Situated at a bustling intersection in the vibrant and historic Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Hotel Versey celebrates the diversity of the surrounding neighborhoods (Lincoln Park and the Chicago lakefront, Wrigleyville and Boystown) by connecting the dots between the area’s history and current attractions.
Housed within the 1920’s Diversey Arms building, the hotel’s musical history dates back to 1925, first serving as a home to jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke and rumored to have hosted Louis Armstrong. More recently, it was known fondly as the “Rock and Roll Days Inn” due to its popularity with many iconic rock stars of the ‘90s such as Nirvana, Goo Goo Dolls, Radiohead, Sheryl Crow, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The concept and design for Hotel Versey represents an unveiling of the hotel’s musically-influenced heritage, fused with inspirations from the diverse neighborhoods surrounding the hotel.
As the first ‘soft brand’ location for Wyndham Hotel Group’s Days Inn brand, the design firm was hired to create a boutique hotel with a bold personality that was built upon Chicago’s cultural diversity and rich history. The design and architecture team collaborated with Ownership as well as the project’s brand advisors to conduct strategic exercises to establish important personality attributes and characteristics. It was apparent early on that the hotel’s design would need to feel unique, edgy, retro, casual, communal and artful.
Early studies with the branding firm also determined the breakdown of market segments, most apparent was the ‘Leisure Transient’ type of guest. The design team worked closely with the property’s General Manager who’s been at hotel for almost twenty years, no one was better suited to understand the hotel’s type of traveler better. From senior stay-cationers catching a baseball game, to families driving cross-country, to up and coming musicians resting before a performance – Hotel Versey would cater to them all as it always had done so well.
The project team also discussed relative comp sets in the area to position the hotel effectively and provide an experience unlike any other in the relative area. While other local hotels in the area provided a hip and updated experience, they likely inadvertently shunned guests looking for a casual atmosphere or families with younger children. The people of Chicago pride themselves with being an approachable front, one who makes newcomers from all walks of like feel welcome and Hotel Versey would be no different.
While the hotel’s reservation system remains under the Wyndham Hotels umbrella, the design team had almost total creative freedom when it came to executing the interior design portion of the renovation, designing a true boutique hotel. Naturally the team paid homage to the ethos of the overarching Days Inn brand’s ‘promise as sure as the sun’ that ultimately puts guests needs first at a value that allows them the ability to travel more.
Naming of the hotel was a delicate matter as it was important to feel purposeful and approachable. Dozens of options were considered and studied with various font and logo interpretations. Ultimately the team landed on Hotel Versey as it played on the word ‘diversity’, one of the foundations of the new design. Also the hotel’s address is on Diversey Parkway, which would provide a sense of way-finding for out of town guest. Lastly, the building’s shape is reminiscent of the letter ‘V’ thanks to it being situated on a bustling five-corner intersection.
The signature ‘azure’ blue color was a natural choice early on in the design and branding process. A variation of blue that’s often described as the color of the sky on a clear day, it’s reminiscent of soaking in fun Chicago sunny days by the lakefront (a nod to the Days Inn moniker) and was utilized heavily throughout the entry art gallery. Accentuating the existing architecture with the branded azure color, the design and architecture team utilized the architectural portals as ‘framing’ for the art pieces. Pops of saturated color including sunshine yellow (A further homage to Days Inn) along with red clay (inspired by the historical brick architecture seen throughout the neighborhood) are incorporated throughout the design via throw pillows and furniture selections, as well as integrated into all marketing materials and branding touchpoints including guestroom takeaways and public signage throughout the surround areas.
From the beginning the design team utilized their internal virtual-reality artists to study the design from early spatial-planning stages all the way down to final furniture scale and placement. The Ownership team had the opportunity to virtually walk through the Lobby space to finalize the design review process with confidence as the project schedule was extremely aggressive.
In terms of the interior design, the guest’s journey begins at the entrance of the hotel, which previously featured an uninviting, 80-foot hallway that appeared to be a dark, never-ending tunnel. This entrance not only lacked identity, but provided no wayfinding to the check-in desk and lobby area. The design team’s solution was to treat the hallway as an art gallery, showcasing a different artist within each section that would greet guests and help them to form lasting memories of their stay.
