In the age of Instagram, the defining feature of a bar is often determined not by reviews, tastes or intent, but by smart phone. While some spaces are designed with this express purpose in mind, there are certain objects that become inadvertent icons through their unwitting “Instagram-ability.” In this series, PUNCH shares the stories behind the bar world’s most viral landmarks.
It’s not the French walnut paneling or the soaring ceilings or shimmering chains of aluminum, brass and copper that hang in lieu of traditional window treatments. It’s not the impressive installation by the 20th-century sculptor Richard Lippold that hovers over the bar, or the travertine lobby across which the likes of JFK, Princess Margaret and President Obama have walked. Instead, what catches the eyes of guests at The Grill, the new occupant of the historic Mies van der Rohe interior that formerly housed the Four Seasons Restaurant, is the bathroom.
The Ladies’ Lounge, as its politely denoted, has become the star of the new restaurant. While little has changed from its original iteration (as a landmarked interior, it can’t), when Major Food Group took over the space in 2017, they replaced much of the furniture and elongated the Hollywood vanity mirrors, which now cast an Instagram-friendly glow over the entire space.
With elongated vanities, it seems, comes inflated vanity. The Ladies’ Lounge has become the backdrop to countless mirror selfies and impromptu group photo shoots. For these selfie-snapping patrons, it doesn’t matter that the chairs they’re tossing their legs over in exaggerated model poses are not the original Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs. The Instagram-ready set-up has allowed countless patrons to tell their own story of the city’s most iconic restaurant. As one user noted in the caption of her own self-portrait, quoting Samantha Jones of Sex and the City: “Old New York, new New York. Honey, at least it’s New York.”