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Vintage luxury at the refurbished MileNorth Hotel, Chicago


Gettys the global architecture practice have refurbished the MileNorth Hotel project. Completed in 2013, the refurbishment included the conversion of existing tenant restaurant and hotel lobby into a new bar, coffee shop, market, restaurant and hotel lobby. The hotel is located in Chicago.

The inspiration behind the project was a nod to historic events/places in Chicago history, such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the 1893 World’s Fair and so forth – but with an updated, modern twist.

The overall theme of the Chicago hotel is vintage luxury. Understated palette of warm American walnut, matte black metal and stone, antiqued mirrors, white subway tiled walls, silver-tipped exposed bulbs and distressed leathers, accented by bursts of color in the furniture and fabrics. The interior design incorporates both scavenged/found elements and original pieces.


According to Gettys: “We wanted to create an authentic, but uniquely familiar space – not contrived nor a historical recreation or pastiche. There is not one overpowering element in the space but rather a collection of moments that tell the story of Chicago.”

The main challenges

The main challenge was that work had to carried out within a 90-day construction schedule. Sourcing and detailing unique pieces within the timeframe and in all this the hotel remained open during construction.


Unique features

The vintage steamboat trunk inspired at check-in desk, hand-crafted lanterns that reference the famed city skyline, library catalog inspired bar front with antique brass pulls where some are cleverly inverted to double as coat hooks. Sliding chalkboard panels and metal rolling ladder. A steel and glass Ferris-Wheel-inspired sliding doors that serve as a backdrop for the dining room as an  homage to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where the Ferris-wheel was invented.


Trends included in the design

The current design trend used is the idea that a hotel lobby is no longer a transient area between the front door and the guestroom. The lobby is now the social hub of a hotel, a multi-functional, communal space where you can grab a drink and a bite to eat, hold a quick business meeting or casually socialise.

Different zones allow guests to create his/her own experiences with the use of sliding doors and flexible seating. A wall that divided the old hotel lobby and existing restaurant was demolished to achieve a more open, free-flowing space. The new MileNorth lobby is now a warm inviting atmosphere that appeals to both the hotel guests and people from the neighbourhood.

Sustainable elements include the re-use and re-purpose of vintage steamer trunks for a check-in desk, sustainable bamboo flooring in the dining room and a virtual fireplace.


Interesting stories behind pieces selected

We sourced a dozen or so vintage steamer trunks from various sources (Ebay, Craigslist, Etsy and Antique shops in Chicago) with original travel or passage markings by previous owners. The vintage luggage-inspired check-in desk references travel and leisure but also immigrants that have ventured to Chicago to help build the city.


Design element you’re most proud of?

It would be the map-inspired check-In wall – a modern composition of  illuminated acrylic boxes that represents Chicago Buildings and the River and creates a warm glow from sidewalk passersby.

MileNorth-Hotel-Chicago-Adelto-00 How did the geographic location/culture influence the design

The tagline for MileNorth is “A Chicago Hotel”. This was the basis for creating a space that referenced the city’s rich industrial past and its proximity to the luxury corridor of the Streeterville neighbourhood.

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September 19, 2013 | Chicago North America Travel US | View comments

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