9 Beautiful Places to Get Work Done in Chicago
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Since becoming a full time freelance photographer, I’ve become one of those people that doesn’t need to be anywhere specific Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. It is an incredible privilege that I deeply appreciate but also I occasionally find myself wearing spandex as real clothes for days on end. On a side note, if you find yourself in this same position one day let me take a moment to highly recommend the Lululemon align spandex. I’m not sure that this really applies to guys but I’m sure Lululemon has some dark magic sweat pants for you as well. Anyway, the spandex, they’re amazing. Is it schlubby? Maybe, but then again I’m a photographer, not a fashion blogger.
Anyway, every now and again I realize that I should put on regular clothes and go out into the real world. These are the places I definitely spend 3 hours pretending to drink coffee while rushing through a weeks worth of emails. When I decide to fully adult, I always like the most frou-frou places possible. If I’m gonna spend an extra 20 minutes putting on bb cream, I want velvet chairs, decorative jars, wooden floors and all the other trappings. Anyway, for the days when I need to get out of my spandex, here are the 9 prettiest places to work or meet up in Chicago.
This is my number one go to for work and meetings for a number of reasons. First, there are about ten thousand beautiful things happening in this space. Literally no one has ever noticed the dog drool Gertie managed to get all over me before I ran out the door because they’re always too busy eyeballing the most excessive chandeliers in Chicago. There are also art books, a mish-mash of furniture, candles, jars of stuff and the list goes on. Second, tons of people work out of The Allis for hours on end so I don’t feel that terrible spending 5 hours hogging up a chair. Third, just about every photographer, artist, freelancer, wannabe entrepreneur makes their way through here about once a week so it’s one of the best places to passively catch up with people with zero effort.
At some point in my life, I realized that hotels are almost always open and almost always okay with anyone spending absurd amounts of time just lounging around like lazy walruses on their furniture. This probably dawned on me during some trip abroad while deliriously waiting for a room to be ready and struggling to stay awake through jet lag. Anyway, BoothOne is the former Pump Room space and it is in a hotel, which seems to mean that you can go there at almost any hour and get a coffee. Unlike The Allis you will never run into that annoying wannabe entrepreneur that still owes you $500 for that stupid project they roped you into 2 years ago and so it is the ideal place to go if you want to work in a beautiful space and get actual work done.
3 Arts Cafe
Most beautiful restaurants in the world used to be Michelin starred places with jaw dropping views in giant skyscrapers or on little cliffs in the middle of no where with ocean views. Now the most beautiful restaurants in the world are all in Restoration Hardware stores (helllllloooo capitalism!). Part of me realizes that this all just a giant investment to get me to buy furniture I probably don’t need, the other part of me just really wants a fucking cloud couch even though it’s $10,000 and even though I have a perfectly good couch. If you want to see all the Chicago fashion bloggers in one place, this is it. The food is kind of expensive. The furniture is very expensive and I sheepishly love all of it. This is a great spot for a meeting, not so much for work.
Beautiful might not be the proper word for CC Ferns but the coffee is good and the space is nice. It looks like it was decorated by your broke friend that has great taste, except it’s owned by a largish restaurant group so I’m pretty sure they’re just choosing shabby chic as an aesthetic. It works. I don’t have a leather jacket but if I did I would wear it here and spend 4 hours sweating in it while very slowly drinking one cup of coffee.
Let me first say that I love Plein Air. It’s in Hyde Park, which I love. It is run by the nicest folks in town. That said, do not come here at lunch on a weekday unless you want to practice navigating around very assertive business school students. It’s right next to the University of Chicago campus and particularly close to the business school. Anyway, it’s excellent after the lunch rush and on weekends. Also, it’s particularly great in the early mornings during the summer because they have the prettiest patio around.
This is the newest place on this list and thus the busiest at the moment. I haven’t tested this theory but I somewhat suspect I wouldn’t be allowed in here in spandex. Actually everyone here is totally lovely and would probably just accept spandex as a little athleisure. Since it’s so new and busy, I would not recommend trying to work here but it’s a perfect spot for drinks and bite. You know when you have to catch up with someone but don’t want to spend having a 3 hour dinner, this spot is perfect for that.
Another hotel! The Robey has numerous flours and places to work. There’s a lounge type lobby area, a bar in the middle of the building called the Cabana that’s often empty during the day and a bar at the top of the building. You could spend all day here but change locations as you get sidetracked so perhaps this is the most ideal work space of all.
La Columbe, in Wicker Park, Andersonville or The West Loop
For years, La Columbe has been my go to work spot for a couple of reasons. One, historically they don’t have wifi so if I go to get some writing done there’s zero chance of getting sidetracked with stupid Google searches. Two, all of their locations are very pretty. Three, their coffee is amazing. Four, I have overheard some of the funniest conversations at the West Loop La Columbe, which is a great way to break up a working afternoon.
The Lobby of the Chicago Athletic Association
In case it’s not obvious yet, I’m very partial to hotels. The Chicago Athletic Association is the closest spot on this list to my home so it would be fair to say that I spend the most time there. Proximity to me isn’t the only thing this place has going for it. First, the space is absurdly beautiful. The Chicago Athletic Association used to be a classic members only gym. The current incarnation of the space has all sorts of restored elements so it kind of feels like stepping backwards in time but without the dust and creepiness. So I have 2 favorite things about this place. One, the lobby is a bit dark so you can almost wear whatever but also the seats by the windows have the best portrait light in all of Chicago. Two, you can order food and it comes from the same kitchen as the food for the restaurants on the lobby floor (Game Room and Cherry Circle Room) so everything is delicious.
UPDATE: I’ve got a new fave spot in town: The Hoxton. It must be exhausting to be a hotelier. You spend all your time and energy creating a beautiful space. Everyone loves it for a year or two and then the hot, new thing opens up and suddenly you’re chopped liver. The Hoxton is currently the hot, new thing not the chopped liver.