The entire wall fronting the main elevator features an aerial night view of a city skyline. Nearby, a whole wall has been devoted to a photograph of a forest of Silver Birch trees. Beside it, several bare branches of the same tree lean out of a ceramic pot. Another wall simply depicted the lower half of a woman’s body in a gray skirt, her arms by her side. Smaller framed photographic works decorate the lobby walls in what the hotel management terms as ‘a rotating gallery.’
The hotel lobby is a long, narrow space fronting large windows with simple padded stools arranged opposite the windows, offering clear views onto East Ontario Street. Our loft was cleverly designed to maximize space with white sliding doors and central glass porthole separating the bathroom from the bedroom. Also included was a hanging silver-colored metal beaded chain designating the border between the bedroom and the living room.
The living room was minimally furnished without being stark – a sofa, coffee table and three televisions, including the projector in the media room, and one hanging from the ceiling in the bedroom. A simple full-length mirror leaned against one wall and the only decorative art pieces were two framed black and white photos of Lake Michigan and a line of miniature drawings of a nude woman in the corner room.
The overall décor was a soft mix of neutrals — ivory walls, a light wood-topped bar and brown carpet underfoot, with two silver metal chairs beside a round table on a broad silver base reminiscent of the 70s. Additionally, the well-stocked room bar included half bottles of various liquors. Though located a block from Michigan Avenue, a set of floor-to-ceiling windows didn’t offer much of a view, merely onto an undistinguished backyard area — which, at least, allowed for an undisturbed night's sleep.
The James Chicago, one of three James properties in the U.S., is also home to David Burke's Primehouse and adjacent Primehouse Bar. Renovation work was going on to extend the bar area while we were there, so we decided to give it a miss. Two of the undoubted advantages of staying at The James (a pet-friendly establishment) is its prime location and friendly staff such as Front Desk Manager Beena Vaidyan, who helped with dinner arrangements with a warm smile.
Located a block from the iconic upscale shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile, it is also within walking distance of landmarks such as the Water Tower, the John Hancock Observatory, the Pumping Station, and the Wrigley Building. The Grand Red subway station is only four blocks away. An appealing hotel extra is the free car service within the business district, which is especially helpful as parking is quite expensive.
For those with more energy to spend after walking the city, the hotel’s 2,500-square-foot full-service fitness center is open 24/7 and celebrity fitness guru Jim Karas is ready to provide customized fitness programs. If you prefer yoga, representatives of Lululemon Athletica can be booked for one-hour sessions in your room or for programs over several days. Or you might just want to stop at Asha Spa for a selection of treatments.
With so much to do and so much to see in Chicago, we'll just have to return to The James for a second visit someday soon.
Sean Hillen has been an international journalist and editor for more than 30 years and is also a published author. His experience spans several continents - in Ireland, for the national daily, The Irish Times in England, as foreign correspondent for The Times and Daily Telegraph. In the US, Sean worked at the United Nations Media Center in New York, Scripps Howard Broadcasting and regional new...(Read More)