Photo Gallery: Mr. Studio 54, Ian Schrager, opens new hotel

Ian Schrager co-founded Studio 54 and is credited with creating the concept of boutique hotels. Now at age 70 he's back with the new PUBLIC hotel on New York City's Lower East Side.

Quirky but inviting public spaces are key to the hotel's identity, and Schrager says he wants New Yorkers to spend as much time there as out-of-town hotel guests. There's a cozy park out front, rows of stadium-style steps inside where you can sit with a laptop or latte, long white sofas that invoke a Miami club, and even a '70s basement vibe with game tables and plywood-finish cabinets. There's also a roof bar with stunning views, a performance space inaugurated by Patti Smith, a grocery counter with hanging hams and a sit-down restaurant.

"Each area has a different personality, a different mood," said Schrager. "We don't tell people how to use the space. They tell us."

Prices for the hotel's 370 rooms start at a $150 and guests check themselves in on iPads. "It's luxury for all," he says. "It's not so much about being rich. It's about how it makes you feel."

Scott Smith, who teaches at the University of South Carolina's School of Hospitality, Tourism and Restaurant Management, says the PUBLIC concept doesn't represent serious competition for other hotels. But, Smith predicts, "People are going to want to be there and be seen there. ... It's kind of like a work of art that has the word hotel attached to it."