SOFA SIGHTING: Inside Bangtel’s New El Motel

For employees at hospitality and design firm Bangtel, seeing to their guest’s every whim—no matter how peculiar—is all in a days work. According to founder and principal interior designer Liz Klafeta, this has meant picking out puppies for total strangers (a Valentine’s day gift for a guest’s girlfriend); delivering hot chicken soup to an ailing client; fulfilling a last-minute request for “something inflatable, something that swims” (Bangtel bought a blow-up orca and left it in the middle of the unit) and more. All this delivered with a cheerful attitude and tons of discretion: “We don’t ask questions,” Klafeta says with a smile.

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The kitchen and dining area in El Motel Bangtel unit “Dos”. Image courtesy of @aleksevaphoto

The company, which provides short- and long-term stays in “elevated home environments” (think: your coolest friend’s apartment, but with a minibar and 24/7 concierge), it’s all part of their ethos of going “above and beyond” in every aspect of the experience, including the interior design. The creative mastermind behind Bangtel, Klafeta concentrates mainly on delivering one-of-a-kind experiences for their boutique properties in New York, Chicago, and Miami. “I like to create really fun, inspirational places for people,” she says.

That typically means airy, minimalist design punctuated by vintage treasures and custom art and installations, such as the 10-foot teepee found in the backyard at her latest Chicago location El Motel Bangtel. Each space is unique (even down to the bathroom tile, which Liz says she has never once repeated across 18 properties) yet feels uniquely Bangtel. How does Liz create eclectic spaces that still feel part of a singular brand? It’s all about the edit. “We typically mix three key ingredients: vintage, artwork, and modern vendors,” she says. “But we always try to be pretty minimal and only fill in where necessary.”

 

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One of the bedrooms in unit “Tres”. Image courtesy of @aleksevaphoto

Editing is key when it comes to vintage pieces. “We’ll source slowly and have things happen organically,” Klafeta says. For the southwestern-themed El Motel property in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago (from $450/night), this means that, though the space has been open since summer, it’s still evolving. “We’re going to do a dream catcher installation for one of the headboards,” she says. “That’s something we love to do: update old pieces to make them more fun and interactive.” To that end, the second floor unit (El Motel is comprised of two units, each four bedrooms with two baths) showcases a bentwood rocker plucked from Chicago shop Hy-May Creative, which Klafeta had spray-painted in high-gloss black.

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A guest on an Owens sectional sofa in Pebble Weave-Zinc by Interior Define. Image by photographer Carolina Rodriguez

As for artwork, El Motel does not disappoint. Local artist Jacob Thomas created a pop art-inspired wheatpaste mural that spans two stories in the rear stairwell. Up the front stairs, Susan Williams made a progressive wallpaper that depicts a horse following guests up the stairs. Neon signs by Lindsey Liss, cactus prints by Colleen Durkin and macrame hangings from Urban Macrame Fibers also hang throughout.

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A southwest-themed bathroom at El Motel. Image courtesy of @aleksevaphoto

As for the modern touches, each unit boasts stainless steel appliances in the kitchen for the ultimate home-away-from-home. They also feature sofas from Interior Define, which Klafeta had done up in true “Bangtel style.” The sleek Owens sectional sofa in Pebble Weave-Zinc in the “Dos” unit is the perfect juxtaposition to the found objects and historical decor items in the space. And the Sloan corner sectional sofa in Unit “Tres” was customized to include seat and back cushions in Leather-City, with the side and back panels upholstered in a matching dark gray denim-like fabric called Heavy Cloth-Charcoal—aka true cowboy style. Everything comes together beautifully, thanks to Liz’s trained eye for balance. “We don’t pressure ourselves, or find things just to find things,” she says. Visit Bangtel.com or download the Hotel Tonight app to book this or other Bangtel properties.