Owner André Balazs has a knack for dating Hollywood starlets and channeling a neighborhood sensibility, and here it's SoHo loft all the way. The Mercer is superbly situated in the heart of SoHo's myriad name-brand stores, although you wouldn't know it once you're inside the lobby, a minimalist oasis created by acclaimed French designer Christian Liagre. Most guest rooms are generously sized, with high ceilings and walk-in closets, but the lowest-priced rooms are a tight
250 square feet. Dark African woods and custom-designed furniture upholstered in muted solids lend serenity with sophistication. Some bathrooms feature decadent two-person marble tubs surrounded by mirrors. Downstairs is the always-happening lobby with 24-hour food and bar service for guests and the popular Mercer Kitchen. Beware the inconsistent service, which runs from friendly to indifferent.