Side-by-side, yet wholly distinct, two new hotels are cementing the buzz of Chicago’s Wicker Park and Bucktown neighbourhoods. The Robey and The Hollander, the second and third stateside properties from Mexico-based Grupo Habita, are located far away from the din of the city’s congested downtown, yet have managed to generate an air of excitement that is all their own.
As the only skyscraper for miles, The Robey in particular commands attention at the intersection of these two creative ‘hoods. Based in the 12-storey art deco Northwest Tower, the 69-room hotel was transformed by Belgian design firms and occasional collaborators Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors, and is fully dialled into the history of its landmark home. ‘Every floor tells a story,’ says Merckx. ‘It’s all about comfort and feeling at home, embracing the creative vibe and heritage of the neighbourhood.’ As such, minimalist furniture, hardwood flooring and intelligent lighting by Chicago-based Filament 33 impart a mood of simple luxury, both in rooms and in the French-American-style Café Robey. ‘The design was conceived as a subtle balance between Americana style and pared down, timeless, almost Belgian interiors,’ adds Schuybroek. ‘A harmony between old and new, European and American, unpretentious and elegant, timeless and warm.’
Hipsters can hang out in the Hollander's social room and coffee bar. Photography: Nathan Kirkman
If The Robey is the more sophisticated of the two hotels, The Hollander is the hip, younger sister. Emerging from the adjacent 1905 five-storey brick Hollander Fireproof Warehouse, the hostel hybrid, home to eight shared rooms – that can sleep up to 12 people – and a dozen private rooms, possesses a more youthful vibe. This is most evident in the hotel’s Social Stay scheme, an innovative approach to shared accommodations, which allows those booking eligible rooms to connect with their roommates in advance via social media. Throw into the mix an onsite bike rental and repair shop, a social room and the hotel’s own coffee bar, and The Hollander is undoubtedly destined to become Chicago’s go-to hipster hangout.
Adrian Hunfalvay, founder of London-based Delordinaire, which designed The Hollander together with French design studio Ciguë, points out the strong ties the pre-existing structure has long had to its burgeoning locale. ‘The original Hollander building is both banal in its simplicity yet impressive in its scale and its proximity to the city's industrial heritage,’ he explains. This has translated to a stripped back decor, distinct for its subtle use of elegant materials and an uncomplicated aesthetic that is synonymous with Grupo Habita.
Guests at the Robey, aimed at fans of timeless elegance, can enjoy the private rooftop lounge. Photography: Nathan Kirkman
The two properties will literally come together this spring when The Robey opens the Cabana Club restaurant and rooftop pool, which, due to planning restrictions, will actually be located atop The Hollander and accessible via an inner walkway connecting the two hotels. The hangout, will also be available to guests staying in the private quarters at The Hollander, and will offer visitors an opportunity for a taste of the two worlds Habita has managed to carve out in this blossoming corner of Chicago. And why Chicago? ‘For its authenticity,’ says Habita co-founder Carlos Couturier. ‘It’s a true community with unique values. It's the crossroads of America – trains, planes, roads merge in Chicago – and lastly, for its great past and amazing architecture. As Frank Lloyd Wright once said: "Eventually, Chicago will be the most beautiful, great city left in America."'
As originally featured in the January 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*214)