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Chase away the winter blues with artful luxury

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Who would ever guess that a former office building in Chicago could be transformed into a luxury hotel?

That’s exactly what the Langham hotel chain did last September with 13 floors of what had been known as the IBM building.

Designed by world famous architect Mies van der Rohe, the 52-story tower of anodized aluminum and bronze-tinted glass has been a landmark on the Chicago skyline since it opened in 1972.

The first floor lobby of the new hotel was designed as a tribute to Mies by his architect grandson, Dirk Lohan, and includes a two-story bronze beaded curtain along the east wall.

The lobby had a definite “Mad Men” feel, with sleek white sofas modeled after ones that Mies once designed for his daughter.

Every floor featured a different artist, and one could spend hours looking at more than 1,500 works of art throughout the hotel.

Since we decided to splurge on a Langham Club guest room, we were whisked up to the Club Lounge on level 12C, with floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views of the Chicago River and cityscape.

There we met the fabulous Carlos Carrera, the director of butler services for the hotel. The hotel employs a rotating staff of eight butlers to serve guests staying on the Club level.

Our large guest room featured wall-to-floor windows facing the river, a great carry-over from Mies’ original design.

The dark walnut paneling of the closet opened up into a wonderful Travertine marble bathroom.

As a bathtub fanatic, I found this bathroom to be one of the best designed and most luxurious I have ever seen. A soaking tub filled one wall, while the enclosed rain shower filled the other.

One of the special treats of the trip was the butler-drawn bath complete with rose petals and a glass of champagne. Heaven in a tub?

Early evening found us just in time for canapés and wine in the Club, sitting around the brightly burning fireplace, which was open to the room on all sides. With the snow swirling against the windows, it was a cozy place to spend an hour.

I wasn’t able to get an appointment at the Chuan Spa, another Langham signature experience that is modeled on Chinese elemental notions of healing, so I decided to slip in a quick workout before dinner and try out the spa saunas.

The amenities in the locker room included three saunas and two aromatherapy showers available to all guests.

An hour spent between the dry and wet saunas and then 30 minutes on the heated stone lounge chair made me too relaxed to actually exercise.

I did peek in, and the room was filled with state of the art exercise equipment. An indoor pool — also with heated lounge chairs — completed the scene.

We splurged the next morning on an exquisite brunch in the hotel’s restaurant — Travelle. Executive chef Tim Graham, formerly of Tru, delivered an unusual menu, including various types of “benedicts” and contemporary dishes based on Mediterranean flavors.

The pastry chef’s creations were divine.

With so much else to do, we didn’t have time enjoy mid-afternoon tea in the two-story Pavilion Lounge, but the setting was spectacular.

Huge hand blown glass pebbles were suspended at varying distances from the ceiling and designed to mirror the Chicago River, which runs along the south side of the hotel.

We did bring home one of the two signature teas, The Langham Blend, a twist on my favorite English Breakfast.

It was hard to drag ourselves out of the hotel, but its great location near all the good shopping and restaurants eventually forced us out onto the snowy streets.

Snow, yes, but a stay at the Langham Chicago was a wonderful way to chase away the winter blues.

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