I have stayed at The James approximately 10+ nights over the past year and I love this place. I swap between here and The Sofitel Water Tower Place based upon price and availability. Location is central to all River North attractions and, while it is on Rush Street, it is a few blocks south of the party district so it stays relatively quiet. There is a Trader Joe's across the street, which is great if you want an in-room picnic (read on). The heart of Michigan Avenue shopping is a block to the East
The decor is ultra contemporary and clubby, yet the rooms are very comfortable. Lots of great examples of modern and mid-century furniture. Beds are very comfortable with great linens. All rooms I have stayed in have been very clean and well maintained. Plasma HDTV, complimentary water, nice bath product, and nice touches like dimmer switches for most room lighting, and ipod compatible radio. The feel is minimalist, but not spare. The staff is very professional. The downstairs bar can sometimes be a good spot, but it seems to be mostly hotel guests and not many locals. J Bar, located next door, really gets going later in the evening and seems to cater to the 30-something crowd (but this 40-something has had a lot of fun with friends there too). The David Burke Primehouse restauarant has amazing steaks. Definitely worth the splurge on their 30, 45, and 60 day aged steaks.
Typical rooms are of average size. The real treat at this hotel are their "Loft Suites".
The hotel is not particularly tall and is surrounded by taller buildings, so there really are almost no views. It is also U shaped in plan and the interior rooms face a parking deck with a limited view of Wrigley Tower in the distance. Ingeniously, these interior rooms have been designed as extra-large rockstar suites - so no need for a view. The suites feature a living area with couch and a couple of chairs, a wet bar stocked with top-shelf liquor, cocktail shaker, refrigerator, etc., a small dining table, and large plasma TV. The bathroom has a large glass shower with separate tub. Great Kiels bath product. Nice robes.
The bedroom is a king size platform bed in an alcove off the living area and has its own Plasma TV. Lastly, on the other side of the living area is what can only be described as a "party pit" - which consists of a queen matress platform surrounded by a drink shelf and with an LCD projector to show DVDs on the wall. Yeah, really. Order up the bottles of Cristal and invite the groupies. It would make a great room for a long romantic weekend.
Prices are all over the board for this hotel depending on occupancy and the time of year. I have stayed from the high $100's but its not unusual to see it get into the $400s per night. You just have to check.