The Sophy’s identity is bound up in the academic and artistic talent of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighbourhood, from its name – derived from “Sophia”, Greek for wisdom – through to the academic disciplines that inspire the hotel’s interior design.

Given the close proximity of the University of Chicago, The Sophy is quite literally set at the heart of the academic community here, which counts the likes of Barack Obama and Frank Lloyd Wright amongst its prominent past and present residents. 

Led by Michael Suomi, the design team at Stonehill Taylor has created a luxurious, yet intimate interior scheme for the hotel. A blend of rich materials with classic tailored furnishings, elegant finishes, architectural millwork and an extensive art collection channel the distinct aesthetic of Hyde Park’s historic townhouses. 

Stonehill Taylor focused on three academic  disciplines in order to conceptualise the hotel’s public spaces, imagining the residences of leading figures in the realms of art, literature, science and music. 

The reception lobby, for example, is inspired by gospel music. Defined by sinuous forms and a warm colour palette, the space features a two-sided fireplace made of dolce vita marble, as well as a large hanging light, made of an 18ft long brass tube twisting and curving, almost as if to the sound of music.

A round area rug demarcates the central seating group, enveloped by a curving sofa and a round walnut coffee table and art-deco inspired chairs. On the edges, tufted banquette sofas and round nesting tables are accented with floor lighting in the shape of musical instruments.

A further seating area with large residential sofas edges the grand fireplace, while a reception desk – with hints of the dolce vita marble from the fireplace – features artwork by a local artist as its backdrop. 

The bar area, in turn, is inspired by the scientific discoveries of centuries past, manifested in the use of metals, geometric motifs and light pieces. The wood-covered, mirror-backed bar features metal work evocative of the sun, while the striking marble bar top is balanced with a wood cover and grey and white geometric tiles around the bar. Single Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling with a marbleised pattern.

A live edge communal bar table provides additional standing room, while a banquette area with tufted leather seats has been loosely separated by a hanging art piece made of illuminous glass beads. 

20th century literary figures provided inspiration for The Sophy’s restaurant, Mesler, which is headed up by Chef Bradford Shovlin. Stonehill Taylor has imagined the dining room of an author here, with bookshelves carved into columns that partition the various seating areas. The walls feature a multitude of frames of varying sizes, displaying works on paper with literary themes and significant book covers. 

Scallop tufted seating in aqua blue velvet, a curvy long chandelier in brass, tan leather chairs around wood tables in the middle and an area rug with a multi-colour square pattern create stand-out features here. 

Borrowing from the pattern of the metal lattice at the back of the bar, tall wood doors with an etched geometric solar pattern separate the main dining room from the private dining area, where burgundy upholstered walls feature large frames of book covers.

From the restaurant, guests can make use of the Sanctuary – an outdoor lounge that offers an urban escape complete with a fire pit and water feature – or retreat to their rooms via  smart brass-doored elevators.

The guest rooms are residential in feel, from the canted wall that creates a small foyer upon entry, to the selection of books, artwork, hardwood floors and accent lights beyond.

Custom designed furnishings include an aspen wood coffee table made of two wood disks, one serving as the table top, the other supporting the top. The coffee table is next to the leather chaise banquette with built-in electrical outlet, accented with glass pendants hanging over it.

The classic form of the crème linen upholstered headboard has been rendered contemporary here via a simplified silhouette, creating an elegant outline. The headboard is backed by a large floor-to-ceiling artwork, illuminated through track lighting above.

The bed faces a multifunctional wooden built-in that plays host to a desk, vanity, closet and entertainment system, providing ample linear space for travelers to use as desks and hide storage beneath. Bathrooms, fitted with mosaic marble floors and top end fixtures, accentuate this sense of a home from home.

Stonehill Taylor’s narrative-driven approach to The Sophy’s interior has been thoughtfully and authentically executed from start to finish, honouring the intellectual legacy of Chicago’s South Side neighbourhood entirely without gimick. As interest around the pending Obama Presidential Centre grows, The Sophy sets the bar high for new and locally-inspired lodging in Hyde Park.

Photography by David Mitchell