When W debuted in 1998, it yanked the designer hotel business out of its indie cocoon and dropped it onto the NY Stock Exchange. Independent, design obsessed boutique hotels had already been popping up from Munich to Miami to Milan—but now it would be big business. Sixteen years later, there are dozens of W hotels scattered throughout the US, Europe and Asia. And, as happens, when held up to the dazzle of the newest properties, the originals were looking a little left behind; thus, Starwood HQ undertook an ambitious renovation campaign across eighteen of their hotels.
One of our favorites, the W Chicago Lakeshore, was unique when it debuted in 2001, since, for a brand that was ever flaunting its crepuscular party predilections, it had an almost residential feel—nestled amidst the luxury apartments looking out over Lake Michigan. And a just-completed $38 million makeover has significantly upped the glam quotient, without upsetting its relaxed vibe.
In fact, the lobby and its Living Room lounge seem just that—like you’re hanging out in the home of your most style-mad friend, complete with billiard table and cosy circular sofa “pavilions”. The wildly contrasting patterns and color schemes make for an exhilarating sensory overload–which extends to the sexy, buzzy new restaurant Current, where Greg Elliott’s mod Italian eats are bringing the party people in again.
We especially love the stark, spray paint can mural behind the front desk, a cheeky nod to Chicago being the birthplace of the aerosol can.
The sleek new rooms are significantly more understated–of course, because even in a W hotel, one eventually needs to get some sleep. Colors are low key and muted, while big mirrors allow the ethereal lake views to be veritably projected onto your wall. (Neato.) All serenity aside, the Extreme Wow Suite seems nevertheless perfectly suited to debauched rock & roll after parties.
And since a great hotel is as much about the people who make it go, whilst visiting, we caught up with W Chicago Lakeshore cocktails alchemist Lauren Parton, as well as the hotel’s “Insider” Alixa (Ali) Cavedo, to tap into a bit of their wisdom and magic.
LAUREN PARTON’S MOST FANTASTICAL “COCKTAIL” CREATIONS
Bombay Sapphire and Strega “straight liquor paste” on an almond cookie, garnished with sage dust, lavender flowers and pomegranate seeds. With this one I turned the liquor into a paste form using a blend of molecular mixology chemicals.
Photo by Tyler Core
“Love and Pisco” Pineapple and Pisco Marshmallow (pictured), placed in a cone injected (with a syringe) table-side with a Pisco and Sherry Vinegar mixture. Garnished with a strawberry and Pisco-soaked grape slice. This “drink” has the same amount of liquor as a shot, and is bite size. As you bite into the cone and through the marshmallow you get a burst of liquid from the Pisco/Sherry Vinegar injection. It is my version of a Pisco Punch!
Pina Colada Tube Shots. I again used some molecular mixology chemicals to thicken up an entire cocktail, this time your traditional pina colada, then I injected it into tubes for you to squeeze out into your mouth like toothpaste! I call them “pudding shots”.
ALI CAVEDO’S INSIDER CHICAGO TIPS
Brantley is one of Chicago’s fastest-rising artists, with some of his works commanding upwards of $100,000, and a rapidly growing collector base that includes entrepreneur Matthew Pritzker and Jay Z. In the last year alone, Brantley has had work in ten gallery shows and was the featured artist for both Chicago Artists Month and Chicago Ideas Week.
The clothing, which ranges from NY and LA designers to international labels from France, Australia and London, is completely on trend. And within the meticulously hand-picked collection there are several exquisitely honed vintage pieces. You can also find everything from artisan-crafted greeting cards, to candles, jewelry and makeup.
The Underground is Chicago’s premiere nightclub. The new “Every Damn Wednesday” brings a cutting edge music experience, with DJ’s including Dante, Nathan Scott, Steve Smooth, and Tony Arzadon. Equipped with one of the best sound systems in the city, it gives the mid-week partier a great reason to disrupt their week.