"This is so fun," said Elizabeth Weiner, the New York-based art consultant responsible for the hotel's lobby re-dress. "The pop of color, the way each piece talks to the rest of the pieces. It tells a story from the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out."
The renovation ended Feb. 15 with the opening of Allium, a new concept restaurant that offers a more approachable, farm-to-table menu, said executive chef Kevin Hickey.
"This is going to be a really fun experience, whatever the customer wants it to be," Hickey said. "It can be inexpensive and engaging or a lot more complex and expensive."
But it's still Four Seasons, said Terri Hickey (no relation), director of public relations for the hotel and its sister property, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago.
"We haven't changed anything structurally," Hickey said. "The service is still there, and there's still a classicalism. We're taking what we have and enhancing it, giving it a fresh look."
That fresh look abounds throughout the property. Much like the lobby, the guest rooms pop as bright wall coverings contrast with bedding and carpeting schemes of blue, silver and taupe.
Staff uniforms have moved away from the gray, business-suit style to black ensembles you might wear on a night out.
More than 100 pieces of modern art have been added to the hotel, most notably in the lobby and dining areas. The hotel lounge now displays photos of high-end fashion juxtaposed with portraits of wildlife.
In the dining area, a colorful pair of Andy Warhols plays off a collection of small, black-and-white Matisse portraits.
The most whimsical addition comes in a pair of life-size holographic portraits by British pop artist Julian Opie. Located side by side just before the guest elevator well, each piece depicts a figure walking. As guests walk past, the figures "walk" with them.
"That's the kind of energy (I want to bring)," said Weiner, who has consulted for more than 40 hotels, including Four Seasons New York and The Peninsula Chicago. "My goal is to turn your eye to something you haven't seen before."
Hickey hopes for the same reaction with Allium, a concept that came to him after he realized diners were favoring bar-menu staples such as sliders and flatbreads. The renovation gave him the perfect excuse to revamp.
"Every hotel saw their restaurant losing market share, but we were growing in the bar-lounge area," he said. "It was easy to decide what we should do."
He retooled the menu to include $3 to $5 bar snacks, tapas-size plates and full-course entrees, affectionately known as "Mine" on the menu.
Another category, "From the Meat Locker," provides guests with classic, high-end chops.
Hickey also scoured the region to find ingredients from local vendors. Maple sugar comes from Indiana, butter from Wisconsin. The chef even brewed his own Belgian red ale, Allium Roseus, with the help of Goose Island brewmaster Jared Rouben.
But even with all these changes, Hickey wanted to make one thing clear: The Chicago Hot Dog with house-made "everything" is still on the menu.
He said, "That's gotten more press coverage than anything I've done in my career."