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The Notable Northwest

Graduate Hotels has opened Graduate Evanston, a 119-key hotel located on Hinman Ave., steps from the Northwestern University campus and nearby scenic shores of Lake Michigan. Designed in homage to Evanston literary figures both new and old, the hotel has a refined, residential design that embodies the history and legacy of Evanston and Northwestern University. In addition to thoughtfully designed guestrooms, the hotel will offer Trophy Room, a signature Graduate Hotels all-day food and beverage concept.

Initially opened in 1928 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the former Homestead property has been thoughtfully restored in partnership with Chicago-based DMAC Architecture to maintain the building’s notable local history and significance. Design throughout the hotel weaves the narratives of Evanston’s past and the legacy of storied Northwestern University students and faculty into both statement elements and subdued details.

“Nestled near the Northwestern University campus and the Lake Michigan shore, Graduate Evanston has a timeless charm that reflects the culture and history of the town,” said Dwayne MacEwen, principal/creative director, DMAC Architecture. “The artwork, finishes and color pallet were all inspired by Evanston, Northwestern and its proximity to the lake. Mixed hues of purple and white—Northwestern’s branded school colors—are frequently used throughout in fabrics, paint, wallcoverings and carpeting. The artwork was chosen to highlight the lakeshore and notable northwestern graduates.”

Created for travelers who seek memory-making journeys, Graduate Hotels is a thoughtfully crafted collection of hotels that reside in university-anchored cities across the country. Each property celebrates and commemorates the optimistic energy of its community, while offering an extended retreat to places that often play host to the best days.

“Each Graduate Hotels property uniquely tells the stories of the dynamic university community it is positioned within. Everything from the colors to the textures to the art that adorns guestroom walls has been hand-chosen to evoke a sense of nostalgia amongst visitors—whether they’re returning for a reunion or it’s their first time on campus,” said Krissy Melendez, senior concept director, AJ Capital Partners.

Custom art establishes a unique sense of place upon arrival, including an array of Midwestern-inspired lake and landscape portraits, as well as a gallery wall featuring 16 caricatures created by renowned American illustrator and caricaturist Ken Fallin. The portraits depict notable alumni such as Zooey Deschanel, Meghan Markle and Eddie Vedder. Centralized around an original burning fireplace, the hotel’s restaurant Trophy Room is positioned adjacent to the lobby and celebrates the sophistication and intimacy of Chicago’s North Shore neighborhoods with upscale, preppy prints, circle banquettes and warm, natural materials.

In guestrooms, university pride and prestige are complemented with subtle shades of Northwestern Purple throughout. Details hint to the Evanston community and the property’s architectural character including vintage furniture sets, tailored furniture and deep purple and green Persian-inspired rugs. Celebrating the many famous writers who have called Evanston home, decor incorporates literary nods throughout including Craftsman-style floor lamps with and chess tables that establish a nostalgic, residential energy. Framed needlepoints are an ode to North Shore architecture and feature nearby homes showcased in popular 1980s movies Home Alone and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Bedside lamps with apple accents are a nod to Illinois’ state fruit. Hand-painted scenes of Lake Michigan positioned above each headboard remind guests of their lakeside positioning.

“Restoring a historic building is a challenge,” MacEwen said. “This particular property had seen many years of ad-hoc renovations, so our goal as the architect of record was to respect its original grandeur. The difficult decisions come down to how to maintain the character of the building while still providing modern systems and comforts. Because most of the electrical and plumbing were concealed, there were a lot of unknowns and surprises along the way in terms of the scope of the renovation. We worked with the City of Evanston and AJ Capital’s interior design team to maintain the important design elements in the building while still serving the hotel guests with updated lighting, temperature control and other conveniences that contemporary hotels offer.”

On the ground floor of the hotel, Graduate Evanston will offer Trophy Room, a signature Graduate Hotels food and beverage concept rooted in nostalgia, serving up classic American dishes with a youthful spin. Trophy Room will offer guests and locals alike an all-day dining destination complete with playful menu items reflecting regional Illinois flavors and local Evanston and Northwestern University influences.

“A Graduate guest is one that appreciates a space that feels layered and lived in, someone who is unapologetic of their use of pattern, one whose two prized possessions are both their grandfather’s old cable knit sweater and the latest iPhone,” Melendez said. “At Graduate, we are constantly thinking back to our guests and how they will respond to or interact with a space. Rather than thinking of designing the ‘lobby,’ we prefer to approach the space as we would the living room of the community. The narrative, the mix of commissioned art next to a vintage still-life oil painting and historically accurate furniture all help set the stage for our guests to become characters on our set. Functionality and transformative design are the two forces constantly pushing us forward.”