Spend the Night in a Swank, Modular Hotel Room on Governors Island
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Spend the Night in a Swank, Modular Hotel Room on Governors Island

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By Alia Akkam
The compact Outlook Shelter, from Collective Retreats, debuts in the shadow of the New York skyline.

Finding reprieves of green and calm amid the chaos of New York City is no simple task. Governors Island, an 172-acre island just off the southern tip of Manhattan, has filled that need in recent years with a 43-acre public park filled with rolling hills, historic structures, and even a zipline. It's only a short ferry ride from downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn's Pier 6 to reach this car-free oasis. Instead of settling for a mere day trip, though, Collective Retreats encourages lingering for a while with its newest endeavor, the Outlook Shelter. 

Outlook Shelter epitomizes rugged luxury. "All our features and innovations are integrated in one modular unit, so we can move and operate it quickly," says Peter Mack, founder and CEO of Collective Retreats.

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Open from May through October, Governors Island combines lush parkland, easily bikeable paths, art installations, nap-inducing hammocks, and trendy food and drink outlets. Even with annual events like the Jazz Age Lawn Party and the Rite of Summer Music Festival packing crowds, Governors Island was devoid of overnight possibilities until summer 2018. That’s when Denver-based Collective Retreats opened the seasonal Collective Governors Island, a menagerie of rustic, stylish tents—some tricked out with private baths—featuring beds wrapped in high thread-count linens and Turkish towels. 

Large Andersen windows punctuate Outlook Shelter, merging the indoors and outdoors.

This Labor Day weekend Collective Retreats adds a new dwelling to its "glamping" offerings with the elevated Outlook Shelter, a custom-built, 300-square-foot modular hotel room courtesy of Buena Vista, Colorado-based Land Ark RV.

Durable, waterproof vinyl flooring creates a cohesive look in the Outlook Shelter.

Peter Mack, founder and CEO of Collective Retreats, says that the Outlook Shelter brand is an organic outgrowth of the tents, reinforcing the company’s main objective since launching in 2015: deepening the relationship between guests and beautiful locations. Beyond Governors Island, the other Collective Retreats are found against scenic backdrops including Vail, Yellowstone, New York’s Hudson Valley, and Texas Hill Country. Soon, Outlook Shelters might make appearances in those locales as well. 

Custom CNC-cut Baltic Birch built-ins spawned the pull-out sofa, as well as the bed frame in the distance. "Built-in couches, closets, and cabinetry are a big part of all our units," says Brian Buzarde, co-founder of Land Ark RV.

"The problem with traditional hotels is that they are streamlined and standardized. I woke up one day in Chicago and I thought I was in Beijing because the design was the same," says Mack. "Our actual accommodations, our food and beverage, and our experiences are all connected to the outdoors. It’s the way we want to travel: hearing the birds chirp above, stopping to breathe the air and feel the sunshine."

The rain shower and tub combo, featuring matte black plumbing fixtures.

The Outlook Shelter "is designed to be a Nordic-style structure," Mack adds, "with all the accoutrements of a luxury hotel suite," but its duo of decks, accentuating views of the skyline and Statue of Liberty, forge a distinctive link between landscape and design.

The free-standing soaking tub, found behind an 8-foot-high pocket door.

Blending the indoors and outdoors throughout the space was a priority for Brian Buzarde, co-founder of Land Ark RV. Unlike his midcentury-inspired Draper model, the Outlook Shelter is bespoke. "It was born of a very collaborative process," explains Buzard. "The unit isn’t designed to live full-time or cook in. It’s a chance to make a big statement, to wow with something that isn’t encumbered to meet multiple program components." 

For a minimalist Scandinavian look, the interiors are wrapped in whitewashed pine. 

A cold-rolled steel frame was placed atop a custom steel tube chassis. After sheathing the exterior in a structural rigid insulation product, it was layered with matte black corrugated steel and sheets of metallic copper. Clad in white-washed flush lap pine siding, the interior’s centerpiece is the en-suite bathroom with a rain shower and deep-soaking spa tub. 

Custom curtains and a matte black chandelier add layers of texture to the bedroom area, anchored by a Hawkins bed.

Stocked with Parachute towels, Pendleton blankets, and Malin + Goetz bath amenities, guests staying in the Outlook Shelter can expect a dreamy line-up of alfresco massages, fall cruises accompanied by fresh cider, and multi-course dinners. Getting there is a breeze, too—a private boat shuttles guests to Collective Retreat's Governors Island outpost.

The two aluminum-framed decks are covered with recycled bamboo composite.

None of these perks, however, might be as rewarding as savoring "the chunk of the day when the island is closed to the public, from sunrise to mid-morning," says Mack, while ensconced in one of the deck’s Adirondack chairs. 

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