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Lake Effect

December in Chicago can mean windy days and freezing nights, making a warm, inviting space to gather incredibly important. The Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago, one of the city’s original boutique hotels, recently completed a full renovation, taking inspiration from Lake Michigan and the Chicago Riverwalk, which can be seen from the hotel’s window seats.

“The new feel at the Monaco Chicago is truly engaging, enveloping our guests into a bright, inviting and curious environment with unique color schemes and design patterns, thought-provoking artwork, and nods to our building’s history as a hat factory,” said GM Adam Gurgiolo. “Playful references to the past century, but through a modern lens, make the experience unforgettable with the desire to return, again and again.”

“We drew inspiration for Hotel Monaco Chicago from the close proximity that the property has to both the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and how the local weather patterns or ‘lake effect’ impact the city and its people,” explained Ciarra Celiano, designer, Gettys Group. “We incorporated various organic patterns and deep blue and green tones that the water takes on as the seasons change. For example, the pressed glass material selected for the front desk reflects the frozen river in the dead of winter.”

The green marble mosaic coffee table in the lobby is one of Celiano’s favorite elements of the design. “Its unique texture and color make it stand out against the white two-story living room space and reminds me of the long tradition of dying the city’s river green,” she said.

“In addition to being inspired by the ‘lake effect,’ we also tapped into the history of the building, which was once the largest women’s hat factory in the country,” she continued. “We brought this story to life through fine tailoring lines and colorful decorative trim details found in millinery techniques of the 1920s.”

Fashion students at nearby Columbia College designed hats and accessories—coursework for the school’s newly created millinery class—that will be displayed in the lobby and worn by hotel staff.

“The exotic African Juju hats in the window seats and the hatbox-inspired amenity tray filled with local treats were key moments that connect the design back to the millinery history of the building,” Celiano added. “The tailored and colorful corridors also create a memorable moment upon exiting the elevators. We worked closely with our wallcovering (Koroseal) and carpet (Ulster) manufacturers to make our vision of wrapping the floors and walls in the same pattern come to life.”

The Monaco’s 191 guestrooms and 22 suites feature luxe materials and contemporary amenities, including new 55-in. televisions with full streaming capabilities, tiled walk-in showers with marble accents, rain showerheads and yoga mats tucked in the closets. The suites offer oversized bathrooms and a separate sitting area in each. Large bay windows in the rooms remain a Monaco Chicago signature.

“My favorite part of the guestrooms are the deep and bright window seats that look out on to the city,” Celiano said. “They really are the bridge between our inspiration and our design, and allow for so much natural light to fill the rooms. We wanted to make this a cozy spot for guests to relax while also bringing in unexpected elements like the koi fish-patterned cushions.”

For his part, Gurgiolo has three favorite features: the bright yellow headboards; the subtle, yet popping, baby blue patterned drawer handles on the bureaus; and the stark contrast of the tiled black and white patterns of the bathroom walls. “These elements, to me, work together to hit all facets of Chicago from its vivid and vibrant colors of spring and summer, as well as its longevity and strength through the fall and winter when things may be a little grayer, but the vibrancy remains intact in the city lights, people and rich history,” he said.

Director of Sales and Marketing Amy Leahy added, “To second Adam, I love the pulls on the bureau. It’s such a small but impactful touch. My favorite thing is probably the corridors, which are such an interesting juxtaposition to the guestrooms. With nods to the city’s vast park spaces, the design is so thoughtful, from the chic wall covering, to the mural on each floor, and the light fixture that evokes a feather— like one in your cap.”

“From the living room to the guestrooms, the experience was designed to reflect that of one’s lively and well-traveled pied-a-terre with discovery moments around each corner,” Celiano said. “The bright and airy lobby is the perfect background to reminisce on the day’s adventures with a glass of wine next to the fireplace.”

“The feedback we consistently receive from clients is that the hotel has a certain warmth to it.  The design—and of course, the people— has an authenticity that translates to our guests,” Leahy said.