If you’re one of those people who spends most of your time daydreaming about the ‘50s and ’60s, browsing flea markets for retro furniture, and comparing your friends to Mad Men characters, it’s probably time for you to visit the Midwest.
There, you’ll find amazing off-the-beaten-path examples of midcentury design and architecture. Plan a road trip to hop from one landmark to the next, and make sure to book appropriately modern hotels to stay at along the way.
LE MÉRIDIEN INDIANAPOLIS
The Le Méridien Indianapolis was designed in 1928, and its classic vibes—which landed the property on the National Register of Historic Places—haven’t gone away. Though it underwent a sleek interior renovation by AvroKO and Studio 11 in 2014, it still has its original, glamorous facade.
Inside, a hidden door off the lobby leads to a cozy lounge with a double-sided fireplace, Scandinavian-style seating, and occasional live music from a French bossa nova band. Design details throughout—from the artwork to the stitching of the upholstery—celebrate the city’s famed automobile-racing culture. Meanwhile, parquet flooring and geometric paneling infuse the retreat with a throughly modern spirit.
FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Palm Springs isn’t the only enclave of midcentury modern design. Columbus, Indiana, which has been ranked as one of the top cities in the U.S. for architecture by the American Institute of Architects, is adorned with numerous notable buildings by modernist icons.
No visit is complete without a stop at the First Christian Church. Designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen in 1942, the streamlined rectangular church with a modular bell tower was the town’s first modernist structure, and was seen as incredibly progressive at a time when most sacred spaces were much more ornate. (And now, it’s a National Historic Landmark.)
Up for more? Head to the North Christian Church, another iconic building designed by Eero Saarinen decades later in 1964. A hexagonal structure with a massive metal spire, this church’s design would come to be widely copied across the country.
Book a tour to experience the full extent of the city’s architectural pedigree.
LE MÉRIDIEN CHICAGO
Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, Illinois
An epicenter of modernist design and architecture, Chicago is rooted in history—and Le Méridien Chicago—Oakbrook Center is a fitting place to take it all in.
From the breathtaking views to the graphic design treatments inspired by the original Daniel Burnham plans for the city, you’ll feel the greatness of Chicago just by walking through the halls. A palette of warm walnut, Carrara marble, and aged bronze sets the backdrop for eye-catching details in the Gensler-designed property. A concrete breeze block wall behind the reception desk and stools by Harry Bertoia in the top-floor lounge pay homage to an earlier era.
These midcentury touches are paired with bold local modern art—like a show-stopping mural by artist Justus Roe—to merge the essence of classic Chicago and its contemporary creative scene.
ALDEN B. DOW HOME AND STUDIO
Some 300 miles away, Midland, Michigan, is another must-visit for midcentury enthusiasts. The town is dotted with more than 100 buildings by the architect Alden B. Dow, who apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright.
Dow’s own home and studio, completed in 1941, is open to the public. Designed to maximize its relationship to the adjacent pond and garden, it features beautiful picture windows, soaring spaces, and an intricate roofline inspired by nature. Over the years, Dow decorated with standout furniture by the likes of Charles and Ray Eames and Arne Jacobsen.
LE MÉRIDIEN COLUMBUS, THE JOSEPH
Made up of four rectangular prisms stacked on top of each other, the modern architecture of Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph sets the tone for the creative environs inside. With a collection of over 500 pieces of paintings, sculptures, and more, the hotel is essentially its own modern art museum. Ron Pizzuti, one of the top contemporary art collectors in the world, contributed some of the property’s most wow-worthy works, including 10 round paintings by popular Brooklyn-based artist KAWS and a life-size fiberglass horse by Scott Lenhardt.
The setting for these masterpieces is a clean-lined space created by Gensler, Arquitectonica, and the Le Méridien design team. A neutral-toned lobby, decorated with pops of vibrant yellow and a retro floor tile pattern, is the centerpiece of the hotel’s inviting scheme.
In the guest rooms, woodwork by local Amish carpenters complement the midcentury-inflected decor, featuring iconic Eames lounge chairs and textiles by Hella Jongerius. The presidential suite, which is decked out with a Mies van der Rohe daybed and a Serge Mouille-inspired floor lamp, instantly transports guests to another time.