The Carlyle Hotel and its Famous Bemelmans Bar

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The Carlyle is one of New York’s east-side chic spots, known for its gorgeous glossy lobby areas and refined elegance. Today we are going to head over to the Carlyle’s famous Bemelmans Bar and see why we now especially have reason to belly up to the bar and take a look around. But we can’t go straight to the bar without a quick look at the iconic interior design of this famous hotel… a walk through the beautiful lobby, a peek into a few suites and the spa…

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The Carlyle is an emblem of New York glamour and luxury. Nestled in the heart of the Upper East Side, the hotel is legendary for its first-class combination of discretion and grace.

Designed by the noted architectural firm Bien & Prince and named in honor of British essayist Thomas Carlyle, the hotel has been a Manhattan landmark for decades. The Carlyle features 188 rooms and suites with stunning views of Central Park and New York, serving an impressive list of guests and visitors. Every American president since Truman has visited, and its rich history includes visiting Royals and heads-of-state — HRH, The Prince of Wales; the late Diana, Princess of Wales; their Majesties, the Kings and Queens of Denmark, Greece, Spain and Sweden have all visited.

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  The suite above is often requested for extended stays. I can certainly see why…

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Carlyle suites have breathtaking views across Central Park.The Carlyle Hotel on

Not sure I would even remember to look out the window with an interior view like this…

The Carlyle Hotel Spa on

ahhhh… tha spa…

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Loving this restaurant design…

Carlyle Hotel Bemelmans Bar

 And here we are, at Bemelmans Bar!

Named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books, Bemelmans Bar attracts socialites, politicians, movie stars and moguls with its extensive drink menu and nightly live entertainment. This classic New York institution is a place to see and be seen, great fun. Bemelmans Bar is said to have the best martinis in New York City…

Let’s take a look at the interior design details:  The bar maintains its Art Deco legacy with chocolate-brown leather banquettes, nickel-trimmed black glass tabletops, a dramatic black granite bar and a 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling. Guests are charmed by its distinct New York style and the large-scale murals in the hotel bar, the only surviving Bemelmans’ commission open to the public.

History of Bemelmans Bar 

The Carlyle is an integral part of New York history. As the city’s premier luxury residential hotel, it was a famous gathering place for socialites, world leaders and celebrities when Ludwig Bemelmans began to create his masterpiece murals at the hotel bar. Bemelmans was a successful artist for The New Yorker, Vogue and Town and Country and had achieved enormous success with the Madeline children’s books series. Using his distinct style of art, he transformed the bar with whimsical scenes of Central Park that included picnicking rabbits and ice skating elephants. Rather than be paid for his art, Bemelmans exchanged his work for a year and a half of accommodations at The Carlyle for himself and his family.

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Closeups of the walls in the bar.

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that Woody Allen & The Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band perform at the Carlyle Hotel on Monday nights at 8:45? Advance tickets always sell out…

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Over the years, as touch-ups have been done, somebody with a sense of humor has added a few updates. Look far left at the bunny in the photo above…

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cute, and in the Bemelmans spirit. I like it…

So, here is where it gets fun.  If you love the Bemelmans expressive style and have fond memories of the Madeline series, The New York Historical Society has an upcoming exhibit for you:


Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans

On view July 4 – October 13, 2014

Ludwig Bremelmans, Carlyle Bar Artist, self portrait, on

This summer, the New-York Historical Society will present a special exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of the iconic children’s classic Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, on view from July 4 through October 13, 2014, will honor the plucky Parisian schoolgirl and her creator in the first exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 50 years. The above drawing is a self-portrait of the artist, who arrived in New York at the age of 16, in 1914.

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A natural storyteller who drew and wrote with fluency, Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962) artfully blended childhood memories with his experiences as an adult to create Madeline, published in 1939. His story about a precocious young girl’s adventures at boarding school was hugely successful and Bemelmans went on to publish five more Madeline stories, as well as develop the idea for Madeline in the White House with Jacqueline Kennedy; the book was written by his grandson John Bemelmans Marciano.

The exhibition will explore Ludwig Bemelmans’s career through more than 90 works, many recently rediscovered, including drawings, paintings, specially commissioned objects, archival photographs and memorabilia like the artist’s paintbox. Also on view are the original Madeline manuscript and original drawings from all the Madeline books, which will provide insights into Bemelmans’s creative process.Bremelmans Chefs and Waiters on

Bemelmans worked at the Ritz Carlton for more than 15 years, and often drew patrons and coworkers on the backs of notecards or menus in his lively expressive style.. well before he would get the idea for the Madeline books (in 1938).

Bremelmans Drawings- Champagne on

Bemelmans’s entire career will be examined, from his rarely-seen early comics, to his celebrated, sometimes tumultuous, life as a bon vivant, hotelier and restaurateur.

My recommendation: brunch or lunch (or a stay if you are not local) at the Carlyle before going to the exhibit!

Exhibit Information

Book your stay at The Carlyle

more about Bemelmans’ career via WSJ

The Carlyle Hotel on

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  1. Maria Palomo says:

    Great article Courtney! Congratulations

  2. I loved learning more about The Carlyle and Benelmann’s….It is one of my favorite places to have a drink. I pretty much know Madeleine by heart. Little Miss A adores it. What a great post!

  3. Nice interior Designing and interior Decoration!

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