24 Clever Ideas Inside Virgin’s New Hotel

It’s the little things.


It’s the little things, and anyone who’s flown Virgin America knows it: the calming purple mood lighting, the food and drink orders you can place electronically from your seats, the entertaining safety video, the ticket stubs that are 50% smaller than the obnoxious industry norm. All of these details assemble to make Virgin America one of the best flying experiences in the U.S.

Now, Virgin Hotels are being planned for each city in Virgin America’s flight plan. The first, which launched this January, is a 250-room makeover of a historic Old Dearborn Bank Building in the Chicago Loop. And it reveals that Virgin has approached lodging with the meticulous attention it paid to air travel. Charging slightly above-market rates around $209 a night (yes, downtown Chicago hotels are fairly inexpensive!), the company offers business travelers value through careful experience design, to make sure that customers come back.

Here are 24 small touches inside the walls of the first Virgin Hotel that travelers will appreciate.


The best part of the hotel room is the bed.
1. The headboard has been designed with plush, lower lumbar support, so you can work against it with a laptop.
2. This strange corner cushion is actually a makeshift bucket seat. It’s surprisingly comfortable.
3. The two bed seating options allow you to share the bed with a partner (or partners) in a super bohemian way.
4. This cushioned ottoman is an extra seat, or a luggage rack.
5. A Bluetooth soundbar solves the age-old outdated iPod dock problem.
6. A clock, hard to see here, goes dark and projects the time on the ceiling at night.

The room is designed to allow for comfortable lounging or work.
7. The television controls entertainment, but also orders room service and controls the thermostat. If you don’t want to touch the skuzzy remote, your smartphone will do.
8. This chair swivels to make it surprisingly ergonomic in this tight corner space.
9. Accompanying the chair, the cafe table also swivels, and its surface can be pulled outward in any direction.
10. A side lounge chair can be scooted forward to work at the flexible cafe table.

The bathroom and closet space are geared toward a growing segment of female business travelers.
11. Pull-out shoe racks give the vibe of the perfectly organized closet.
12. A real deal hair dryer described to be “of a decent wattage.”
13. This space fits a medium- to large-sized shopping bag.
14. Plenty of towels–but you can order more through your TV/smartphone app if you’d like.


The rooms have a spa-like quality.
15. Every room has a sit down vanity area–whether that’s part of the sink, or in this case, a separate spot.
16. Ring lighting is the same light source used in professional photo shoots.
17. Inside the shower, and every shower at the hotel, nods to the ladies with a built-in bench for shaving your legs.
18. Note the spa-inspired color scheme. Virgin’s trademark red is saved as an accent color. Everything else is grey, white, or beige, played out in a variety of finishes and textures.

You’ll pay $1 for a Snickers bar.
19. The room’s honor bar–just like in the Virgin Hotel’s bar, restaurants, and spa–charges street pricing. That means $1 Snickers bars. $2 bottled water. It’s still profitable for Virgin–the company expects to sell more volume. But it also keeps you from feeling gouged. Furthermore, travelers can ask temptations like candy not be there, or make special requests and have them waiting.
20. The Smeg fridge is a mainstay at the Ace Hotel in New York, but Virgin Hotel is the first with the mini Smeg fridge.
21. A gray flannel accent wall is the epitome of cozy.

Hallways are designed to have domestic feel, like coming home to your cul-de-sac.
22. Lighting is brighter on room floors than it is in most hotels to alleviate anxiety solo travelers have of being caught in a dark space (they cite women, but as a guy I’ve felt this, too).
23. Ever get your “do not disturb” dongle caught in the door? Virgin uses a service light on every room instead.
24. The dog sculpture, which evokes a ceramic goose on a porch step, adds to the domestic vibe. It also marks a floor’s pet-friendly rooms.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach