Sex and the City - Chicago Style




As a follow-up to my former blog "Fresh and Contemporary at the Crosby Street Hotel NYC", I bring you more design inspiration except this time from Chicago.   You guessed it, I am back from another amazing annual weekend get-a-way with 3 girlfriends (you know who you are) - hence the Sex and the City reference in the title :)


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 and the panoramic view at one of these, the Hancock Tower, prior to our dinner reservation at "GT Fish and Oyster", one of the hottest restos in the US founded by the Boka Restaurant Group (   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 below, is a pioneering system allowing greater usable floor space by virtually eliminating the need for interior columns.  Love it when interior load bearing walls are not required!



In reference to the first photo, the interior design of the Elysian Hotel ( found in the affluent downtown Goldcoaster neighborhood of Chicago 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.  Let me take you through some of the details: Carerra marble, characterized by grey veining atop a white background, one of my all-time favorite hardscaping materials, crisp white architectural wood mouldings in an understated profile, Dior grey colored walls done in grasscloth for texture, hits of black in the revolving doors and reception desk for punctuation, scroll patterning both in the flooring and in the iron work for detailing, the glamorous chandelier for sparkle and the oversized sculptures not only for drama but to add a human element.  Sublime!



In contrast to this cooler interior color palette, I also had the pleasure of lounging in the Ralph Lauren (RL) Bar and Grill, RL's first restaurant venture.  As one of my favorite all time designers for his expert ability to layer different textures and materials, this resto is not only a feast for the senses but a hallmark of his warm and luxurious styling.  As quoted from the RL web-site (, the bar/grill is "very British, very swanky, very posh. It begins with the small bar at the front, with its 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.”  



Whether or not you are design-inclined, inspiration is abound in downtown Chicago -  check it out!