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Many tourists aspire to live more like a city’s locals. At the same time, a lot of students moving somewhere for graduate school struggle to find rental housing that offers the same turn-key ease as a hotel. Recognizing the overlapping needs of these two groups, Sydell Group — the same hospitality company that created the NoMad and Freehand hotels — has opened Penny Williamsburg, a Brooklyn hotel-slash-student residence that brings 118 guest rooms and 102 dorm rooms for Bard College grad students together under the same roof.

A Brooklyn hotel bed in Penny Williamsburg with a beige upholstered headboard, a row of framed artworks above and a border of dark green cabinetry.

Featuring warm, residential interiors, The Penny proves equally well-suited to short- and long-term stays. New York design firm Stonehill Taylor has packed each unit with smart storage solutions, bold furnishings, and artworks that reflect Brooklyn’s dynamic creative scene.

A man at a Brooklyn hotel check-in counter in Penny Williamsburg with shelves of art behind him.
A painting of a Chihuahua on a checkerboard floor done in a psychedelic style.

Upon arrival, the hotel lobby greets guests with a bright yellow sofa, plus displays that showcase a rotating assortment of sculptures. Community arts organizations LAND Gallery and Pure Vision Arts worked with Sydell Group to curate the building’s wall decor, and the hotel donates $1 from each reservation to the two groups. 

(One notable canvas, a dog portrait by Bard graduate Michelle Devereux, honours Sydell Group founder Andrew Zobler’s Chihuahua, for whom Penny Williamsburg is named.)

A funky hotel suite at Penny Williamsburg with a bed, two chairs and art on the walls. A big square window looks out to Brooklyn.

In another showcase of local character, guest rooms are also packed with designs from NYC makers and businesses. Look for Dusen Dusen cushions on the chairs and art books on the coffee table that came straight from The Strand.

A kitchenette featuring grey-green cabinetry, a black vase with, a colourful group of glasses and art on the walls.
An outdoor terrace with yellow chairs around a black dining table.

The largest guest room, dubbed the “Your Majesty Suite,” clocks in at over 65 square metres, and features dedicated living and dining areas, a kitchen, and its own private terrace.

A hotel suite in Penny Williamsburg featuring a kitchenette along the wall that flows into bench seating. Past the bed at the back of the room, a square window looks out to Brooklyn.

Smaller rooms keep the building’s large square windows front and centre. A clean grid of kitchenette cabinets builds off this strong graphic identity, transitioning into bench seating with Tetris-like flair. These same space-savvy layouts will lend themselves equally well to the building’s dorm rooms, which are still under construction. (In the meantime, this Bard College housing brochure offers a preview.)

The elNico hotel restaurant space at Penny Williamsburg in Brooklyn, featuring stone tables with funky chairs and a mobile sculpture above the glowing bar at the back.

While students will benefit from their own dedicated kitchen and dining spaces, hotel guests can head upstairs to Penny’s rooftop restaurant and bar, elNico. Mobiles made out of recycled paper pulp by artist Yuko Nishikawa fill the space, flowing from the entryway right into a seating area at the front before continuing above the bar at the back. 

A green mobile sculpture hangs above a yellow velvet sofa with a blue lamp next to it at elNico, the hotel restaurant located in Penny Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

High-contrast pairings of eclectic colours — think bright blue lamps placed next to yellow sofas — add to the dining room’s dynamic energy and match the creative cocktails on offer, which include cantaloupe palomas and Santo Pepinos featuring tall stacks of cucumber slices.

Tall cacti stand next to a dining table that seats two. A floor-to-ceiling window looks out to Brooklyn.
A green leather Togo sofa sits on a multicoloured rug with ferns on either side and a stone table in front. Behind it, floor to ceiling window looks out to Brooklyn.

Foliage is another key component, with cacti clustered in one corner and a leafy fern parked next to a green leather Ligne Roset Togo sofa in another.

The rooftop patio at Penny Williamsburg, a Brooklyn hotel.

Much of what makes the city so vibrant are the intersections of different people. A dorm hotel like Penny Williamsburg seem like one way to ensure that out-of-towners experience an authentic slice of Brooklyn life — without pricing students out of prime real estate in the process.

Penny Williamsburg Combines a Hotel, Dorm and Gallery

New York firm Stonehill Taylor designs boutique Brooklyn lodgings that also house Bard College grad students.

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