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Growing up close to New York City, I spent a lot of time there as a child and even more so as a young adult. But at this point in my life, densely populated areas can feel a bit daunting and I have less patience to wait in line for restaurants and cabs.

Still, I enjoy the occasional visit, like our recent trip to Chicago, where national chains have been supersized.

Some things never change for me, even with a change of scenery, like the fact that I am constantly drawn to something that is not available for purchase. This time it was a Mary Poppins-themed umbrella poster at the Disney Store on Michigan Avenue that had been custom-made for the Windy City location.

I still managed to gather some design inspiration, which often comes from the least likely sources. One was the Lincoln Park Zoo, where I was reminded why I adore animal prints in my clothing and home.

It’s hard to believe these creatures and their unique patterns are so beautiful by nature.

While I share my daughter’s fondness for zebras and giraffes, I found the tigers and hyenas to be equally mesmerizing.

At a friend’s suggestion, we also went to the bar on the 16th floor of the Trump Hotel overlooking the water. The handsome building features a mix of warm woods and modern decor. Even the elevator buttons were more impressive than most, spelling out specific destinations like RESTAURANT and LOBBY in large font that is easy to spot.

Earlier that day, we had breakfast in a cafe where others sat at a series of indoor tables that face the street for the art of people-watching.

Because this concept could work anywhere with an interesting view, I’m thinking about trying something similar in one of our rooms that overlooks the pond.

Since the Windy City wreaked havoc on my hair, I treated myself to a stylist at one of the many quick service salons in the area, Blo and Go, that was so pretty and peaceful inside. The luxurious seats and sinks where they wash your hair made it tough to get up.

When I commented on the well-designed hairstylist stations with mirrors on either end and drawers on both sides in between, I was told that everyone admires them. Once again, I can picture something like this in a residential setting, maybe reimagined as a bar area.

The many restaurants provided entertaining inspiration from their creative presentations. Upscale eateries presented their butters in various flavors and shapes, while a more casual venue placed napkins, utensils and condiments in cardboard soda bottle holders, which are perfect for an outdoor party or picnic.

One of my favorites featured kids’ meals on dishes that separate the foods. I found a similar style online called the Stoneware TV Dinner Tray at uncommongoods.com.

While I love a good getaway, there is nothing better than coming home and trying some new ideas.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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