Where did your glamorous summer travel Instagram “plandid” take place this year? Perhaps you tacked along the well-groomed wake with the millennial yuppies to Mykonos or Tulum. Or joined the children of the mindfulness movement transcending consciousness in Bali’s tropical confines. Maybe you became a Surf Lodge evangelist, anointing the Montauk party palace your “happy place.” (And promptly reminding the world of that every weekend.) Mine came from that indelible symbol of style and prestige — Asbury Park, New Jersey. No, really.
When designer Anda Andrei and hotelier David Bowd teamed up in 2016 to open the Asbury Hotel, the first phase of real estate firm iStar’s multipronged plan to revitalize the dilapidated area around the boardwalk, they paid homage to the historic beach town’s fabled past — and what it could still be. Three years later, the last piece of the puzzle finally arrives, though Asbury Ocean Club and Residences’ purpose is to take guests far, far away. “It’s a bubble,” Andrei says. “You come in from downstairs and have no idea what to expect. You get in the elevator, and the moment it opens upstairs, you leave Asbury behind.”
Many hotels attempt to transport visitors to another place or time, or at least sequester them from the outside world. Ocean Club actually fulfills that promise. Miami? Santorini? Standing on the outdoor terrace among the fully grown pine trees and wisteria-cloaked pergola shading an open-air bar, you’d buy either. Andrei oriented the fourth floor, which contains all 54 guest rooms, to align perfectly with the horizon, giving the illusion that nothing but sea lies just beyond the edge of the pool fringed by minimalist loungers. A colorful bench by artist Dirk Vander Kooij, roving granita cart, and man-made installation of sand dunes fill out the frame. Taking the scene in, it’s hard to believe you’re only an hour and a half from Manhattan. It’s not the only revelation Ocean Club has in store. “You have to unravel one-by-one and never give the whole story at once because then the mystery is gone,” says Andrei, who also worked with architecture firm Bonetti/Kozerski on the project. “It’s like any seduction, the seven veils. There are places you do where you want people to never leave.”
The property’s beating heart is the drawing room, a glass house rimmed by a reflection pool — Andrei calls it the “snow globe” for its visual effect come winter — where guests convene for champagne and caviar, live jazz on the baby grand piano, and meditative views of the dune garden, the creation of landscape designer Madison Cox, whose notable work includes Marrakech’s Majorelle Gardens. With Andrei’s touch, the space feels like her personal living room thanks to a Space Copenhagen chair here, hand-painted vase there, some crisp lighting fixtures by Apparatus, and, of course, a clutch of her custom velvet stools in soft pink, pine green, and amber.
The 54 loft-style rooms conjure the same pied-à-terre atmosphere as the building’s high-rise residences. Daybeds, glass-box showers, and Bowd’s tasteful edit of amenities — MiN body wash, sprays by organic Australian brand Grown Alchemist, and Palermo Body soaps — hit all the right notes. As do the Patchology face masks and eye gels in the mini bar. (Quickie kits from stylish sex brand Maude are another shiny object, er toy, to keep guests ensconced.) “Hotels are fantasies,” Andrei says. “You’re there for a few days and you can dream what you want to dream.”
Throughout the hotel, an overarching serenity prevails. Even walking down a hallway feels calming thanks to the sheer curtains that stream in muted light and muddle views of the frenzied boardwalk below. The wellness program offering aromatherapy, meditation sessions, and tai chi is a focal point and will become a major draw for colder months once the spa opens in the fall. “Anda and I are very similar. We opine over every single intricate detail,” says Bowd, who painstakingly tested the cocktail menu’s white negroni way longer than is sensible. (It’s damn good.) He jokingly refers to the duo’s scrutinization process as whatabout. Whatabout this? Whatabout trying that? “Maybe one day we’ll have a book of our text messages to each other.”
Of course, the debaucherous temptations of a re-energized Asbury Park — the always-on Asbury Hotel, and its live music venue and bowling alley Asbury Lanes across the street, among them — are a quick elevator ride away. Ocean Club’s forthcoming street-level restaurant reportedly has big-name culinary talent attached and will bring a white-tablecloth experience, along with a marketplace and multi-brand retail component, to the beach for the first time. Bowd insists it will be a game changer. “Nowhere else can you get this without getting on a flight or sitting in traffic for five hours,” he says, noting its close proximity to New York City. Andrei points to the yin-and-yang factor of the sister properties as a key to the project’s success. “It’s the extrovert hotel and the introvert hotel — it matches the mood and needs you have. The fact that we created a mini-universe and go to both ends between the most social place with crazy music and dancing to where we are now,” she says, referring to the peaceful sunlit breakfast salon we are sitting in. “I have no idea where I landed.”
Therein lies the beauty of Asbury Ocean Club. It can be wherever you want it to be.