SOFA SIGHTING: Bangtel’s Technicolor Dream

Designer: Liz Klafeta of Bangtel
Location: Lincoln Park, Chicago
Square Footage: 5300 Square Feet
Built in: 1881
Scope of Work: Full Gut Rehab

What do 4 technicolor torso-less mannequins, 5 florescent 80s-era boomboxes and a 6-foot-long marlin fish mount have in common?  All were junker gems discovered by Liz Klafeta, founder of hospitality and design company Bangtel, or one of her Bangtel bandits—a motley crew of artists, performers and fashionistas who double as her employees. Now with 10 properties under her belt, ranging from New York to Los Angeles to Chicago and beyond, Klafeta has created a well-oiled machine which churns out whimsical, fun-at-every-turn, perfectly-placed short and long-term stay properties with a focus on tailored concierge services that surprise and delight (unsolicited chicken noodle soup for a sick guest; a “plushier” bath mat upgrade for one particular person; et cetera). It’s an incredibly memorable and authentic option for travel lovers that want to really experience a city by its neighborhoods instead of the tourist traps. And will appreciate the dozens of Instagram-worthy ops that every Bangtel space offers. We caught jet-setter Klafeta in between installations to get the scoop on her latest listing—an entire building she and her team converted in Chicago in partnership with New Era Chicago development group, named Mr. Halsted—and all the crazy places she scoured for one-off accessories, furnishings and art work.

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SHOP: GRAY sofa by Interior Define in New Felt-Robin’s Egg

Give us a little background on this project.
The development company, New Era Chicago, found the building in Summer 2014. They brought us on immediately, and in Fall 2014 we started planning. Mr. Halsted was the first project New Era Chicago and Bangtel worked on together. Since its completion, there were 3 other multi-unit buildings completed, as well as the 2-unit vacation rental, Mr. Clark, in Lincoln Park.  There are many more currently in the works.

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What was your design inspiration?
Pretty modern, but I wanted to accentuate the awesome architectural attributes of the building. I wanted to leave a lot of the existing brick exposed where we could. We also kept the original teal color on the front exterior doors. Where the light is best in the building, I chose darker tiles and flooring and then advanced to lighter.

I also have been loving the Rubio Monocoat stains we used on the floors. They were tricky to work with at first, but really show the grains of the wood planks amazingly well and deliver such a unique palette. The first floor is a bleached white stain and as we progressed up, the color gets darker.

The original stairs were in incredible condition and we were able to preserve them. They were installed in 1880-1881, and since they used old growth lumber then, they were probably around in the early 1700s. They are strong as ever.

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Did the look vary in each unit?
Yes, each floor is pretty different. I wanted the units to be different from each other, but cohesive. We used different floor stains, kitchen cabinet combos, and none of the 6 bathrooms in the building have the same wall/floor tile combination. I wanted to do each floor as a separate design statement so we could appeal to different audiences for rentals or productions for film or photography. We nicknamed the property Mr. Halsted’s Playhouse because we wanted to create a fun bright escape from the seriousness of the everyday.

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Which specific vendors did you choose to bring on, and why?
A ton!

Archisesto Cabinets because they are super sexy.  I mean look at them! They are imported from Italy and Giacomo, the showroom owner, is a delight to work with.

Interior Define since they have totally customizable, affordable, sleek and modern sofas. When we found the GRAY sofa in New Felt-Robin’s Egg it helped set the colorful theme for the unit.

Jacob Thomas because his art is all about pop culture and it starts conversations.

Colleen Durkin who is an amazing photographer and awesome friend, and her boyfriend, Doug Johnson, who made the custom vanities, which I love. They are composed of an integrated sink of colored acrylic on top of an open wood frame.

CB2 for a lot of lighting and the vanity mirrors.  I just love how well-designed their stuff is and, since we are usually needing items right away, they are always in stock!

TJ O’Keefe’s metal mesh Field coffee table took our breath away, as does the rest of his repertoire. It’s one of the most eye-catching pieces in the penthouse.

Sleep 6 has these awesome foam-topped mattresses. We used to buy mattresses and use a foam topper for all the beds in our properties. Now we have an affordable and uber-comfortable all-in-one option. And, they are local in Chicago!

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Any fun moments/objects in the space you think stand out?
I really wanted to do a flower wall above the guest bed, so my Director of Possibilities Chris T bought $1000 worth of fake flowers, and we stayed up until 2AM sticking them into foam core with pins.

The furniture sourcing was a combo of estate sale shopping with the best location scout in the city and my good friend, Kate Levinson of Levinson Locations. We also found things on Craigslist, and commissioned many friends to make incredible custom-made pieces.

The mannequin legs in the penthouse are thanks to my little sister. There’s a junker by her—he sells junk out of a storefront. Yes, this is a thing. She found them and sent me a picture. I knew that I would find the perfect place for them, and the top floor of the building makes for an amazing Broadway line-up with those sexy stems. We spray-painted the legs a bunch of different bright colors. Carting them around town got us a lot of attention!

We commissioned I am Dez Air to make a repeat pattern of his Trash Babies motif on 12 yards of fabric. Then, we had the awesome Kylie Egge of Recovered Interiors work some re-upholstery perfection on the chairs we found.

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How would you rate the team work?
Mike and Adam of New Era Chicago are amazing to work with not only because they are such masters at the game, but they trust me and give me total artistic freedom (within budget of course). Our contractor, Tim Wisnar, is a rockstar as well, and really cares about the beauty and craftsmanship of the final product. The four of us all have very critical eyes and are complete perfectionists. And everyone on the Bangtel team helps to make it happen each and everyday. We are all doing this because we love it, and when you combine all the talents we bring to the table, it makes for an unstoppable group who serve up inspiring spaces. *

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