Hotel Monaco offers a stylish setting

Senior editor Jorge Sidron recently spent a few days at the new Hotel Monaco Chicago. His report follows.

CHICAGO -- It's going to sound weird, but the first thing I did when I walked into my room at the Hotel Monaco Chicago was feel the furniture.

No, I don't have some bizarre upholstery fetish. I just hadn't seen such eye-popping colors and rich textures inside a hotel room before. There were the quilted crimson headboard; the floral bedspread in yellow, copper, red and green; the chocolate-colored pillows, and the pistachio-green and butter-cream striped wallpaper.

The eclectic, highly detailed furniture included a rich mahogany writing desk, an Art-Deco armoire and an oversized round starburst dressing mirror in mahogany and gold leaf detail. A desk lamp was crafted from a series of stacked clear and ocher glass balls. A goldfish -- compliments of the Shedd Aquarium -- swam in a fishbowl next to the lamp.

The person responsible for the unique style of the Hotel Monaco is interior designer Cheryl Rowley, whose previous hotel projects include four other properties belonging to the Monaco Chicago's owner, the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group.

Before working her magic at the Monaco Chicago, Rowley designed the interiors of Kimpton's Hotel Allegro Chicago, Hotel Monaco San Francisco, Hotel Monaco Seattle and Hotel Bel Air.

Located at the corner of Wacker and Wabash, with views of the Chicago River, the 192-room Hotel Monaco Chicago is the result of a $27.5 million renovation of the former Oxford House Hotel.

The hotel's 14-story building was originally constructed in 1912 for D.B. Fisk & Co., a wholesale dealer in millinery goods. It became the Oxford House Hotel in 1958.

The hotel is within walking distance of the shops along the Magnificent Mile, the North Loop theater district, the Art Institute and other city landmarks.

Rowley's bold designs aren't confined to the guest rooms. The hotel's lobby features a large-scale fireplace in cast limestone, and the registration desk is modeled after a classic steamer trunk.

The lobby's woodwork, painted and hand-glazed to create depth, evokes a jewelry box with its "string of pearl" detail.

Guests will have plenty of opportunities to appreciate the lobby during the complimentary morning coffee service and evening wine hour.

Through Aug. 26, the wine hour will include speakers along with special wine and cheese tastings.

Back in the rooms, there are dual-line phones with voice mail, data ports, fax machines, coffeemakers, irons and ironing boards and honor bars.

The hotel's 22 suites also feature two-person whirlpools.

Facilities for leisure and business travelers include a concierge, a 2,700-square-foot function room, two boardrooms, business support services and a fitness center.

The hotel's 174-seat restaurant and bar, Mossant, serves French-inspired cooking.

In addition to its style and location, a selling point of the Hotel Monaco Chicago is its rates, which range from $155 to $230 for a standard room, and $225 to $425 for a suite.

Hotel Monaco Chicago, Phone: (800) 397-7661 or (312) 960-8500

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