Virgin's First-Ever Hotel Is Full Of Extremely Cool Design Tricks

Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
Last month, the very first Virgin Hotel opened in Chicago. And, in true Virgin style, everything about its cheeky design is intended to delight and inspire, from the building itself (a restored 1920s Art Deco landmark) to unexpected in-room perks, like specially made beds you can comfortably work from and bright red mini SMEG fridges, stocked with affordably priced goodies (or not, if you'd rather avoid the temptation). Wi-Fi and bottled water are both free, and there are no early-check-in or late-checkout fees. There's also a nightly "social" hour with complimentary booze.

In other words, Virgin Hotels is hoping to stand out in an already crowded market by keeping the millennial traveler in mind. So, why did they decide to launch in the Windy City?

"To be honest, the building in Chicago, the Old Dearborn Bank, was the deciding factor," CEO Raul Leal tells us. "Several other major U.S. cities — New York, Miami, L.A., San Francisco, Boston — were all in the running. But, the property had this prominent stance near the river, and was ideally situated between tourist areas like Michigan Avenue and the business district in The Loop. After almost a century since it was built, the original features were still intact, and we knew with a proper restoration process, we could blend the neo-classicism architecture with modern touches and wow the world with the first Virgin Hotels."

While restoring the historic landmark to its original glory was a priority (be sure to check out the coffered plaster ceilings in The Commons Club), when it came to the guest rooms, Leal and his team's approach was totally modern and forward-thinking. Ahead, he takes us on a guided tour of the space — and reveals some clever tips and tricks you're going to want to steal for your own home!









Advertisement
1 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
"Where we started is a complete diversion from where we ended," Leal says. "What most people expected us to look like, the inside of a Virgin airplane, is where we began, but we quickly realized we needed a more timeless, soft look, one that would work well in many cities and have a prolonged life."
2 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
"We set out to build a better hotel room, and that developed into a pied-à-terre-style guest room with all the luxuries of home and more," Leal explains. "Everything has its place. There are two Poliform closets with built-ins for luggage, hanging clothes, shoes — even a drawer for unmentionables. It’s a very intuitive design."
Advertisement
3 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
Thanks to its large, naturally lit mirror, the makeup desk has been a hit with travelers. "Plus, it provides an additional getting-ready space when couples are traveling together," Leal says.
4 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
Plenty of storage space, pull-out shoe racks, and a nook made specifically for your shopping bags. You officially have no excuse for being disorganized!
5 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
"While we are not a luxury brand, we looked closely at the consumer touch points," Leal says. "For example, the faucets. How do they feel when you turn them off and on? Are they clunky and hard? Are they easy to operate? It may take more time and effort, but when you look at the little details, the big picture comes into focus quickly. Take the same approach at home and decide what is important to you, and then design around those key touch points."
6 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
The headboard was specially designed to provide lower-lumbar support, and that strange-looking cushion in the corner of the bed is a makeshift bucket seat. Both features make it easy for multiple people to comfortably lounge around while working on laptops.
7 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
"Start with comfort in mind and what that means to you," Leal advises. "Coco Chanel once said luxury isn't luxury unless it's comfortable."
8 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
"Artwork wasn’t in the design plan for the guest rooms, so we opted for the Maya Romanoff gray flannel wall covering with narrow red pinstripes to bring warmth and texture to The Lounge area," Leal explains. The result is super-cozy — not to mention the perfect backdrop for each room's show-stealing mini SMEG fridge.
9 of 9
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin Hotels Group.
His favorite feature in the guest rooms? The shower!

"Its generous size and rainfall showerhead feel spa-like; plus, there's a bench," Leal says. "I hear women love this feature for shaving their legs. One of my pet peeves when traveling is having the handheld spray me when I turn on the shower. We went through a series of models (I tested them at home!) to ensure that after the handheld is used, it's clipped into place so the spout faces the wall, and you won’t get drenched before you want to."
Advertisement

More from Chicago

Watch

R29 Original Series