Having been inspired after an annual girlfriends weekend get-a-way to Chicago this past weekend, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite spots for all things design, especially as they pertain to Chicago.
Leonardo Da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. To me, this quote perfectly summarizes my experience of the downtown architectural landscape of Chicago, not to mention the interior design of the Elysian Hotel and the Ralph Lauren Bar and Grill.
The docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise gave us a fantastic overview of over 50 buildings erected in less than 100 years, prompting us to enjoy cocktails at one of these, the Hancock Tower, prior to our dinner reservation at “GT Fish and Oyster”, one of the hottest restaurants in the US founded by the Boka Restaurant Group (http://bokagrp.com/). I would be remiss not to mention the iconic nature of the Tower with its Mies van der Rohe “less is more” aesthetic. External X-bracing, pictured right, is a pioneering system allowing greater usable floor space by virtually eliminating the need for interior columns. I absolutely love it when interior load bearing walls are not required!
Another amazing space in this incredible city is the interior design of the Elysian Hotel (http://elysianhotels.com/) located in the affluent downtown Goldcoaster neighbourhood. The hotel is no exception to sophistication with its simple color palette and beautiful materials. Note how the palette is consistent using only tones of grey, black and white – could be the makings of what might otherwise be an austere hotel lobby however with the clever choice of finishes and balance of materials, it is perfectly conceived.
The details of this space are both unique and stunning, with Carerra marble, characterized by grey veining atop a white background, which is one of my all-time favorite hardscaping materials. Similarly the crisp white architectural wood mouldings provides an understated profile, while the Dior grey colored walls done in grasscloth for texture add richness to the space. Hits of black on the revolving doors and reception desk add punctuation and scroll patterning both in the flooring and in the iron work make for some incredible detailing. Lastly, the glamorous chandelier adds sparkle and the oversized sculptures evoke drama and a human element. Simply put, this place is sublime!
In contrast to this cooler interior color palette, I also had the pleasure of lounging in the Ralph Lauren Bar and Grill, Lauren’s first restaurant venture. As one of my favourite designers, I have always admired his expert ability to layer different textures and materials. This particular restaurant is not only a feast for the senses but a hallmark of his warm and luxurious styling. As quoted from the web-site (http://www.rlrestaurant.com/), the bar/grill is “very British, very swanky, very posh. It begins with the small bar at the front, with a black marble fireplace, mahogany paneling and brass and ebony cocktail tables. The dining room beyond completes the image. Its navy blue walls, interspersed with more mahogany, are covered with artwork from Lauren’s private collection. Herringbone hardwood floors lead to plush, caramel leather-upholstered chairs and banquettes.”
Chicago truly is a wonderful city, rich in architectural history but whether you are design-inclined or not, inspiration is abound in downtown Chicago – check it out!