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Morgante Wilson Architects Completes Interiors at Westerly Rental Mid-Rise in Chicago’s River West Neighborhood

April 2, 2021

Evanston, Ill.-based Morgante Wilson Architects, Ltd., a leading architecture and interior design firm, has added to its growing portfolio of multifamily interiors work with the completion of Westerly, a recently opened luxury rental community in Chicago’s River West neighborhood. Tapped for the project by developer Fifield Cos., the Morgante Wilson Architects (MWA) team designed and programmed all amenity spaces and common areas for the 11-story, 188-unit building. In addition to designing Westerly’s lobby and mailroom, first-floor leasing center, a third-floor suite of indoor and outdoor amenities, and a penthouse-level party room, MWA also selected the package of interior finishes featured in each residence.

“In recent years we’ve found a niche parlaying our firm’s expertise in designing private residences and vacation homes into work with top multifamily developers on high-end rental buildings – in fact, this is the third interiors project we’ve collaborated on with Fifield Cos., and each building is more beautiful than the last,” said Elissa Morgante, co-founder of Morgante Wilson Architects, who started the firm’s interiors department in 2007 along with K. Tyler, MWA partner, who led the Westerly project team. “Our developer clients appreciate that we bring the same collaborative approach to the design process as we do for private clients, working with them closely to fully understand the building’s target demographic and then interpreting upscale trends and interior elements in a way that creates a unique character for the building while also establishing a sense of warmth and home in a multifamily setting.”

For Westerly, the interiors team was inspired by the idea of an “urban oasis,” creating juxtaposition with the building’s city location and the industrial flavor of its architecture by incorporating plentiful natural materials, colors, shapes and a variety of “flora and fauna” elements.

“An important part of our process is considering the location and the building’s interiors in the context of the surrounding neighborhood,” said Tyler. “River West is artsy, urban and chic all rolled together, but has limited green space, so we balanced the feel of the area with materials that feel organic and earthy, a color palette of blues and greens, and some fun whimsical elements that give the building its flair.”

The interplay between natural and urban is evident immediately upon entering Westerly’s lobby, where a custom-designed reception desk – composed of over 50 individually cut curving wood planes – sits in front of a hand-painted abstract mural, with hand-carved solid Chamcha wood chairs draped with sheep skin, a 16-foot tufted couch, and end-grain flooring softening the industrial edge of floor-to-ceiling black-framed windows and the bustling streetscape beyond.

In the third-floor amenity suite, which includes a fitness center, coworking space and resident lounge and dining area, the contrast between organic and industrial continues. MWA worked with the owner of Woodstock, Ill.-based Designing in Concrete to design custom polished epoxy/concrete floors in the lounge and dining area, blending the urban look of concrete with swirls of gold, silver and pewter. Sliding glass doors framed in black metal can separate the dining space from one of the many seating areas in the lounge, and are softened by open wood shelving displaying lush greenery.

“Not only are the sliding partitions a great design element in this space as they afford privacy while simultaneously allowing residents to see through to the adjacent pool deck, but they also open up options for how this room can be used – such as creating small areas to gather and have separation from others using the lounge,” said Tyler. “The value of that type of flexibility in amenity spaces has been amplified during this new era of social distancing, but building in ways for spaces to adapt to future lifestyle needs and trends has always been a key part of our design approach for multifamily properties.”

MWA’s flexible design approach at Westerly also addressed the ongoing work-from-home lifestyle shift, which many anticipate will continue even after availability of vaccines makes a return to the office possible.

“Westerly reflects the next generation of coworking spaces in that we’ve extended those opportunities throughout the building, as residents want to get out of their apartments and work in a variety of different environments,” said Lindsey Senn, executive vice president at Fifield Cos. “The team at Morgante Wilson helped us create numerous inviting areas where residents can set up with a laptop. There’s a dedicated coworking space with sound-absorbing individual booths plus a dedicated conference room to give people a bit of privacy. These offerings are enhanced by the multiple seating configurations throughout the lobby, resident lounge and party room, and even a bar-height counter with seating along the windows in the mailroom where people can stop and return emails as they come and go throughout the day.”

For the penthouse-level party room, MWA continued the idea of “urban oasis” with conservatory-inspired elements such as cane back chairs, globe light pendants, light-toned wood flooring, and ample foliage including potted trees, hanging planters and wall-mounted ledges filled with a variety of plants. “With the double-height expanses of windows and wonderful light in this space, we saw an opportunity to make it a true escape, contrasting the views of the city with all of these warm, natural elements and greenery,” said Tyler. “It’s also another example of a multi-purpose amenity space, whether residents use it for an evening gathering of friends around the huge kitchen island, a quiet area with a great background to take a Zoom call, or simply a beautiful room to relax in with a good book while they enjoy sweeping views of the city – all the way to Lake Michigan.”

The MWA team also curated the finish package for residences at Westerly, including selections for kitchens, baths and flooring. “We wanted a look that is timeless and chic, so we chose light LVT wood flooring in the same tone as cerused white oak, sophisticated black window trim, and a clean classic kitchen with neutral slate gray and hardware-free cabinets, an industrial-style faucet, large format backsplash tile and a modern, minimalist light fixture over the island. The result is a stylish city apartment that residents will love personalizing as their own home.”

Westerly was designed by FitzGerald Associates Architects and built by James McHugh Construction Co.

About Morgante Wilson Architects:

Morgante Wilson Architects, Ltd. is an architecture, interior design and urban planning firm specializing in residential and commercial design, as well as LEED certification. Founded in 1987, Morgante Wilson Architects has designed innumerable projects throughout Chicago, the Midwest and the country. Morgante Wilson has received AIA Chicago’s prestigious “Young Architect Award,” AIA Special Recognition Award for Interiors, as well as awards for several historic rehabilitation projects. The firm’s work has been featured in an array of noteworthy publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune to Traditional Home, while its projects have been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Chicago Architectural Foundation and the Chicago Athenaeum. For more information on the company, visit www.morgantewilson.com. To learn more about Morgante Wilson Architects’ projects and approach to design, visit its blog, “Show & Live Well,” at http://www.morgantewilson.com/blog.

 

Photo Credit Dave Burk: The penthouse-level lounge and party area at Westerly continues the idea of “urban oasis,” with conservatory-inspired elements, potted trees and hanging planters.

 

Photo Credit Dave Burk: Expanses of double-height windows make views of the surrounding neighborhood a focal point of the penthouse lounge and party room.

 

Photo Credit Dave Burk: The centerpiece of Westerly’s lobby is a custom-designed reception desk composed of more than 50 individually cut curving wood planes.

 

Photo Credit Dave Burk: Westerly’s resident lounge includes a dining space and multiple furniture groupings, as well as sliding glass partitions that can close to create a private area for a small group.

 

Photo Credit Dave Burk: Sound-absorbing individual booths give residents privacy in the Westerly coworking space.