As the founder and principal designer at Siren Betty Design, Nicole Alexander creates unforgettable interiors for some of the city’s coolest restaurants, bars, residences and more.
Siren Betty Design founder Nicole Alexander (Photo by Joshua Haines)
From Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants Giant, Quiote and Mango Pickle to must-book rooms at West Loop bed and breakfast Publishing House, some of Chicago’s most inviting interiors have one thing in common: they’re the handiwork of all-female firm Siren Betty Design. The group’s leader? Nicole Alexander, an ultra-hip mother of two who founded the firm in 2006, a decision informed by rubbing elbows with architects and designers while working as a bartender.
Fast-forward more than a decade later, and Alexander’s polished-but-playful aesthetic can be seen everywhere, from the lived-in industrial chic of Dr. Martens in the Gold Coast to the seductive sophistication of River North staple Celeste. Despite the wide variety of projects, there is a recurring theme of high-meets-low, perhaps best evidenced by recent projects like retro Logan Square charmer Pink Squirrel, whose period pieces coalesce for a ’60s-era supper club feel that deftly dodges kitsch. Explains Alexander, “You want something that’s not going to be so trendy that it’s going to burn out in a couple of years.”
Old-school chic is in full effect at Logan Square hot spot Pink Squirrel (Photo by Joshua Haines)
It’s an homage to the Kirkland, Ill., native’s upbringing visiting auctions with her parents, a primer in “finding beautiful pieces and being able to get them for a good price.” From them, Alexander—who studied 3-D studio art and art history at Northern Illinois University and fashion at Harper College thereafter—not only learned resourcefulness, but an affinity for nostalgia. “I really love the ’70s,” she says. “I’m very much into burnt oranges and warmed tones and plants—creating a space that’s warm and inviting, but not over-designing it.”
In person, Alexander exudes that same approachability—humble to a fault, and quick to credit her team for the firm’s collective success. “The dynamics of [us] having a lot of different backgrounds, and not all from [design], is really beneficial.” Apparently so: A full roster of upcoming projects includes a casual dining and event space in the Fulton Market District, posh co-working space Salt Flats Innovation House, a residential gut rehab in Printer’s Row and a face-lift to Four Corners Tavern Group’s Benchmark bar. While her interiors invite us to idle, clearly Alexander isn’t one to. 401 N. Wood St., 773.551.9359, sirenbetty.com