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Tara’s in Town!

The British import on her high-glamour Thompson gig and the guys of One Off

Interiors pro Tara Bernerd by Thompson Chicago’s Nico Osteria restaurant bar

Get the adoption papers in order ASAP. Tara Bernerd just may be our favorite new (temporary) import, and we kind of want to keep her here—permanently. And the feeling may be mutual (fingers crossed). The London-based interior architect and designer crossed water to take on the Thompson Chicago hotel, which opened this fall, and liked what the Windy City had to offer. “There is no doubt that, when I first came here, all the emotions of the architecture—Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies—had influence,” she says. “I wanted that raw, industrial feel with the materials but still have grandeur. That’s what Chicago is to me.” And she got it. The impressively expansive project—a complete overhaul of the former Sutton Place space—required far more architectural acumen than the typical scope of new construction. But that’s her bag, baby. Bernerd and her team, which includes her right-hand man, Tommy Gymnander, created a scheme that included a new, three-story, glass-enclosed atrium ceiling in the restaurant space, enclosing the original semicircle drive with a fenestrated facade to allow for an expansive lobby—rich with color, texture and pure romance. The “blokes” behind Blackbird, Avec and The Publican—One Off Hospitality Group, whom Bernerd now considers close friends—chose to partner with the hotel on their first Italian-themed endeavor, Nico Osteria. The British beauty describes their initial encounters as “love at second date. After they understood the plan, Donnie [Madia] and the boys were like, ‘We’re in!’ and we haven’t looked back. It’s been the most wonderful marriage, and that bit you can’t plan.” Speaking of plans, what’s next? Bernerd is racking up the air miles, with projects in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York. Still, she says, “I love Chicago. I hope this project is embraced by the locals because we would like to do a lot more work here.” Twist our arm.

BERNERD’S HOTS 
Midcentury vintage lighting, Riedel stemless red wine glasses, every shade of gray, carbs (the rigatoni bolognese at Nico), concrete, travertine, books

BERNERD’S NOTS
Butter, too much pink, dieting, fear of the half-length curtain, matching sofa suites, bling