A 110-year-old former Free Methodist Publishing House turned hip, urban B&B—think exposed brick, refurbished furnishing and vintage-inspired floor tile patterns combined with cowskin rugs, taxidermy and mid-century modern pieces scavenged from flea markets and thrift stores around the country. A nostalgia-inspired space with 1960s midwestern supper club vibes, vinyl booths, a vintage soda machine and a two-lane bowling alley. An underground wine bar finding balance between old and new with design elements that include velvet-tufted sofas, an old-school refrigerator and a custom-made mural. A small-plate Mexican joint, an elegant hair and nail salon, an artisan bakery and a Dr. Marten’s store in the heart of Wicker Park.
What do they all have in common? Two words: Siren Betty. The all-women team behind some of the most Instagram-worthy places around the city—namely The Press Room, discreetly located in the basement of The Publishing House, the eleven-room West Loop bed-and-breakfast, Quiote Mexican restaurant and lounge, pHlour all-natural bakery and cafe, Solo salon and Dustin Drankiewicz’s newest cocktail bar, Pink Squirrel—knows their stuff. Describing their unique approach to the spaces they create as one that uses mid-century-modern-design nods, eccentric wallpaper, tiles sourced from around the world and beautiful greenery that makes any space feel more alive, the Siren Betty team leaves no stone unturned—from concept to design to execution.
And when Lexi Goddard (a self-described jack-of-all-trades with responsibilities that include conceptual art, project bidding and installation management), interior designer Nikki Wlodarczyk and Susan Williams, the team’s project manager, get together under the guidance of founder and principal designer Nicole Alexander, they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. Which is why they deliver. “Siren Betty Design is an all-woman, full-service team and that means being hands-on and even using power tools from time to time,” says Alexander. With a background in 3D studio art and art history, she was working in the hospitality industry before her transition into interiors. “Siren Betty Design was born in 2006 through an amazing network of architects and designers, and a determination to own my own business,” she says, stressing the importance of Chicago’s constantly growing creative and entrepreneurial community.
“The most fun aspect of a project is connecting with the owners and operators. We’ve met so many great business owners and it’s fun to collaborate on ideas and the design of a space,” she says. “Final installs are an exciting step as well—we always enjoy being able to see a project come together.” As she crafts her creative vision, her inspiration comes from many things including fashion, art, travel, visiting new bars and restaurants, and reading books and magazines. “My team is also the best source of inspiration,” she says. “We brainstorm before every project.”
As for Siren Betty’s ability to seamlessly bridge design styles and sensibilities across multiple decades: “If the construction is new we fill the gaps with unique pieces that are often found or repurposed,” she says. “We always try to find classic elements that won’t tire. We don’t want a space to feel overdone. Instead, we want the spaces we design to feel lived in.”
To achieve the perfect balance, the team brings in vintage furniture, flea market finds, and sources items handmade by artisans in developing nations. “Hunting for vintage finds is our favorite! We love discovering and refurbishing treasures and we love the socially conscious and green aspect of it as well—we try to reuse and repurpose as much as possible on our projects. It’s very important to us.”
How does she go about design in her personal life and spaces? “My personal design taste is modern and eclectic—much like Siren Betty Design’s projects,” she says. “I’m constantly swapping out fixtures and furnishings. On shopping trips for clients, I usually find a piece that I need too.” Between commercial and residential spaces, she currently keeps busy renovating Old Town staple Benchmark, part co-working space, part incubator, part members club, Salt Flats and various bars and restaurants around town. But, always up for a challenge, she has another big project in the works: “We have been renovating our house for a year and we have another year left,” she says. “It’s a fun process, but I’m scared that by the time the renovations are complete, I’ll be bored and ready for something new!”
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: email@example.com Website: www.rigouvasia.com