Something looked strikingly familiar about the photos on Page 242 of Home by Novogratz, the fashionable coffee-table tome about the HGTV design couple. Studying the images, I felt as if I’d seen that rug before: black-and-white with interlocking gender symbols. And that bed: custom-made platform with built-in side tables and a single-stripe blanket draped over it. And that wall art: a handcrafted flag of Jamaica, a puckish twist on patriotism.
Wait a minute: That’s my room. The space that I was reading about was the same one that I was currently inhabiting. Reality TV, are you filming this meta-moment?
The Bungalow Hotel, in Long Branch, N.J., is the first commercial property conjured by Cortney and Robert Novogratz, the celebrity husband-and-wife team who blend the hip of Andy Warhol with the hop of Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit. The 24-room property, open since 2009, resides in the Pier Village development on the Atlantic. But don’t judge a hotel by its outdoor-mall cover; the interior is an art house of fun and fantasy.
The main vibe is laid-back surfer, but the dude appears to have an advanced degree in contemporary art. Photographs of surfers hang on the lobby walls. Near the front entrance, a vintage blue-felt billiard table sits amid a small forest of birch trees and a chunk of a trunk. Overhead, a fixture dangles like a dandelion drunk on a cocktail of Rogaine and steroids. Light boxes by Heidi Cody spell out the hotel’s name in a pop-goes-the-logo style.
In the lounge area, a sofa purchased on eBay and reupholstered in faux moo backs up against a giant postage stamp of Queen Elizabeth. British artist Ann Carrington, who created the Royal Jubilee banner for the queen’s diamond jubilee celebration, used pearl buttons to define the monarchical profile. Carrington also crafted the two dozen flags, including a U.S. pennant cobbled together from denim scraps.
When I arrived at the hotel, I was sandy and dripping — a staff member later erected “watch your step” signs around my puddles — but no one treated me like a stray wet dog. Despite the art gallery veneer, these floors (high-gloss white engineered wood, according to Home) were made for flip-flops. The hotel is within walking distance of the Long Branch beach.
The property describes itself as a “boutique luxury lifestyle hotel” and offers five types of accommodations that transport the guest from the Jersey Shore to Hawaii’s North Shore: From small to large, there’s the Aloha room (465 square feet), the Hang Loose junior suite (575), the Lil’ Pipeline one-bedroom suite (785), and the Pipeline (1,010) and Kahuna (1,170) two-bedroom suites.
Despite the size differences, a similar decor flows through each space. For example, all have floating bathroom mirrors that cleverly divide the dead zone between bed and bath. In addition, every room is painted white, creating the sensation that you’re sleeping inside a clamshell.
• Bungalow Hotel: 50 Laird St., Long Branch, N.J.; 732-229-3700; www.bungalowhotel.net. Rates from $189 in the off-season; from $400 in-season.