Artwork throughout the arrival corridor was packaged into an opportunity for branding with the help of the ‘stay like a local’ descriptors. Each installation was framed with its own unique phrasing that related directly to the artwork specifically. For example, the installation next to the musical inspired artwork by Meg Harper read ‘Stay like a stringbending, blues playing, guitar shredding, local’. Just as materials and finishes help to tell the story within interiors, the team used literal words as part of the experience to paint the picture for the guest’s Chicago experience. Artwork was further recognized with branded placards highlighting the artist’s name and the title of the artwork. Catering to the younger millennials that are more technologically savvy – the artwork placards also have a QR code that takes guests directly to the artist’s website, and also a Snapcode that takes guests to the Hotel’s snapchat page.
With the hotel’s prime location at a five-point intersection in Chicago where numerous neighborhoods and cultures collide, the floorplan and spatial flow of the lobby around a strong axis point of ‘hub’ was a natural decision. Titled ‘Headliner,’ a custom focal chandelier is situated at this energy-focused central point, a sweet juxtaposition created by the modern shape of the chandelier with the restored, historic plaster ceilings. This tiered collection of cover pages from the Chicago Reader celebrates Chicago’s alternative news source including historic controversial covers celebrating freedom of the press.
Making the most of the lobby’s small footprint of 1,300 square feet, flexible and fluid seating arrangements are easily adjustable to accommodate groups of all sizes, appropriate for working on your computer, settling in for a cocktail or cup of coffee or simply perching while waiting to check-in. Generally speaking the footprint of the previous Lobby remained largely intact, so the design team was presented with the challenge of creating as many zones and variation of spaces for guests as possible – ultimately providing lounge space, communal space and an individual zone. The individual work zone is located under a feature mirrored wall with custom lounge chairs designed for privacy. The faceted mirror installation serves a purpose in that it’s provides a deflection of visibility back into the Lobby space to contort the guest’s illusion of old versus new. Tessallated tile that’s pattern is reminiscent of the ‘V’ is used as wayfinding to the front desk/check-in area as well as leading the guest to the energetic ‘hub’ of the lobby.
A custom Lobby millwork display of shelving houses a coffee station for morning offerings in addition to a curated installation of found objects, connecting the old with the new, providing context within the city’s history as well as a common thread between past and present travelers to the hotel. Tongue-in-cheek pieces include a 70’s era rotary phone next to an iPhone, a vintage baseball bat next to its modern aluminum contemporary and staple family board games (Clue, Battleship) alongside modern-day game (Cards Against Humanity). Two hidden doorways were designed into the wall, giving staff access to BOH administrative offices and a service corridor.
Additional custom-designed art pieces include the firm’s take on a few of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions. Hand-blown glass shapes are dipped in mercury and hung from the ceiling at the entrance of the hotel’s forthcoming restaurant, creating a miniature airy conversation pieces reminiscent of Chicago’s most social media-tagged locale, ‘Cloudgate’ or ‘The Bean.’ Flanking the reception desk is the design team’s interpretation of the infamous iron work at Wrigleyfield featuring the hotels branded logo.
When performing a light refresh of the guest rooms, the design team was presented with the challenge of working around existing furniture and lighting. Over the course of numerous phased renovations, a consistent style and finish of casegoods had not be adhered to which compelled the design team to design a color palette and finish schedule which complemented all manner of casegoods. Within the 137 guestrooms (with 45 different room types thanks to the historic nature of the building) is new flooring and window treatments with select rooms receiving new open, modern wardrobes to create more spacious suites. The team called upon the talent of a trusted partner to create the custom headboard wallcovering which acts as the impactful artwork for the guestrooms. The wallcovering hosts a collage of Chicago-inspired imagery and subject such as sports references, the infamous city grid and architecture, ferris wheel, music and local personalities.
From the moment your trip is booked to the first steps through its front doors, the entire Hotel Versey experience whisks guests through Chicago in a glimpse. A modern celebration of yesteryear brings about a nostalgia that only comes about within a site such as this. From the wildest housekeeping rumors of famous rock-n-roll royalty conception to the opposite end of simpler, innocent songstresses roller skating through the Lobby, this hotel has seen it all. The reimagined Hotel Versey is positioned to continue it’s legacy as a staple of the neighborhood, with doors open for all.