When it comes to promoting the ideals of relaxation and luxury, the societal bathhouses used by the elite of the ancient Roman society are at the top of the historical charts. Flaunting the best materials in stone and highly intricate details, these olden architects made sure their designs were nothing short of beautiful. So when the owners of the new Chicago Elysian Hotel—named after the Greek and Roman mythological resting place of the gods—tasked Lisa Simeone and Gina Deary, founders and principals of Chicago firm Simeone Deary Design Group (SDDG), with drawing up an interior design for the Elysian Spa & Health Club that would allow for “approachable luxury,” the duo opted to follow suit with the old “When in Rome…” adage. (For more images, click the "more photos" link to the left.)
The name of the hotel gave SDDG a “great jumping-off point,” according to Simeone, who says that the idea of the Roman baths—in form, function, and feeling—inspired their creativity. The spa’s interior spaces breathe a mythological feel, with Greek-styled, glossed stone surfaces that aesthetically set the hotel apart from competing luxury brands, “making it feel like home but with an edge of glamour,” she says.
The 14,000-sq-ft., fourth-floor Elysian Spa & Health Club on the further features this theme of timeless beauty, located above the hotel’s open-air courtyard. Customized services are offered to the guests, such as a men’s atelier; a men’s and women’s spa pools; a mosaic-tiled, saline-filled lap pool with saline cleaning system; fitness facilities and Pilates and Gyrotonics studio; and private relaxation lounges.
To elaborate upon their design story, a task that is a critical focal point for the pair in every project they undertake, Simeone and Deary made sure to keep color to a minimum in this project, as material and texture would be more apropos in realizing the classic aesthetic. Marble floors, natural stone with subtle texture, and, of course, mosaic wall patterns are featured throughout the pool and treatment areas.
Lighting also played a huge role in the design to add another dimension of life and dramatic flair. Deary says, “We sought more of an indirect lighting approach where the lights play off the curve of a detail or the chiseled surface of a stone wall.” High-tech motion sensors increase the space’s functionality and to allow mood setting at various times of the day.
This technology was also carried over to the main areas of the hotel. For example, in the lobby the fireplaces can automatically turn on as a guest enters the room. “It’s nothing overt or over the top,” adds Deary. “It's just a matter of meeting the guests’ need before they anticipate them.”
While the designers admit that they typically would opt to go back and make minor tweaks to their projects after completion—adjusting or adding to their original concepts—in this case Simeone and Deary feel that the project is successful just as is. “In this particular case, we were working with an entirely new brand. Our charge here was to create something new and exciting while keeping it luxurious and transformative. We believe our overall concept for the building and the spa reflects this missive,” they say.
In being able to work with a new hotel brand, one without pre-established standards and visual limitations, the designers were able to implement elements and details they normally might not have been able to use. “We believe the space in its entirety really sets itself apart from other competitors,” says Simeone.
The 60-story, $245-million Elysian Hotel (January 2010), also designed by SDDG, features 188, Parisian-styled guestrooms and suites, inspired by a 1920's-era, Coco Chanel theme, as well as 52 private residences. Two restaurants, a bar, and four meeting rooms round out the destination’s amenities. Elysian is the owner, operator and developer of luxury hotels, resorts, and private residences.