I Stayed at JFK's TWA Hotel and It Was Full of Midcentury Marvels

TWA Hotel lobby.
credit: TWA Hotel

As a longtime fan of all things midcentury modern and an evangelist for staying in a hotel a short cab ride away from where you already live, I had the chance to check out the recently opened TWA Hotel at JFK, which uses the historic airline terminal designed by architect Eero Saarinen as an anchor and main space (two towers house 512 guest rooms adjacent to the main building) for dining, drinking, and — perhaps most importantly — soaking up the history of air travel. While the hotel is genuinely a functioning airport hotel, perfect for travelers spending the night at JFK en route to points further, it's also been a destination for people who just want the chance to spend the night in First Class, 1960s-style. (Hi! Me!)

The Eero Saarinen lobby, which opened to passengers in 1962, had been empty since 2001, and the project of restoring it to its former glory took nearly three years. The breathtaking space (fun fact: the main part of Saarinen's structure has no right angles, giving the whole place an airy quality I can only describe as "beautifully swoopy") is the first thing hotel guests see, much like air passengers would have experienced the space at the height of TWA's dominance of the skies.

The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel.
credit: TWA Hotel

There's no shortage of places to get a drink at the TWA Hotel (including the Connie, a decommissioned airplane-turned-cocktail lounge parked just outside the hotel lobby), but I especially loved watching the sun set from the Sunken Lounge, my feet up on a plush red footstool, sipping a martini, as Frank Sinatra crooned over the lobby stereo system.

Roof deck and swimming pool at the TWA Hotel.
credit: TWA Hotel

I didn't think I'd actually be that interested in watching planes land and take off — until I was on the roof deck of the hotel, cocktail in hand. The hotel is planning to keep the pool heated and open year round, and coming back in the winter when it's more of a hot tub is now definitely on my must-do list.

TWA guest room overlooking a runway at JFK Airport.
credit: TWA Hotel

Obviously the king-sized bed and runway view are the big draw here, but as a midcentury modern furniture nerd, I was super excited to be sleeping in a room that came with my very own Saarinen Womb chair and matching Tulip table. I especially loved admiring (and using!) my furniture and then popping downstairs to the Herman Miller library to read about the history of the pieces in my room.

Exhibition of historic TWA flight attendant uniforms.
credit: TWA Hotel

Rather than staging a separate museum wing, the hotel has cleverly arranged mini-exhibitions of historic TWA ephemera throughout the main spaces for visitors to stumble upon at their leisure. A highlight for me was the row of uniforms worn by TWA flight attendants throughout the twentieth century, and I wasn't the only one who appreciated this display — while lusting after a particularly chic green suit set, I met a pair of women who had actually worked for the airline in the 1960s, and they told me stories about carving roasts in First Class and wearing togas on a particularly memorable flight to Rome.

Sweaters on sale at the TWA Hotel gift shop.
credit: TWA Hotel

I wish I could say I resisted the siren call of the hotel's gift shop before checking out ... but I'd be lying.


Angela Serratore

Angela Serratore

Angela Serratore is a writer and historian whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Curbed, Lapham's Quarterly, Smithsonian Magazine, Buzzfeed, the Cut, and more.