have given up at least one of the following: proximity to your workplace; the financial ability to live alone; reliable cable television and internet; more than 10 square feet of personal space; and a bathtub that one can vaguely imagine taking a bath in.
That is why I have only two criteria for vacation accommodations: The first is a nice bathroom with a tub, and the second is everything else. Is this Airbnb a dusty cow barn with wooden shelves for beds, but it comes with a glorious claw foot tub overlooking a grazing pasture? Great, I love it, I will be there for four nights in the spring; I will plan my whole trip around when I can bathe in that tub, and spend months imagining myself in the bathroom, looking out over the cows, soaking my body in warm eucalyptus salts. The best kinds of vacation tubs, of course, are free-standing, because they indicate a bathroom large enough to accommodate a free-standing tub. The worst kinds of tubs are the afterthoughts: No pasture to look at — just some peeling duct tape, an amenity that my grimy Brooklyn bathtub, installed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sometime between the settling of New Amsterdam and World War II, already provides me.
The good news is, in New York itself, there are special, sacrosanct spaces that the city’s perverse and arcane anti-bath magic cannot penetrate: hotels. They are often expensive, but ideal for situations when you are moments away from losing your mind and are desperately seeking space from the anxiety producing effects of one’s own metropolis. We have a term for this now: It’s “staycation,” a portmanteau that suggests all of the benefits of a relaxing night away without any of the associated airfare.
The staycation is some of what has driven the market for apps like One Night and Hotel Tonight, which list unsold rooms in boutique hotels at sometimes-slashed prices for same-day bookings. According to One Night, over 30 percent of all bookings in New York are made by New Yorkers themselves. Pricier hotels even have boutique staycation experiences that fit into this ecosystem; the Kimpton Hotel Eventi has a package, starting at $2,500 per night, that includes a custom suit fitting.
Many more people would spend their hard-earned dollars to marinate in a warm hotel bath less than a few miles from their home — if they only knew where to find them. There should be a dedicated website for this. Researching the best bathtubs is tough work, but somebody has to do it.
A good bath provides a safe, private and relaxing space for you to be completely naked. A great bath is an italicized experience worth money and advance planning. And it must satisfy certain luxurious criteria:
Plumbing: How long does it take to conjure the perfect warm bath between the first twist of the faucet and the moment your big toe breaks the placid surface of the water, heated specifically to your preference?
Size: According to plumbing giant Kohler, your standard bathtub runs about 60 inches long, or five feet of soaking. In my 6-foot-tall experience, this is plenty of room. Bath depth, however, runs the gamut.
Material: In a blind test, do you know the difference between marble and granite?
Ambiance: Could you imagine somebody getting murdered here?
Toiletries: Most hotels stock their bathrooms with pungent lotions and ineffective blow-dryers — only the greats provide products you’ll want to steal.
Extras: Is there a ledge for a beverage? Just wondering out loud.
Views: A perfect bathtub has a beautiful view.
Now, the Westin Jersey City’s king suite has some of the best views of Lower Manhattan of any bathroom in the tristate area, but, being in New Jersey, it does not rank for category. The Hudson Studio at the Standard High Line also offers bathers an arresting panoramic view, that of uptown Hoboken, but it pales in comparison to the mise-en-scène of the master bathroom of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s Riverhouse Suite, located in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I came to this conclusion after spending way too many hours looking at TripAdvisor and press photos of hotel rooms; researching products and fixtures; exchanging emails with hospitality managers; and leaving voice mail messages with plumbing companies. But my idea of the best bath is by no means definitive.
And yet, this tub has a view so dazzling that Walt Whitman wrote a nine-part poem about it. Floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass windows invite in the bewildered gaze of the East River — close enough to feel the afternoon breeze, far enough to ensure privacy from peeping ferry-takers. The tub itself is cleaved from a single block of granite surrounded by two inches of counter space for whatever iced beverage you are sipping. It, along with the suite it is attached to, costs $7,000 a night. (There is no day rate for those only interested in a bath, even if you ask very nicely, but The Times did negotiate a vastly reduced price so I could check out the tub.)
The water at 1 Hotel is piped in through an extensive filtration system, as a decadent and largely unnecessary gesture, for “additional safety against biological contamination,” according to the hotel’s press representative. It rushes forth from a curved gunmetal faucet that was imported (from Canarsie) and splashes on the granite basin of the tub in the manner of rainfall against a mountainside. The bath is housed in a kind of slate-wall and glass enclosure in the middle of the bedroom; the windows can be opened for a plein air effect. The tub takes 10 minutes to fill, which gives you plenty of time for a pre-soak shower.
For optimum use: Fill the tub with scalding hot water. The smooth stone will remain cool to the touch. Stretch your legs, plant your feet on the opposite side, and rest your head on the bathtub ledge. Do not dunk your head. If you need to wash your hair, that is what the shower is for. Toiletries will be provided.
Repeat this luxurious act until your skin is ready to fall off your bones.
Just feet away, from behind a slim panel of glass, the rest of New York may be exploding into chaos. You will not notice.