Interiors Awards 2017: Hotel

The bar on the 21st floor plays on the shape of the historic building’s footprint and features pendant light fixtures that evoke peregrine falcon nests as well as custom wallcoverings that mimic the ceiling’s coffers. Photography by Nathan Kirkman

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LondonHouse Chicago
Designer: Simeone Deary Design Group
Client: Oxford Capital Group
Location: Chicago

“The wonderful volume of the entry sets the tone from the moment you walk in. Original and historic details are used fittingly throughout the interior. The hotel’s design is modern and clean with provocative detail and edgy accents.” —Jury

In designing the interiors for the new LondonHouse Chicago Hotel, Simeone Deary Design Group (SDDG) made the most of the hotel’s site and history. The hotel is partly within the neoclassical London Guarantee Building from 1923 that is prominent at the corner of Michigan Avenue at Wacker Drive, just south of where the Michigan Avenue Bridge crosses the Chicago River. An adjacent new glass-clad infill addition by Goettsch Partners gives the hotel a contemporary appeal at the highly visible location.

The 22-story, 25,000-square-foot hotel has 452 guestrooms with high ceilings, numerous great views, and associated amenities. Primary spaces for the public and guests include a second-floor lobby, a pre-function space, conference rooms, a 17-foot-tall ballroom on the third floor, and a panoramic rooftop bar overlooking the Chicago River.

The project provided an opportunity for SDDG, a Chicago-based practice with a hospitality focus, to define the hotel. “[LondonHouse] didn’t have a brand [identity],” explains Carrie Tolman, an associate at SDDG. “We were able to determine what LondonHouse was going to be.”

The hotel’s interiors span the two buildings, and the SDDG designers embraced the mix of old and new. The original Beaux- Arts motifs of the historic tower provide direct precedents for many of the design moves. SDDG looked to the deeper concepts of the École for inspiration, evoking the movement’s deployment of contrasts between light and dark finishes, as well as small and large spaces, while organizing the interiors around predominantly symmetrical axial arrangements.

Guests enter the hotel through either an ornate rotunda off of Michigan Avenue or a more intimate new entrance from Wacker Drive, where they encounter a narrow corridor displaying a two-story- tall portrait of General William Hull that draws the eyes upward to a gridded sculptural light fixture and the second-floor lobby. That lobby provides the most direct connection to the original building, literally and semantically as the reception desk is on an axis with the older building’s elevator corridor, restored a number of years ago by Goettsch.

SDDG ties the spaces together with elements that abstract the geometries of the London Guarantee Building’s rotunda. Octagons, circles, and beaded diamonds are etched into the black marble floor and reflected in the custom wallcovering that mimics coffers used in the ceiling. Columns are covered in decorative patterns that recall original metalwork. An oversize crown molding, while not originally from the old structure, lends the 57-foot-by-64-foot lobby a sense of Beaux-Arts grandeur. Comfortable seating arrangements and a bar make it a hub of activity, with stunning views down the adjacent river.

The designers were further influenced by the 1920s era of the original building for a deep dive into specific themes. Carpeting in the public spaces takes its cues from women’s fashion of the period: A beaded pattern based on a period coat design lines the corridors. Jazz Age jewelry provided inspiration for custom light fixtures with lacey pendants, chains, and cut crystal. Wallcoverings marking the entry to each guestroom reprise the patterns of radiator grills in the original lobby. Within each room, automotive motifs balance the feminine touches of the public zones with a jolt of masculinity. Fumed eucalyptus wood interventions include freestanding wardrobes and custom beds that incorporate drawers within their base—referring to the increasing mix of style and function in cars of the 1920s.

LondonHouse’s crowning feature is a pair of lounges on the top two floors. While the exterior bar on the 22nd floor has become a seasonal destination, the interior lounge on the 21st floor stimulates by design. The bar itself—at more than 56 feet long, one of the largest in Chicago—riffs on the unusual shape of the building’s footprint. Herringbone wood patterns recall the lobby’s flooring, and pendant light fixtures reference peregrine falcon nests.

Combining historic and contemporary architecture and interiors with inspiration from the city of Chicago and the specific site, LondonHouse succeeds at creating a compelling series of spaces for sophisticated hotel guests.

who Interior designer: Simeone Deary Design Group. Project team: Lisa Simeone; Gina Deary; Adam Lara; Carrie Tolman; Tricia Manasra; Jennifer Moots; Kaitlin Swain; Justin Brown. Architect: Goettsch Partners. Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction. Consultants: Gettys. Lighting: Anne Kustner Lighting Design. Engineering: WMA Consulting Engineers.
what Wallcoverings: Brassell Design; Maya Romanoff; Kevin Barry Fine; Art Associates; MDC; Phillip Jeffries; D.L.Couch. Hard flooring: International Marble & Granite; Carlisle. Carpet/carpet tile: Tufenkian Artisan; Brintons; Aqua Hospitality. Lighting: Parthun Enterprises; Chapman Manufacturing; Alger-Triton. Window treatments: Miceli Drapery. Seating: Charter Furniture; Pacific Contract Sources; JL Furnishing. Upholstery: Kravet; Valley Forge Fabrics; Romo Group; Zoffany; Robert Allen; Theo; Opuzen Collection; P/Kaufmann; Architex; KnollTextiles; Holly Hunt; Jim Thompson; Swavelle Hospitality; Keleen Leathers; Fil Doux Textiles; Moore & Giles; Samelson Chatelane; Fabricut; S. Harris & Vervain. Tables: Pacific Contract Sources; Fleetwood Fine Furniture. Storage: Fleetwood Fine Furniture. Architectural/custom woodworking: 555. Art and accessories: Kevin Barry Fine Art Associates; Indiewalls; Restoration Hardware; Arteriors; Global Views; Books by the Foot.

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