5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago’s Freehand Hotel

by Garrett Fleming

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From The Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge Looking around, you’d never know that Chicago, IL newcomer  is a hostel. Hostels are often thought of as seedy, and not the kind of place where you’d be kicking back in a mid-century lounger holding a tiki drink and bobbing your head to an up-and-coming DJ. That’s what makes this place so unique. Its fabulous furnishings and laid-back attitude are reinventing affordable and stylish lodging.

The look is thanks to the designers of , the same team behind Ace Hotel NY and the Highline. They’ve taken what was one of Chicago’s most-notoriously unsavory motels and flipped it into the gem that it is today. The space’s new style has been deamed “folk, prairie,” and its warm tones, inspired by the Midwest, give both the guest rooms and public spaces a revitalized coziness and an approachable charm that you simply don’t get with other modern, streamlined places. All in all, it’s impossible to leave without an itch to redecorate your own pad in such a retro way — I know I left with endless decorating inspiration. While my notes were copious, I’ve pared down what I found most inspiring about the hostel into 5 ways you can bring the look of Freehand Hotel home. Follow these, and your space can be just as unique and fun as my favorite new spot in Chicago.

P.S. If you want to check out Freehand Hotel for yourself, use code DESIGNSPONGE when booking. You’ll save 15% on private quad, king and queen rooms.

Enjoy! —

Photography courtesy of 

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago's Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge

Family Crests: This coat of arms above the penthouse’s fireplace was a part of the space when the Freehand took over, but it’s super easy to add one to your own home. Simply grab one , paint it the same color as your wall or fireplace, mount it, and it’ll instantly look like a built-in, custom piece.

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago's Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge

Arched Doorways: I adore how versatile archways are. Depending on how you style them, they can make a room feel like the hollow of a tree or a medieval relic. Either way, the organic vibe an archway infuses into a space is sure to steal the show. It’s a bit challenging and costly, but this  will help you add that pretty curve to your existing doorway.

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago's Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge

Floor-To-Ceiling Tile: When working within a smaller space, beware of overdecorating. It can make smaller rooms feel even more cramped. Instead, stick to fewer, bolder statement pieces like this jaw-dropping tile. The large block of impactful color gives the room so much personality, there’s no need for any other adornments, and the pitfall of clutter is avoided altogether.

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago's Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge

Tiled Bookcase Backsplash: Oftentimes, tiles are reserved for the kitchen and bathroom. Not at the Freehand. The check-in area is set against a gorgeous bookcase featuring this dreamy, commissioned tile work. Track down your own set of fun, patterned tiles, and you’re halfway there. Adhere the tiles to the back of the wall of your living room’s built-in, or bedroom’s bookcase, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind piece.

5 Decorating Tips We Learned From Chicago's Freehand Hotel, Design*Sponge

Hanging Curtains Higher: No one ever says they wish their ceilings looked lower. Installing curtain rods a bit higher than the height of your windows adds vertical space and grandeur to your living area or bedroom.

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  • über-fabulous remake….. terrific ideas and a true beauty – wish I could stay there (the tiled bookcase background would however disturb my peace and serenity; I would therefore take my lecture to one of those fab fauteuils).
    Thanks for sharing

  • Gorgeous! I love anything Roman & Williams. Couldn’t wait to check availability for an upcoming trip to Chicago before heading back to school. But — YIKES! — when did we start calling places charging $200+/night with a $39/parking pass “hostels”??

  • I stayed in the Freehand right after they opened. I had a private room and even though it was tiny, it was absolutely wonderful. The bar was great and the attached coffee shop is amazing. I look forward to my next stay there. Unfortunately pets aren’t welcome so it wasn’t an option on my last trip.

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